Alfred Watson’s War Diary By: David Bennett, Curator at the Port o’ Plymouth Museum



Alfred Leroy Watson, a native of Washington County, North Carolina,
served in the 120th Infantry Regiment of the 30th “Old Hickory” Division
during World War I. During the war, Watson kept a diary of his day-to-day
life on Europe’s Western Front. His journal provides insights into what it
was like to fight and suffer on the front lines.
On September 29, 1918, the 30th Division broke through the infamous
Hindenburg Line at St. Quentin, France. According to Watson’s diary, the
120th broke through the German defenses in a sector that was deemed
unassailable by the British. The result was a windfall and Watson’s unit took
many Germans prisoner. Following their victory, Watson spent the next nine
days advancing through hilly, wooded terrain in the pouring rain. Despite
the bleak conditions he maintains a buoyant tone as they were experiencing
“good success” and had the “Germans on the run.” Unfortunately, Watson
did not realize that his good fortune would not last.
On October 10, 1918, Watson’s unit advanced within 800 yards of the new
German defensive lines. The 120th Regiment almost immediately came
under enemy bombardment. Watson’s unit had advanced too quickly and
was without proper support. Around 8 P.M. a German shell narrowly missed
Watson, but left a piece of shrapnel lodged in his face.
Watson spent the rest of the night in a First Aid station before spending
the next ten days being shuffled from field hospital to field hospital. Watson
finally underwent surgery on October 20th, however, the surgeon failed to
remove most of the shrapnel from his face. Watson did not return to the
front lines and spent the remaining weeks of the war convalescing in a
hospital.
After Watson’s failed surgery the diary’s tone changes. It lacks optimism
and pride. In fact, his journal entries become so terse and sporadic that it
seems that he lost interest in maintaining his diary altogether. There is no
sense of relief when the war is over and no sense of excitement when he
can finally go home. His observations become cold and clinical. Perhaps,
Watson was war weary and he had seen too much.
Alfred Watson’s War Diary By: David Bennett, Curator at the Port o’ Plymouth Museum Alfred Watson’s War Diary By: David Bennett, Curator at the Port o’ Plymouth Museum Reviewed by kensunm on 7:00:00 PM Rating: 5

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