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Arthur Watts


Sketches of scenes on board an armed liner during the First World War by Arthur Watts

Arthur George Watts, the son of an army doctor, was born in Chatham, Kent, and educated at Dulwich College. Encouraged to pursue a career in art by his mother, he attended Goldsmith’s Institute in southeast London, the Slade School of Art and furthered his studies at the Free Art School in Antwerp.

He began to be published in various publications in 1904, including Pearson’s, London Opinion, The Tatler, The Bystander and, by 1912, Punch. He was a keen sailor and boat enthusiast, buying his first boat in 1910, writing and illustrating articles for Yachting World and enjoying a three-week tour of the Dutch and Belgian coast in June 1913.

This experience stood him in good stead for his wartime duties when he served in the Coastal Motor Boats and Motor Launches in the Dover Patrol of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. As a Lieutenant Commander, Watts led a smoke-screen flotilla at the battles of Zeebrugge and Ostend in 1918, was awarded the DSO and mentioned in despatches. He suffered from shell shock and did not return to illustration until 1921, when his work resumed in Punch.

Watts also produced four small drawings each week for “Both Sides of the Microphone” in the Radio Times from 1928 to 1935. He illustrated E. M. Delafield’s humorous novel Diary of a Provincial Lady and drew a number of amusing posters for London Transport during the mid-1920s.

Arthur Watts was tragically killed at the age of 52 in an aeroplane crash on 20 July 1935, when returning from Italy.