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“Brave” police officer who died on duty in Romford commemorated with plaque

PC Joseph Watt’s family attended the unveiling with MP Andrew Rosindell and the Mayor of Havering Michael Deon Burton 

A hero police officer, who died after being struck by a horse in Romford High Street, has been honoured with a plaque in the road where the fatal accident took place.

PC Joseph Watt heroically tried to stop the runaway animal after it was frightened by a starting bus on the evening of Sunday, 27 August 1913.

But, after being dragged for around 100 yards by the horse, he was violently thrown to the ground and sustained critical injuries. He passed away in hospital 13 days later, aged 32.

PC Watt’s family attended the unveiling of the plaque at Havering Museum in Romford High Street yesterday.

Only one photograph of PC Joseph Watt exists

His granddaughter, Valerie White, made the long journey down from West Yorkshire to be at the unveiling.

“He shouldn’t have been working that day, he changed shifts with another police officer who wanted to go somewhere,” she told Time 107.5. “My grandmother was pregnant with another baby and I got the impression from her that she witnessed him being crushed by the horses and she lost that baby unfortunately.” 

PC Watt served with the Essex County Constabulary from April 1906 and transferred to Romford in 1908 where he earned nine commendations. Valerie said he was also known as a funny man. 

“Apparently he was a great joker, he thought it was really funny to go out and embarrass everyone by putting odd socks on and sitting with his legs crossed so people could see they were odd.”

A plaque recognises the bravery displayed by PC Joseph Watt

Fred Feather, Treasurer of the Essex Police Memorial Trust, said PC Watt’s grave was registered as his wife’s.

Once when they discovered it was actually his, they worked to contact a relative and asked Havering Museum to help put up a plaque.

“Even if someone has been forgotten for 106 years, we will start looking for them,” Fred said.. 

Ellen Owen, Director of Havering Museum, said they jumped at the chance to tell PC Watt’s story, calling him a hero.

“What would have happened if that horse had run into children? He gave his life saving other people’s lives.”

Another man was injured trying to stop the runaway horse prior to the tragic accident. 

Ellen said: “Sometimes families have medals or their relatives have done something important but their story is untold. The museum is a home where we tell their tales to everyone.” 

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