Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthDecember 7, 1895
Place of BirthKenora, Ontario
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinWilliam Watson (father), 635 Syndicate Avenue, Edmonton, Alberta
Trade / CallingRailroad fireman
ReligionChurch of England
Service Details
Regimental Number436475
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion49th Battalion
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Infantry
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentEdmonton, Alberta
Date of EnlistmentJanuary 19, 1915
Age at Enlistment19
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarNo
Death Details
Date of DeathJune 5, 1916
Age at Death20
Buried AtNo known grave

Watson, Earl

Private Earl Watson enlisted in January 1915, at age 19, and arrived in France nine months later. He was missing and presumed killed in June 1916 at the Battle of Mount Sorrel.

According to his attestation paper, Earl was born on 7 December 1895 in Rat Portage (now Kenora), Ontario. His mother, Emma Morrison, was most likely born in Ontario. She married William Watson on 9 November 1898 in Rat Portage and they had a son, William Harold, who was born in 1900 in Fort Frances. Not long after that William and Emma moved to the U.S. and when the 1905 state census was taken they were living in Hibbing, Minnesota. Two more sons were born in Minnesota: Howard Lee (1908) and Edwin Frederick (1911). In July 1912 William and his family returned to Canada and settled in Edmonton, Alberta.

The war started in August 1914 and Earl enlisted in Edmonton on 19 January 1915. He was 19 years old, a locomotive fireman and next of kin was his father William Watson in Edmonton. Earl signed up with the 51st Battalion and trained with them for about eight months. During that time the 1st Canadian Division was fighting in France and Belgium and men were needed to replace casualties in front line units. Battalions in Canada were asked to send reinforcements and Earl was sent to England with the 2nd reinforcing draft. He embarked from Montreal on the SS Metagama on 11 September 1915 and arrived in England about nine days later.

On 30 September Earl was drafted to a front line unit, the 49th Battalion, and sent to France. He sailed from Folkstone on 9 October and disembarked at Boulogne the same day. In February 1916 he was ill with influenza and myalgia and he spent a week recovering in a field ambulance and at a rest station. He rejoined in his unit in early March. Later that month the Canadians took up positions in the south part of the Ypres Salient, between St. Eloi and Hooge. The Battle of Mount Sorrel started on 2 June with an intense bombardment of the Canadian lines followed by the explosion of underground mines. After the barrage German infantry advanced and captured Mount Sorrel and nearby areas.

A counter-attack by the Canadians was planned and it started early on 3 June. The 49th Battalion suffered heavy casualties and Earl was reported missing in action sometime between 3 June and 5 June. For official purposes he was presumed to have died on or since 5 June. His body was not recovered and he’s commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial in Belgium. The monument bears the names of over 54,000 servicemen who died in Belgium and have no known grave.

Earl’s father William Watson also enlisted and he served for more than two and a half years in Canada and the UK, returning home in January 1919. Earl was awarded the 1914-15 Star which was sent to his father along with a memorial plaque and scroll. Earl’s mother received a Memorial Cross. William passed away in Edmonton in 1949 and Emma in 1950. They are both buried in Edmonton Cemetery.

By Becky Johnson

Photo above is the 1914-15 Star.


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