WATSON, William
(Service number 14171)

First Rank Private Last Rank Private


Date 16 June 1878 Place of Birth Cathcart, Renfrewshire, Scotland

Enlistment Information

Date 8 March 1916 Age 37 years 8 months
Address at Enlistment C/o R. McKewan (Keown), Tycho Flat, Timaru
Occupation Ploughman
Previous Military Experience Territorials (Home) - 3 years
Marital Status Single
Next of Kin Miss Jeanie WATSON (sister), care of Mrs Barclay, Kurow, Otago. Later C/- Mr d. McLean, Mangatutu, Waiwhare, Hastings.
Religion Presbyterian
Medical Information Height 5 feet 5 inches. Weight 138 lbs. Chest measurement 32½-36 inches. Complexion fair. Eyes grey. Hair light brown. Sight and hearing both good. Colour vision correct. Limbs well formed. Full and perfect movement of all joints. Chest well formed. Heart and lungs normal. No illnesses. Free from hernia, varicocele, varicose veins, haemorrhoids, inveterate or contagious skin disease. Vaccinated. Good bodily and mental health. No slight defects. No fits. Tattoo on right forearm - clasped hands etc.

Military Service

Served with NZ Armed Forces Served in Army
Military District

Embarkation Information

Body on Embarkation New Zealand Rifle Brigade
Unit, Squadron, or Ship 5th Reinforcements 3rd Battalion, G Company
Date 26 June 1916
Transport Maunganui or Tahiti 
Embarked From Wellington Destination Devonport, England
Other Units Served With
Last Unit Served With Canterbury Infantry Regiment, 2nd Battalion

Military Awards

Campaigns Western European
Service Medals British War Medal; Victory Medal
Military Awards

Award Circumstances and Date

No information

Prisoner of War Information

Date of Capture
Where Captured and by Whom
Actions Prior to Capture
PoW Serial Number
PoW Camps
Days Interned
Liberation Date


Date Reason

Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses

Post-war Occupations


Date 14 June 1917 Age 38 years
Place of Death Belgium
Cause Killed in action
Memorial or Cemetery Messines Ridge (New Zealand) Memorial, Messines Ridge British Cemetery, Belgium
Memorial Reference
New Zealand Memorials On Memorial wall, Timaru; Taiko District War Memorial; Taiko Hall Memorial plaque

Biographical Notes

William Watson was born on 16 June 1878 at Eastwood (Cathcart), Renfrewshire, Scotland, the third son of William Watson and his wife, Margaret Aitkenhead, who had married in 1873 in Renfrewshire. William was at home at Eastwood, Renfrewshire, with his parents and siblings in 1881 (at Cowglen), 1891 (at Pollokshaws) and 1901 (at Cowglen). In 1901 he was engaged in farm work. His mother died in 1912 at Cathcart and his father in 1915 at Pollok, by which time William and his sister Jeanie would have been in New Zealand. He had brothers still living in Scotland. William and Jeanie (Jane) appear to be of similar age, Jeanie being maybe the only daughter of the family. His sister Jeanie who was living at Kurow in 1916, and later at Patoka, Hastings, was William’s next-of-kin.

William, a ploughman, had been working on Mr R. J. McKeown's estate “Kinoull” at Tycho for two years, and prior to that for Morrison Bros. at Levels Valley. He had served in the Territorials for three years at home in Scotland. Enlisting with the New Zealand forces in March 1916 he left ten days after his 38th birthday in June 1916 for England. After a brief period at Sling he proceeded overseas and joined his battalion at Rouen in October. It appears that thereafter he remained in the field.

He had already become a very popular young man in the Taiko district as shown at the crowded farewell social, which his sister, his only relative in New Zealand, attended. He was given a neat radium wristlet watch suitably inscribed – “Private Wm. Watson, from Tycho friends, 24/5/1916.” He was described as a “sterling young fellow” whose departure was met with a mixture of regret and admiration. Those gathered knew that he would do his duty manfully and well; they wished him luck and a safe return to his former billet where his position would be kept for him. Private Watson thanked his many Tycho friends for their present and the sentiments expressed, especially Mr and Mrs McKeown for their kindness. He had always tried to do his duty as a citizen and would endeavour to do it as a soldier. And he hoped to resume his old place in the Tycho district. Before the singing of “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow”, he was assured of a warm welcome when his time came to return to them - a time which was not to be. He had contributed generously to the war effort financially and then was to contibute with his life just a year later.

Private William Watson, 14171, was reported missing on 14 June 1917; then missing believed killed; and after a Court of Enquiry declared to have been killed in action. Although the Battle of Messines was a striking success, the New Zealanders paid a heavy price for success – one of that heavy price, Scotsman William Watson, a “very fine type of man” and well liked in the Tycho district.

William's oldest brother, Robert, who was born in 1874 at Pollockshaws, set out for South Africa in 1899 – Robert Watson, of Mueza Farm, Kalonia, Northern Rhodesia, was William’s legal next-of-kin, and it was to Robert that his medals (British War Medal and Victory Medal) were to be sent, and the plaque and scroll.

His sister, Jeanie Watson, and his employer, Robert James McKeown, were the trustees of his estate as named in the will he left in 1916. Both Jeanie and R. J. McKeown had seen a letter written by Private William J. Blackwood to his brother Walter at Tycho. William Blackwood of the same company as William Watson and a mate of his, stated that he had seen Private William Watson killed and asking that Mr McKeown be advised at once. In his will W. Watson again showed his generous spirit, leaving the proceeds of his personal effects and his watch to the Red Cross Fund, before the residue of his property was to be divided among his brothers and sister(s).

William Watson is remembered on the Messines Ridge (New Zealand) Memorial, Belgium, a memorial to 827 New Zealanders with no known grave; and on the Timaru War Memorial Wall, the Taiko District War Memorial and the Taiko Hall Memorial Plaque.


Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database [07 November 2013]; NZ Defence Force Personnel Records (Archives NZ Ref. AABK 18805 W5557 0119777) [10 December 2015]; CWGC [07 November 2013]; Timaru Herald, 29 May 1916, 9 & 17 July 1917, Evening Post, 4 & 14 July 1917 (Papers Past) [13 November 2013; 14 April 2017]; Probate record (Archives NZ/FamilySearch) [05 April 2014]; 1881, 1891, 1901 Scotland census transcriptions ( [11 December 2015]

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Researched and Written by

Teresa Scott, SC branch NZSG

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