India General Service Medal 1908, bar Abor 1911-12, 1914-15 Star, British War & Victory Medal, Mr Harry Watkins, Assam Public Works Department, later Lieutenant in the I.A.R.O. who went ahead of the Abor Expedition to build the “Rue of Watkins” path through the Abor Jungles.
A very rare Abor bar to a European.
I.G.S. officially script engraved: “Mr H. Watkins P.W.D.”
1914-15 Star impressed: “2/Lt H. Watkins. I.A.R.O.”
BWM & Victory impressed: “Lt H. Watkins”
Harry Watkins was born on 11th March 1882 in Umballa, St Paul in Bengal, the son of Edwin Watkins 9th Lancers & Maria Watkins.
He graduated from T. C. E. College and joined the Public Works Department on 24th September 1905.
He began his career with a year of practical training in Eastern Bengal and Assam, from 24th September 1905.
Following his training on 24th September 1906 he was made Assistant Engineer, 3rd Grade with the Provincial Eastern Bengal and Assam.
Being assigned to the Dacca Special Works Division at Eastern Bengal Circle, followed by the Assam Circle.
On 19th December 1908, he joined the Naga Hills Division.
During June 1909 he passed the examination in reading native accounts.
He spent two months on leave from 5th August to 25th October 1909, before returning to the Nagal Hills Division on 24th September 1909 being promoted to Assistant Engineer, 2nd Grade.
During August 1910, he joined the Office of Executive Engineer, Cachar Division, then the Lakhimpur Division on 3rd October 1910.
On 16th September 1911 he was sent on “Lakhimpur Special Duty” being detached to work in Abor, which had now become the subject of a punitive expedition, being arranged for a few months following the brutal murder of Noel Williamson, Political Officer at Sadiya, having been lured by the Abors into an unescorted visit into their lands.
The Officers were arranged in September 1911 and month later on 10th October 1911, General Bower moved into his headquarters in Kobo ready to launch an offensive into the Abor Hills.
Mr Watkins is mentioned on Page 162 of “In Abor Jungles” by Angus Hamilton;
“The principal task with which headquarters was occupied at this date was, of course, the formation of the two operating columns, one of which was to proceed via the village of Ledum while the other moved via Pasighat. As the Staff wrestled with this problem, apportioning the different details respectively to the Ledum Column or to the two divisions
of the Main Column, a strong party under Major A. B. Lindsay, 2nd Gurkhas, was dispatched on October 9th on a path-cutting reconnaissance as far as Oniyuk on the road to Ledum. The little force was composed of one double company of the 2nd Gurkhas, one company of the Sappers and Miners, one company of the 32nd Pioneers, a few hundred coolies, and three elephants. Oniyuk lay about ten miles down the Ledum road. Although so close to the base, the distance was more than sufficient to indicate the character of the work which would have to be carried out by the columns as they marched through the bush.
For the first mile and a half Lindsay’s party followed the road to Pasighat, a wonderful ten-foot affair, which had been built during the July-October rainy season under the supervision of Mr Watkins, of the Assam Public Works Department, out of a grant of 13,000 rupees furnished for the purpose by the Assam Government.
The ten foot gauge was continued for the first 6 miles of this road, and so imposing a thoroughfare ‘mid the virgin wilderness surrounding it obviously merited a distinguished name.
It was christened with due ceremony and some degree of pride Rue de Kebang; but when the sixth milestone had been passed and the dainty elegeant of the Rue de Kebang was found to have degenerated into a rough and tumble track, some wag hung up the punning notice, ‘Change here for the Rue of Watkins.’
At a later date the road was carried beyond Pasighat to Yambung, and not only bridged and drained but improved sufficiently to allow of its use by Mule transport. Beyond Yambung it was continued as a superior jungle path as far as Simong and Riga. It was also given the flanking adornment of a military telegraph and telephone line, in which condition it existed until it was abandoned on the withdrawal of the expedition.”
Following the expedition he joined the Central Assam Division as an Executive Engineer on 10th August 1912.
Promoted to the full rank of Executive Engineer as of 24th September 1914.
When WW1 began he joined the Indian Army Reserve of Officers and was attached to the 3rd Sappers and Miners.