Family’s tribute as Second World War veteran Jack dies

John Coyne Watt served during World War Two.

John Coyne Watt served during World War Two.

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A family has paid tribute to a much-loved Wearside World War Two veteran, who has died at the age of 95.

John Coyne Watt was a young man when called up to serve in the conflict, between 1939 and 1945.

John Coyne Watt served during World War Two.

John Coyne Watt served during World War Two.

He had been born in May 1921 and brought up in Nesham Square, in the east end of Sunderland, as the second-youngest of six children.

After attending St Patrick’s School, he went on to work in a ship repair yard before war broke out.

Known by most as ‘Jack’, he mainly served in North Africa during the conflict, and won a number of medals, among them the African Star.

Following the war, he could not settle back at home, and so joined the Merchant Navy, where he stayed for 40 years.

He was a lovely man and very determined, but he couldn’t really talk about the war

Rachel Otterson

Away from the forces, he was a loving family man and husband to Mary Ellen, who died 13 years ago.

He lived in Ryhope for 40 years and leaves behind four children – Steven, John, Janice and Allison – nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Granddaughter Rachel Otterson, 21, said: “He was a lovely man and very determined, but he couldn’t really talk about the war.

“As a family, we’ve had to put bits together of what we know.

“There are some medals he didn’t even claim, because he just kept saying about the friends who never came back.”

Jack’s love for the forces shone through when he joined the Merchant Navy.

Rachel added: “He travelled the world with the Merchant Navy and loved it with them.

“He didn’t want to leave but eventually, in his 70s, he retired.

“He liked watching sport and reading, as well as listening to music, and he was loved greatly by all the family.

“He was a hero with the forces – once saving a captain from a fire on a ship – and the whole family is very proud of everything he did.

“He will be missed hugely.”