Dispatch rider Harry Watts pictured in Naples. 1943
Dispatch rider Harry Watts pictured in the Liri Valley, Italy. In his hand is a bottle of Black Horse Ale, the first Canadian beer he had since leaving Canada, which Watts shared with his friend Reg
Harry Watts (on far right) is pictured here with Dutch colonial veterans who raised the Dutch flag for the first time since the Nazi invasion in May 1940
Harry Watts sent this telegram to his sister from Camp Borden, before going overseas
A letter sent home by Harry Watts to his parents in Canada for Christmas 1944
"I think of the tremendous responsibility that they give this 19- or 20-year-old kid. Just accepted it, and did it"
My name is Harry Watts. And I was in the [Royal] Armoured Corps. And I ended up in the 5th Division and I was a dispatch rider with a small group that was called the Divisional Maintenance Area, or short form DMA.
Most of the time was spent in Italy from November 1943 'til March of 1945. March of '45 we came up to Holland and we ended up in Holland 'til V-E Day on May the 8th. Being a dispatch rider was a whole different world than, I think, any other job in the army. It was a job that had to be... content to be on your own because you were alone quite a lot of the time. And, in the Armoured Corps, I know, it was the only job that was strictly volunteer. You volunteered to ride that motorcycle and, at any time you felt that you didn't want to ride the motorcycle any more, why you could say, "I don't want to do that," and they'd find another job for you in a tank or something like that. Being a dispatch rider to me, was an exciting time. I look back and I think of the tremendous responsibility that they give this 19- or 20-year-old kid. Just accepted it and... and went and did it.
A lot of my job was delivering messages that were too important to be sent by radio or by telephone. The Germans could tap in and listen to what was being said. So, that was what they used the dispatch riders for. We also did convoy work. Sometimes you'd have a truck load of supplies or... or maybe a few tanks. They would say, "Take them from point A to point B." And they would give you a map and away you'd go.
We had taken training at Camp Borden and our trainer there had been a motorcycle stunt rider at the various fairs and he had given us instructions in how to crash the motorcycle and walk away and protect ourselves. I got to meet some wonderful people and had some wonderful experiences in Italy. The Italians and the Germans had been in alliance, but we arrived there in November and the Italians had just surrendered and said that they didn't want to participate in Mr. Hitler's war any more so, we were fighting the Germans and... and not the Italians. And their gratitude sometimes made for some wonderful friendships that a lot of the guys built up while we were there. My job was such that I was never really engaged in the actual fighting. I was delivering messages pretty close to it and sometimes I'd be in a position where I'd have to find a hole to get into for a... maybe an hour or so. But, generally, I was just riding my motorcycle and... and fighting the elements.