Birkett William (Bert) WATTERSTON


WATTERSTON, Birkett William

Service Number: 977
Enlisted: 19 August 1914, Kerang, Victoria
Last Rank: Lance Sergeant
Last Unit: 7th Infantry Battalion
Born: Northcote, Victoria, 20 June 1888
Home Town: Kerang, Gannawarra, Victoria
Schooling: Kerang State School
Occupation: Mechanic
Died: Killed in Action, Gallipoli, Gallipoli, Dardanelles, Turkey, 8 May 1915, aged 26 years
Cemetery: No known grave - "Known Unto God"
Helles Memorial, Cape Helles, Gallipoli Peninsula, Canakkale Province, Turkey
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Helles Memorial, Gallipoli
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World War 1 Service

19 Aug 1914: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, SN 977, Kerang, Victoria
19 Oct 1914: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 977, 7th Infantry Battalion, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
19 Oct 1914: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, SN 977, 7th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Hororata, Melbourne
8 May 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Lance Sergeant, SN 977, 7th Infantry Battalion, 'ANZAC' / Gallipoli

Help us honour Birkett William Watterston's service by contributing information, stories, and images so that they can be preserved for future generations.

Biography contributed by Kerri Sidorow

Birkett Watterston was born in 1888 in the Melbourne suburb of Northcote. He had previously served in the Victorian Rangers, and was working as a mechanic in Kerang

"Lance-Corporal B. W. Watterston, killed, was the eldest son of the late William Watterston and Isabella Beecroft, of Northcote, late of Fairfield. He was well known in Kerang, and was an engineer by trade." - from the Heidelberg News and Greensborough and Diamond Creek Chronicle

Mother listed as Isabella Beecroft.

Apprenticeship A.H. Avard of Kerang

When he enlisted in the AIF in August 1914, just a few weeks after the declaration of war. Birkett’s younger cousin Harold Watterston joined up around the same time.

Birkett was assigned to the 7th Battalion, and left Melbourne in October 1914 on HMAT Hororata. Arriving in Egypt in early December, the battalion marched into its camp just outside Cairo. After several months of training it was transferred to Lemnos in preparation for the Allied landings on the Gallipoli peninsula.

The battalion reached Gallipoli at around 5.30 am as part of the second wave of landings. Several days later, as part of the 2nd Division, it was sent to Cape Helles to take part in an advance on the village of Krithia, with the ultimate goal of taking the hill to the rear of the town. Securing this hill had been one of the objectives of the British on the first day of the landings.

The Australians were ordered into action just after 5 pm on 8 May. The 7th Battalion, along with the 6th, formed the front line of the attack. This was a fierce and dangerous advance, with enemy artillery and machine-guns exacting an enormous toll. Official historian Charles Bean later wrote that the attack was “made in the teeth of rifle and machine-gun fire such as Australians seldom again encountered during the war”. In just over one hour some 1,000 men of the 2nd Division had become casualties, including approximately 250 from the 7th Battalion.

In a letter published in the Kerang New Times on 7 September 1915 his friend Hugh Heffer wrote "There is one thing I have to tell you, and it is hard.  It is poor Bert Watterston being killed.  You know what good pals we were.  I felt it very much when I heard it.  I know nothing about it, only what two of the officers of his battalion told me.  They said he was a fine soldier and was recommended for the V.C. half an hour after he was killed."

In a later letter in the Kerang Observer on 22 September 1915 "Things are just the same over here. Wasn't it sad about poor Bert. They must feel it very much, his old grand dad especially. Bert Watterston was a private with me, and he was reported to be the bravest soldier in the 7th Battalion, that is a lot to say."