PRIVATE FRED WATSON
8TH NOVEMBER 1918 AGE 19
BURIED: ST SEVER COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION, ROUEN, FRANCE
Dinna forget, the words mean do not forget, or rather more poetically, forget me not, and despite the Scottish dialect their use is not restricted to Scotland. In fact they appears regularly on sentimental postcards of the Victorian and Edwardian era, part of their love affair with all things Scottish.
It's impossible to attribute the words to any one source, there are so many instances of the phrase in poems, books and on keepsakes and jewellery. During the First World War there were even little silver pendants with entwined enamel French and British flags and the words 'Dinna Forget' sold as sweetheart necklaces and bracelet charms. Often exchanged as the soldier went off to war, they were meant to ensure that the girlfriend didn't forget him and remained faithful. But if the soldier died then they became a pledge never to forget his memory.
This is how the words are used for Fred Watson's inscription. But the young woman who chose them was his older sister, Hilda, not a sweetheart. Fred served in the Scots Guards so I wondered if the family had Scottish connections but no. They were all born and brought up in England, most of them in Yorkshire, where they all worked in the cotton industry, including Fred who at the age of 12 was a spinner piecer.
Fred served in the 2nd Battalion Scots Guards and died of wounds three days before the end of the war in one of the hospitals in Rouen. There is no record of where or when he was wounded but the regiment had taken part in most of the last battles of the war from the 27 September onwards: the crossing of the Canal du Nord, the crossing of the Selle, the battle of Cambrai and the crossing of the Sambre on the 4 November.