John Selwyn Watts
Date of birth: 10.12.1920
Date of death: 23.8.1945
Regiment: Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
Family information: Husband of Marjorie Betty Watts
Rank: Flight Lieutenant
Service number: 158017
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission reports that John died on 23rd August 1945 when he was 24 years old. He is commemorated on the Singapore Memorial.
Report from the Wakefield Express 25th January 2008:
“CAMPAIGN TO RECOVER REMAINS OF RAF PILOT
Veterans are fighting to have the remains of a RAF pilot, who died in the Far East more than 60 years ago, returned to the UK for burial. The National Ex-Services Association want the body of Flt Lt John Selwyn Watts, who was from Crofton, to be recovered and returned to Britain for a proper burial.
“Flt Lt Watts was only 24 when the Liberator Bomber KL654R he was piloting was hit by Japanese fire and crashed near Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. Together with his crew, he was among hundreds of British troops based on the Cocos Islands in the Indian Ocean when the end of the Second World War was announced. But instead of heading home, the crew volunteered to help locate and rescue British and Allied troops who had been taken as prisoners of war by the Japanese. As they set off on their mission, on August 23rd 1945, the crew and Flt Lt Watts had no idea it would be their last mission.
“Arthur Lane, from the National Ex-Services Association, said he has been campaigning for decades on behalf of the soldiers whose bodies were never recovered. Mr Lane, 88, from Stockport, said he fears he may die before the British Government recognises and recovers the lost servicemen, who were based in the Far East. He said: “We owe it to those lads and the families of those lads that they should be recovered and given a proper Christian burial in their home country.”
“Sue Raftree, from the Ministry of Defence’s joint casualty and compassionate centre, said the government’s policy was not to repatriate remains from the Second World War. Although the policy changed in the 1960s, she said that in 1945 any servicemen killed in action would have been buried in the country where they died. She said: “It is policy that any remains that are found would be given a fitting burial.” Mrs Raftree said that a team from the British Embassy in Kuala Lumpur had visited the crash site in January last year. She said: “They confirmed that the aircraft was the KL654R but there were no remains found.”
“Mr Lane has also visited the crash site where he found objects belonging to the dead crew including a signet ring, a penknife and the remains of a wallet.”
He is remembered on the Singapore Memorial.
Parish registers tell us that John was born on 10th December 1920. He was baptised on 21st January, 1921. His parents, William Ewart Gladstone Watts and Harriet Watts, lived at 3, High Street, Crofton. At that time William is described as an ex-serviceman, presumably from the Great War 1914 – 1918. By 1925, when John’s little sister Mary was born and baptised, their father is described as a “draper”.