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Watt, Walter Oswald (Toby) (1878–1921)

Walter Watt, n.d.

Walter Watt, n.d.

from Pastoral Review, 16 July 1921

Colonel Oswald Watt, O.B.E., L. d'H., C. de G., whose death took place on the 21st May, was the youngest son of the late Hon. J. B. Watt, M.L.C., and was born at Bournemouth, England, on the 11th February, 1878, but came to Australia with his parents a year later.

In 1888 he was taken to England in order that he might be educated in that country, and in 1899 succeeded in obtaining a 3rd class in the Natural Science Tripos at Cambridge.

In 1900 he returned to Australia, and later on became interested in pastoral pursuits, ultimately becoming owner of Howlong Station, Carrathool, N.S.W., and part owner in Llanillo, Goonal, and Gunningrah, N.S.W., also Glenprairie and Strathmore, in Queensland.

In 1911, whilst on a visit to England, he first interested himself in aviation, and succeeded in gaining a pilot's certificate, being the first Australian to achieve this distinction. After a brief return to Sydney, he recommenced flying operations in Egypt towards the close of 1913, and when war broke out in the following August he happened to be in France, working, in order to obtain a thorough grasp of the intricacies of aeronautics, as a mechanic in Bleriot's factory.

Fearing that England might not come into the war, he placed himself and his Bleriot monoplane at the service of France on the 2nd August, 1914. The fact that his services were accepted was a signal compliment to his ability, and for the first eighteen months of the war he did yeoman work as a pilot in the French army. He had more than one hairbreadth escape, and such was the value placed by the High Command upon his services that he was nominated a Chevalier of the Legion of Honour, and decorated with the Croix de Guerre with three palms and stars.

In 1916 he joined the newly formed A.F.C., and took the 2nd Australian Squadron to France. The squadron performed prodigies of valour, and Oswald Watt acquired a high reputation as a squadron commander. During the last phase of the war, he commanded the 1st Australian Wing, his headquarters being situated at Tetbury, Gloucestershire. With two fine aerodromes under his command, remarkable work was done in training pilots for the Australian squadrons then in France, but Colonel Watt's hope of taking his Wing across the Channel was destined never to be realised.

Since his return from the war he had been engaged in commercial affairs, in superintending his various pastoral properties, and in seeing that every man who had fought with him was given a chance of making good on his return to civil life. He became a partner this year in the well-known firm of Gilchrist, Watt and Co., Sydney.

Public spirited, generous, and courageous, his death at the early age of 43 will be deeply felt by a very large circle of friends and acquaintances. Colonel Watt married in 1901 a daughter of Sir Hartley Williams, and is survived by his wife and son.

Original publication

Citation details

'Watt, Walter Oswald (Toby) (1878–1921)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/watt-walter-oswald-toby-1010/text1011, accessed 21 October 2018.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2018

Walter Watt, n.d.

Walter Watt, n.d.

from Pastoral Review, 16 July 1921