|Date of Birth||April 4, 1887|
|Place of Birth||Pilot Mound, Manitoba|
|Next of Kin||Mrs. Eleanor Watson (mother), 269 Yale Avenue, Winnipeg, Manitoba|
|Trade / Calling||Cold storage manager|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Battalion||34th Fort Garry Horse|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Place of Enlistment||Winnipeg, Manitoba|
|Address at Enlistment||269 Yale Avenue, Winnipeg, Manitoba|
|Date of Enlistment||May 18, 1916|
|Age at Enlistment||29|
|Theatre of Service||Great Britain|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Date of Death||June 16, 1978|
|Age at Death||91|
|Buried At||St. Luke's Anglican Cemetery, Victoria, British Columbia|
|Plot||Row A - West - Plot 38A|
Trooper Francis (Frank) Edwards Watson enlisted in a cavalry unit in May 1916 and served in Canada and Great Britain for two years. He was discharged for medical reasons in May 1918.
Frank was the oldest son of George Thompson Watson and Eleanor Lavinia Thompson of Winnipeg, Manitoba. George was born in New Brunswick and his wife was from Ontario. They had at least four children: Francis “Frank” Edwards (1887), Lee Thompson (1888), Harry Gibbs (1894) and Ruth Kerrigan (1898). Frank was born in Pilot Mound, Manitoba on 4 April 1887. His father was a hardware merchant at the time but later became involved in the lumber and grain industries. Frank grew up in the Pilot Mound area in southern Manitoba. In 1916 his family was living in St. Andrew’s and by 1921 they were in Winnipeg. In the census records for those two years George was listed as a grain merchant.
Sometime before enlisting Frank started working for Gordon, Ironsides and Fares. The firm was in the cattle business and raised thousands of cattle in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and Mexico. They also operated slaughterhouses and had cold storage and distribution plants in several towns, including Kenora, Ontario. Frank served as the manager of their cold storage plant in Kenora for awhile.
The war started in August 1914 and Frank enlisted in Winnipeg on 18 May 1916, signing up with the Service Squadron of the 34th Fort Garry Horse. His occupation was cold storage manager and next of kin was his mother at 269 Yale Avenue in Winnipeg. He trained with his unit in Winnipeg and at Camp Hughes. A year after enlisting he was on his way overseas, embarking on 1 June 1917 on the SS Olympic and arriving in England about eight days later. He was assigned to the Canadian Reserve Cavalry Regiment at Shorncliffe and he served with them for the next ten months.
By December 1917 Frank had developed a heart condition that made training difficult for him. A medical board recommended that he be returned to Canada. He sailed from Liverpool on the SS Mauretania in early April 1918 and arrived in Halifax on 15 April. He was posted to District Depot #10 in Winnipeg. On 14 May he attended a dance in Kenora, Ontario, organized by the Great War Veterans Association, and he was mentioned in an article in the Kenora newspaper. His official discharge was on 31 May in Winnipeg, in consequence of being medically unfit for war service.
After his time overseas Frank spent a couple of years in Winnipeg, returning to Gordon, Ironsides and Fares and then working at Ashdowns retail store. By the time the 1921 census was taken he was living in Portage la Prairie where he was employed in the lumber industry. Sometime after that he moved to Oak Lake and started working for a lumber dealer, W.C. Burns. Frank was married in Oak Lake on 23 December 1929. His wife, Grace Horsman McLeish, was born in Oak Lake in 1905, the daughter of David McLeish and Laura Horsman. David, a farmer, was born in Scotland and Laura was from Guelph, Ontario. Grace had one sister, Elizabeth “Betty” Mary, who was born in 1907. Both girls became school teachers. Their father contracted rheumatic fever and suffered ill health for many years. During that time a Barnardo’s Home Child, John Reeves, helped to keep the farm operating. David passed away in 1922, at age 49, and he’s buried in Oak Lake Cemetery.
Frank and Grace made their home in Oak Lake and had two children, David Edwards (1933) and Mary. Frank took over the lumber business of W.C. Burns, after the owner’s death, and then sold it in 1945. He was active in sports in the community and served several terms on the town council. Grace gathered a lot information on local pioneer families and interviewed many residents, with the intention of writing a local history book. Years later her documents were used to write Ox Trails to Blacktop, a local history of Oak Lake and the RM of Sifton.
Around 1946 Frank and his family moved to Victoria, British Columbia and he continued to work in the lumber industry. His daughter Mary became a nurse and settled in Montreal with her husband, Hubert Senecal. Frank’s father had passed away in Winnipeg in 1936 and his mother in 1940. They are both buried in Winnipeg’s Elmwood Cemetery. In the early 1930s Grace’s mother Laura moved to Rice Lake, Wisconsin, where she lived for many years. She joined Frank and Grace in Victoria sometime in the 1950s and she died there in 1962.
Frank passed away in Victoria General Hospital on 16 June 1978, at age 91. Grace died at the Royal Jubilee Hospital in Victoria on 4 June 1991. Their son David passed away in June 2009 and their daughter Mary in November 2009. Frank, Grace and David are buried at St. Luke’s Anglican Cemetery in Victoria. Grace’s sister Elizabeth (1907-1980) and their mother Laura are also buried there.
Frank is commemorated on the World War One Roll of Honour for the community of Oak Lake.
By Becky Johnson
Family information is from “Ox Trails to Blacktop” by the Oak Lake History Committee (Friesen Publishing, 1982).Grave marker photos courtesy of Betty and Dan, findagrave.com.