WATT, Walter Oswald (1878-1921)


WATT, Walter Oswald (1878-1921)
university benefactor and airman
always known as Oswald Watt, was the son of John Brown Watt, M.L.C., a prosperous and well-known Sydney merchant. He was born at Bournemouth, England, on 11 February 1878, and soon afterwards was taken to Australia. From his eleventh year he was educated in England, entered Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1896, and took a third class in the natural science tripos in 1899. He returned to Australia at the end of the same year, was one of the earliest men in Australia to take up flying, and in July 1911 obtained the Royal Aero Club's certificate in England. He did some flying in Egypt in 1913-14 and then in France. When the war broke out he immediately enlisted in the French flying force, was continuously on service with it for 18 months, and was awarded three French decorations, the military medal, the croix de guerre, and the legion of honour. He was then transferred to the Australian flying corps, and in February 1918 became lieutenant-colonel and was placed in charge of a training wing at Tetbury, England. He returned to Australia in June 1919, and was a good friend to many returned men. In 1920 he was offered the position of controller of civil aviation, but refused it on account of other business engagements. He was accidentally drowned while bathing off the New South Wales coast on 21 May 1921. He married Muriel, daughter of Mr Justice Williams of Victoria, and was survived by a son.
Though a rich man Watt was a man of simple tastes who gave away a large proportion of his income. He was a distinguished airman and a remarkably brave and efficient officer. He had given some consideration to schemes for providing university education to young men, but eventually decided to leave the residue of his estate to the university of Sydney for such uses for the benefit of the institution as the senate should determine. In 1941 the amount of the capital of the Oswald Watt fund was over £108,000.
Oswald Watt, A Tribute to his Memory; The Sydney Morning Herald, 23 May 1921; The Bulletin, 26 May 1921; The Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-1918, vol. VIII.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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