WATSON, William Winter
(Service number 25/299)
|First Rank||Lance Corporal||Last Rank||Lance Corporal|
|Date||27 July 1895||Place of Birth||Timaru|
|Date||12 October 1915||Age||20 years 3 months|
|Address at Enlistment||21 Waldegrave Street, Palmerston North|
|Previous Military Experience||A Company, 2nd Regiment, Timaru (still serving in 1915)|
|Next of Kin||Mrs Ellen WATSON (mother), Marchwiel Street, Waimataitai, Timaru|
|Medical Information||Height 5 feet 6½ inches. Weight 143 lbs. Chest 32-35¾ inches. Complexion fair. Eyes blue. Hair fair. Sight, hearing and colour vision all normal. Limbs and chest well formed. Full and perfect movement of all joints. Heart and lungs normal. Teeth - efficient, upper plate. No illnesses. Free from hernia, varicocele, varicose veins, haemorrhoids, inveterate or contagious skin disease. Good bodily and mental health. No defects. No fits. Passed 'Fit'.|
|Served with||NZ Armed Forces||Served in||Army|
|Body on Embarkation||New Zealand Rifle Brigade|
|Unit, Squadron, or Ship||3rd Battalion, B Company|
|Date||5 February 1916|
|Transport||Ulimaroa or Mokoia or Navua|
|Embarked From||Wellington, N.Z.||Destination||Suez, Egypt|
|Other Units Served With|
|Last Unit Served With||New Zealand Rifle Brigade|
|Service Medals||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
Died of gun shot wounds in the abdomen.
|Date||25 May 1916||Age||20 years 10 months|
|Place of Death||No. 2 Casualty Clearing Station, France|
|Cause||Died of wounds|
|Notices||Timaru Herald, 9 June 1916|
|Memorial or Cemetery||Bailleul Communal Cemetery Extension, Nord, France|
|Memorial Reference||I. A. 26.|
|New Zealand Memorials||On Memorial wall, Timaru; (Waimataitai School War Memorial (as WATSON E. W.?); St Mary's Anglican Church Timaru Memorial (as WATSON W.)|
William Winter Watson, known as Billy or Winter, was the sixth son of William Albert and Ellen (née Cullen) Watson, of 141 Bealey St., Christchurch, formerly of Timaru, some time of Ashton House, Waimataitai. He was born on 27 April 1895 at Timaru. Along with his siblings, Billy was educated at Waimataitai School, where his father was a school committee member. Winter Watson opened a Hairdressing Saloon and Tobacconist’s Shop in Stafford Street in April 1913. He advertised in the Timaru Herald on most weekdays from 1 April 1913 until the end of 1914 - “With civility and strict attention to business I hope to secure a fair share of public patronage. All brands of Tobacco and Smokers’ Requisites kept in Stock.” And yet, when he enlisted he was working as a hairdresser in Palmerston North. Though he had worked there for only a short time, he was well known to many residents and made many acquaintances.
William enlisted on 12 October 1915, only a few months after his 20th birthday, a fit and healthy young man. He had already been serving in the 2nd South Canterbury Regiment. The Palmerston quota of the Ninth Reinforcements was given an enthusiastic send-off in the morning of 12 October 1915. Headed by the Palmerston Band, the men marched round the square and then to the station, where the band played patriotic airs. The mayor, who congratulated the men on having offered their services to the country, concluded his address thus: “Acquit yourselves like men, always play the game, and may God go with you.” Each man received a small box of refreshments before embarking on the train, and they were loudly cheered as the train pulled out of the station.
W. W. Watson, having left Wellington with the 3rd Battalion, Lord Liverpool’s Own, on 5 February 1916, disembarked at the Suez on 13 March 1916, and on 7 April 1916 at Alexandria he embarked for the Western Front. Such a short time after – 25 May 1916 - he died at the No. 2 Casualty Clearing Station in the field in France, of gun shot wounds in the abdomen received in action. He was one of twelve New Zealanders reported dead in the newspapers of 8 June 1916, along with a large number wounded.
Expressions of regret and condolence were received from the Governor and Ministers. The headmaster of Waimataitai School, in his report of June 1916, noted that the roll of those who had died serving their country now contained another old Waimataitai boy, W. Winter Watson. The school extended its deep sympathy to his family, and the committee resolved to send a message of sympathy to his relatives. Mr and Mrs Watson and family wrote a letter of thanks, acknowledging the vote of sympathy in the loss of their son at the Front.
"He was always a good soldier, and did his duty to the entire satisfaction of his officers. . . . he died at his post, nobly doing his duty for his country". These are the words of Major A. Digby Smith, commanding 3rd Battalion, 3rd N.Z. Rifle Brigade, in whose company Winter Watson belonged, written in a letter dated 3 June 1916 to Mrs Watson.
Two other letters were received from France. The Sister in Charge of No. 2 Clearing Station (J. F. Jolley) wrote on 26 May – “I am sorry to tell you your son Rifleman W. W. Watson was brought in here yesterday, very severely wounded in the abdomen, and though everything possible was done for him he passed peacefully away at 10.30 last night. I told him I would write and let you know we were taking care of him, and he sent his love. He was too collapsed to talk much, so he left no other message. He will be laid to rest in a part of the cemetery here reserved for our brave troops, and a little wooden cross bearing the name and date marks each resting place.” W. W. Watson was interred in the Bailleul Communal Cemetery Extension, Nord, France.
Bob Simmers also wrote on 23 June: “Dear Mrs Watson, you have my heartfelt sorrow in the loss of your son, Billy. He was in the same company as I am, and so we were in the firing line together. We were schoolmates at Waimataitai, so when I heard he was hit I went to him and stayed with him till the ambulance took him away. Although he knew he was badly hit he was very brave about it. The shell had landed within three or four yards of him and a piece hit him in the small of the back and went through to his stomach. . . . . . . I tried to get more information from the hospitals, but could not find out anything. You and your family have had a great loss, but you have one consolation. He died like a man and a soldier fighting for his country.”
Winter Watson had little opportunity to make his mark in life, other than to have a hairdresser's business in Stafford Street North, having enlisted, embarked and died all while just 20 years of age. His business was carried on by a brother, Frank Roland Watson, who was finally declined for active service in February 1917 and took on the business permanently (and extended it to include a "torsorial artist"). It was still operating under the name Winter Watson in late 1919.
Winter did take a very keen interest in all outdoor sports; and maybe some indoor. Stan Wright, late of Palmerston North, writing to the Pug Pars column of NZ Truth, September 1916, from somewhere in France said – “A member of our battalion, W. W. Watson, a Timaru boy, who more than once appeared in the square ring, had the misfortune to be smacked up, and although the poor lad put up a great fight against his wounds, he crossed the great divide. Peace be to his ashes.”
In Memoriam notices inserted in the Timaru Herald in 1917 and 1918 by his parents, brothers and sisters keep Winter in their memories -
“Do not ask if we miss him,
There is such a vacant place,
Can we e’er forget his footsteps,
And his dear familiar face.
Time has passed, and still we miss him,
Words would fail our love to tell,
But in Heaven we hope to meet him,
Jesus doeth all things well.
William Winter Watson is remembered on the Timaru War Memorial Wall, the Waimataitai School War Memorial, and St Mary's Anglican Church Timaru, Memorial. His medals (British War Medal; Victory Medal) were sent to his father in St Albans, Christchurch.
Winter was a brother of Leonard Jack Watson who was to be killed in September 1916 at the Somme. 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. He was given time. George did enlist but saw no overseas service.
Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database [07 November 2013]; NZ Defence Force Personnel Records (Archives NZ Ref. AABK 18805 W5557 0119800) [04 April 2014]; CWGC [07 November 2013]; School Admission Records (South Canterbury Branch NZSG transcripts); Timaru Herald, 1 April 1913, 13 August 1913, 1 October 1913, 7, 8 9 & 14 June 1916, 13 July 1916, 21 August 1916, 14 February 1917. 25 May 1917, 26 September 1917, 25 May 1918, 26 December 1919, 16 September 1920, Manawatu Times, 13 October 1915, 9 June 1916, 31 August 1916, Otago Daily Times, 8 & 15 June 1916, New Zealand Herald, 8 June 1916, Manawatu Standard, 8 June 1916, NZ Truth, 2 September 1916 (Papers Past) [13 November 2013; 04 April 2014; 11 December 2015; 26 & 27 April 2016]; NZ BDM Indexes (DiA) [04 April 2014]; NZ Electoral Rolls (ancestry.com.au) [27 April 2016]
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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