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Dirty Harry "Click" to Login or Register 
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, and as seen in the above photos it was a little rough.
The hour hand is snapped at the base, bent and buckled, and all three hands are rusty. After carefully removing, straightening, 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 vintagewatchstraps.com.

And the rear, shining once more.

Here may be a reason for the gift of the watch from the YMCA.


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 canteens 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.

Here is a link to some photos of YMCA huts and centres from the same time and in the same area as where Hiley was based.


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

Site of the wreck.

Posts: 77 | Location: Ilkeston in England | Registered: March 22, 2013
IHC Member 163
Picture of Mark Cross
WOW! What a journey that little watch has made over the past century!

WELL done bringing it, and it's owners story, back to life!

HIGH regards! Mark
Posts: 3830 | Location: Estill Springs, Tennessee, USA | Registered: December 02, 2002
Thank you sir.
Posts: 77 | Location: Ilkeston in England | Registered: March 22, 2013
Picture of Quinton Bradford
Wow Robert!! How incredibly interesting!!! Thanks for sharing! Good job!

Quinton Bradford
Clean Time Jewels
Posts: 9 | Location: Greensboro, North Carolina in the USA | Registered: July 20, 2017
Very nicely done! Rescuing this little piece of history and then doing the research on the man 9and hopefully the organization that gave it to him) is wonderful.

If I may offer one small suggestion - the skeleton hands would likely have had radium paint in them that would have had a bit of a light yellowish tinge to them. Since I would not advise restoring them with actual radium paint, perhaps instead of the pure white paint you might consider some paint with a light yellowish tint?
Posts: 869 | Location: Baltimore, Maryland USA | Registered: September 20, 2004
Thanks for the comments gents.
The hands are actually painted with a pale green luminous paint, the pics are a little 'washed out' I think, but thanks for the tip!
Posts: 77 | Location: Ilkeston in England | Registered: March 22, 2013
IHC Member 1541
Picture of Lorne Wasylishen
Well done Robert, and I especially appreciate a creative topic title.
Posts: 2093 | Location: British Columbia in Canada | Registered: March 02, 2011
Glad you like it Lorne! Smile

I forgot to mention, the case is the screw-on bezel and case back type, and measures a tad over 35mm. without crown.
Posts: 77 | Location: Ilkeston in England | Registered: March 22, 2013
Nice work Robert, thanks for posting the history.
Posts: 317 | Location: Florida in the USA | Registered: December 07, 2009
IHC Member 302
Excellent Robert, thank you so much for your research and dedication. Even though most of us at this site appreciate these historical significance of a watch, artifacts alone are sometimes, well, sort of dry. Your research puts the flesh and blood back onto this historical item. And I appreciate your Memorial to the merchant marines. Thanks again, Jonathon
Posts: 62 | Location: Cochranville, Pennsylvania USA | Registered: November 20, 2003
Life Achievement
Military Expert
Picture of Greg Crockett
Many thanks Robert. Great little watch, research and excellent write-up.
Posts: 1895 | Location: East Lansing, Michigan USA | Registered: November 24, 2002
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