WATSON, Leonard Jack
(Service number 6/2798)
|First Rank||Private||Last Rank||Private|
|Date||27 July 1897||Place of Birth||Waimataitai, Timaru|
|Date||17 April 1915||Age||17 years 9 months|
|Address at Enlistment||Care of H. Man, Claremont|
|Previous Military Experience||2nd South Canterbury Regiment - 2 years; still serving|
|Next of Kin||William WATSON (father), Marchweil Street, Timaru|
|Religion||Church of England|
|Medical Information||Height 5 feet 5 inches. Weight 126 lbs. Chest measurement 31½-34 inches.|
|Served with||NZ Armed Forces||Served in||Army|
|Body on Embarkation||6th Reinforcements|
|Unit, Squadron, or Ship||Canterbury Infantry Battalion|
|Date||14 August 1915|
|Transport||Willochra or Tofua|
|Embarked From||Wellington, N.Z.||Destination||Suez, Egypt|
|Other Units Served With|
|Last Unit Served With||Canterbury Infantry Regiment, 1st Battalion|
|Campaigns||Balkans (Gallipoli); Western European (Somme)|
|Service Medals||1914-15 Star; British War Medal; Victory Medal|
Award Circumstances and Date
Prisoner of War Information
|Date of Capture|
|Where Captured and by Whom|
|Actions Prior to Capture|
|PoW Serial Number|
Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses
|Date||25 September 1916||Age||18 years|
|Place of Death||Somme, France|
|Cause||Killed in action|
|Memorial or Cemetery||Caterpillar Valley (New Zealand) Memorial, Caterpillar Valley Cemetery, Longueval, Somme, France|
|New Zealand Memorials||On Memorial wall, Timaru; Waimataitai School War Memorial; St Mary's Anglican Church Timaru Memorial|
Leonard Jack Watson, known as Len to family and friends, was the seventh son of William Albert and Ellen (née Cullen) Watson, of 141 Bealey Street, St Albans, Christchurch. Born on 27 July 1897 at Timaru, he put his age up so that he could enlist in April 1915. Along with his siblings, Len attended Waimataitai School, Timaru.
In December 1913 young Len was one of a large number of cadets who appeared before the court on charges of failing to render personal service required of them under the Defence Act. He was not one, however, who gave novel and hitherto unheard of excuses. Rather he said that he had been in the country for some time, and he was exempted in the meantime.
Leonard had been serving with the 2nd South Canterbury Regiment (Territorial Force) for two years when he enlisted on 17 April 1915, aged just 17 years and 9 months. He was indeed in the country – working as a farm hand for Mr Man at Claremont. It would appear that his medical examination was not initially completed, probably on account of his age; then before anything more happened Len had left for the front, never to see home again.
Leonard (2nd Regiment) was one of 123 men who joined 500 men from the south already on the train and left from the Timaru Railway Station in mid-April 1915, en route for the front. The Mayor wished them the best of good fortune and complimented them on the manly stand they were so freely taking in going to help to break the sway of one of the greatest despots who had ever lived. He wished them all a safe and speedy return, before the train steamed out of the station to the accompaniment of cheering and good-bye messages.
He embarked with the 6th Reinforcements on 14 August 1914 for Egypt. There and in France he engaged in the usual youthful behaviour – absent from roll call, absent from camp (resulting in seven days confined to barracks and one day’s pay), and absent from parade and roll call. He initially joined his battalion at Mudros, then he went on to Alexandria, and after a stint on the Dardenelles, embarked for France in April 1916. On 1 August 1916 he was attached to town major staff for Fire Brigade duties for nine days before rejoining his unit.
It was on the night of Thursday, 12 October 1916 that Len’s father received the word that his son Leonard Jack Watson, of the Sixths, had died. He was the second son to make the supreme sacrifice, and aged only 18 years, by which time he had experienced both Gallipoli and the Somme. He had come through the Gallipoli campaign unharmed, only to be killed in action at the Somme on 25 September, aged 18 years.
Len was well known in the Claremont district where he was a town boy working on a farm. He was one of many ex-pupils who had gone or were on their way to the front and whose names appeared on the Waimataitai School “Roll of Honour” drawn up in August 1915. At the school on 16 February 1917, the headmaster recorded with regret the death in France of “another old Waimataitai boy, Private Leonard J. Watson.” It was decided that a letter of sympathy be sent to Mrs Watson.
Leonard was a brother of William Winter Watson who had died of wounds in May 1916. In September 1917, another brother George Albert Watson appealed his call-up. Of the seven sons of military age, two had been killed, two were in Australia, one had been turned down, another was in the second Division, and George himself had enlisted, been turned down, and had married. George was given time and did eventually enlist, but saw no overseas service.
His mother, father, seven surviving brothers and two sisters inserted an In Memoriam notice in the Timaru Herald in 1917, 1918 and 1919 for Leonard, reading:.
“Killed in action say the cables,
That is all the tale they tell
Of the brave young lad who loved us,
Of the lad we loved so well.
How the life was sped we know not,
What the last word, look or thought,
Only that he did his duty,
Died as bravely as he fought.” (1917)
Leonard is remembered on the Caterpillar Valley (New Zealand) Memorial, Caterpillar Valley Cemetery, Longueval, Somme, France; on the Timaru War Memorial Wall, the Waimataitai School War Memorial; and St Mary's Anglican Church Timaru, Memorial. His medals (1914-15 Star; British War Medal; Victory Medal) were sent to his father who had moved to Christchurch.
A young man too young to vote, too young to appreciate the value of making a will, too young to die, but not too young to go into battle and lay down his life for others.
Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database [07 November 2013]; N Z Defence Force Personnel Records (Archives NZ Ref. AABK 18805 W5557 0119690) [10 December 2015]; CWGC [08 November 2013]; Timaru Herald, 9 December 1913, 19 April 1915, 30 August 1915, 13 & 14 October 1916, 14 March 1917, 17, 25 & 26 September 1917, 25 September 1918, 25 September 1919, 16 September 1920, Press, 14 October 1916 (Papers Past) [10 November 2013; 04 April 2014, 16 August 2014; 11 December 2015]; NZ BDM Indexes (DiA) [04 April 2014]
No documents available.
Researched and Written by
Teresa Scott, SC branch NZSG
Currently Assigned to
Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License unless otherwise stated.
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