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Thread: Dirty Harry

  1. #1

    Default Dirty Harry

    Spotted this sorry looking specimen in a lot, and made it my mission to get it.

    Case date 1915, movement 1913.

    "What's so special about it?" I don't hear you ask.
    Yes, these are fairly commonplace models, but this one had a little something "extra".

    A nice inscription, and something that piqued my interest as my brother lives in Ramsgate.
    Time to get my head down and do a little research.

    First up, I find childe Harold was born in 1881,in Ealing in the borough of Brentford.

    Then more info comes, married in 1907 in Lambeth.

    More digging brings up that Harold served in 1915 as Third Mate aboard the ship "S.S. Watermouth", and what else is interesting, is he is also joined by his wife, May. This is a Merchant Navy ship.

    The boat was built in 1910/11, and some time after our hero joined, has since changed hands and is now the "S.S. Swift Wings."

    Now, this is where it gets interesting. If we look to the bottom of the previous picture, we see that the boat was torpedoed!
    The watch is engraved in August 1916, and Harold's ship is torpedoed within weeks of this.

    As can be seen, only two crew lost their lives.
    Harold and his wife got lucky, very lucky.

    Some time after the war ended, it seems either he was divorced, or his wife died. He gets married again, in 1924 in Bridgend.

    After more than three decades, poor Harold dies at the age of 75 in Totnes, Devon in 1956.

    Now, the watch arrived this morning, and as seen in the above photos it is a little rough.
    The hour hand is bent and buckled, and all three hands are rusty. After carefully removing, polishing and reluming, they look a bit better.
    The watch didn't want to work, but a basic cleaning and oiling gets it up once more.
    The dial is filthy (no crystal) and the case has been given some elbow grease.

    Well, quite a few dents, dings and scratches, but I count these as badges of honour and leave them be.

    I put it on a vintage grosgrain military band, until a nice leather one is bought from David at

    And the rear, shining once more.

    In memory of L.A. Grainger and Murdoch McLeod, and the many unsung heroes of the Merchant Navies.
    Thank you.

    Site of the wreck.
    Farewell to WTU

  2. #2


    This is the best thread I've read in a very long time.
    Thank you so much for taking the time to post your research!

    I've been up early my whole life, and all that ever did was increase the amount of time during the day that something could go wrong... - Inspector O

  3. #3


    Quote Originally Posted by Burgs View Post
    This is the best thread I've read in a very long time.
    Thank you so much for taking the time to post your research!
    Wow, thanks buddy.
    Farewell to WTU

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2014


    I agree totally! Ploughing through the BMD databases & other records is very time consuming but it can be very, very satisfying to pull together a timeline like this. Fantastic!

  5. #5
    Senior Member river rat's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Montana USA


    Nice home work on your watch. It came out nice. Here is some more info for you the U-Boat that sunk his ship Swift Wings looks like that U-boat did a lot of damage and survived the war.

  6. #6
    Administrator ianp's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2007


    Nice restoration and research. That watch really stands out now

    Order of the Invisible Ethereal Electron with Crossed Wizard's Wands

  7. #7


    Thanks again guys, and much appreciated.

    Cheers for the links Mike.
    Farewell to WTU

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Aug 2016


    That was great. Thank you.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Nov 2015
    VA, USA


    Nice one, a great story and now the watch lives on

  10. #10
    Member dave.charlton's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2009


    an excellent read, really brings the watch alive and shows that a nice engraving can lead to lots of interesting information, its a pity we can't find the life story of the majority of watches.

  11. #11


    A well researched and interesting post. It would be nice to see if he had any descendants to pass the information on to.

    Another interesting aspect would to try to work out what his connection with the Y.M.C.A War Emergency Canteen Workers Ramsgate was?


  12. #12


    Thanks again guys.
    Terry, some reasoning behind the YMCA connection can possibly be found here, on page 125:

    YMCA's wide ranging activities including the
    provision of rest huts, overnight hostels and other facilities for men on leave, the association's
    kitchens and canteen
    s in its centres at home and at the front, the organisation of
    entertainments and recreational facilities and of educational and employment opportunities
    both for troops and for munition workers, as well as its religious work.
    YMCA huts which were
    erected in cities, villages and railway stations and in the major training camps in England and
    also with the British Expeditionary Force at
    the great bases at Le Havre, Rouen, Calais,
    Boulogne, Etaples and Abbeville, and subsequently at the frontline.

    Perhaps watches were provided as gifts to some souls. I would love to see the photos.

    EDIT-nice article about Mrs. Churchill's part in the YMCA.
    Farewell to WTU

  13. #13


    Photos of YMCA in various parts of Kent area during WW1.
    Farewell to WTU

  14. #14
    Super Moderator dave's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2008


    excellent thread.. nicely done.. made my day..

    actually Ramsgate gained the reputation for being the most bombed seaside town in the First World War after suffering from many Zeppelin and Gotha bomber raids and also being shelled several times from the sea.

  15. #15


    Congrats! Great history has been saved!

  16. #16


    I wanted to add my voice to the chorus. Really great research and post. Thanks for it.

  17. #17
    Member EmergencyIan's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    New York, NY by way of Southern Indiana


    What a labor of love! Wonderful restoration.

    - Ian

  18. #18


    This is a great example of why MWR is one of the best watch forums.

    Great find, great work and great history lesson bobbee, thank you for sharing
    Thank you kindly.

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