Queer Places:
Canadian Cemetery No. 2, 62580 Neuville-Saint-Vaast

Basil Harry Watt (1882 – September 25, 1915) joined the British Army as Lance Corporal of the Inns of Court Officers Training Corps. He served as Lieutenant of the Cameron Highlanders, becoming Second Lieutenant before dying on September 25, 1915, killed in action at the Battle of Loos, France. He is buried at Canadian Cemetery No.2, Neuville-St. Vaast CWGC Cemetery/Memorial Pas de Calais France.

Basil Harry Watt was the critic who had praised Harold Monro's Before Dawn as 'Poetry that counts'. Basil was very much the sort of man Monro found attractive, a striking figure, strong, lithe and elegant, with a penetrating gaze and wayward personality; he wrote poetry of his own rather badly, and recited other people's exceptionally well. Nearly three years younger than Harold, and, like him, a Scot and a fluent French speaker, he had been educated in England, Germany and Scotland, finally graduating from Edinburgh, Elgin Academy (1898-1904, M.A. 1901), where he had taken a further degree in medicine, captained a rugger team and served as President of the Union, 1903-4. His great love was acting, and he had worked with a West End company; by the time Harold met him he seems to have been making a precarious living by teaching, writing the books page in Black and White and giving poetry readings. He soon became one of Monro's regular team of assistants.

As the proprietor of the Poetry Bookshop in London, Monro helped many poets to bring their work before the public. Monro wrote few WWI poems, but his Youth in Arms quartet, written in the early months, is one of the first attempts to envisage the human psychology of soldiering and understand how ungrudgingly Youth dies. These poems were inspired by Monro's fears for his friend, Basil Harry Watt, whom he dearly loved and who was later killed at Loos. Monro's moving elegy for Watt, Lament in 1915, is a monologue in unornamented, modern language.

Happy boy, happy boy,
David the immortal-willed,
Youth a thousand thousand times Slain, but not once killed,
Swaggering again today
In the old contemptuous way;

Leaning backward from your thigh
Up against the tinselled bar —
Dust and ashes! is it you?
Laughing, boasting, there you are!
First we hardly recognized you
In your modern avatar.

Soldier, rifle, brown khaki —
Is your blood as happy so?
Where's your sling or painted shield, Helmet, pike or bow?
Well, you're going to the wars —
That is all you need to know.

Graybeards plotted. They were sad.
Death was in their wrinkled eyes.
At their tables—with their maps,
Plans and calculations—wise
They all seemed; for well they knew
How ungrudgingly Youth dies.

At their green official baize
They debated all the night
Plans for your adventurous days
Which you followed with delight,
Youth in all your wanderings,
David of a thousand slings.

Watt enlisted at R.A.M.C., 6th London Field Ambulance, as a Private in August 1914, and then 7th Cameron Highlanders, 2nd Lieutenant, in May 1915.

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  1. https://livesofthefirstworldwar.iwm.org.uk/lifestory/4657367
  2. Harold Monro: Poet of the New Age D. Hibberd Springer, Feb 13, 2001