Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthFebruary 29, 1872
Place of BirthManchester, Lancashire
Marital StatusMarried
Next of KinEmma Watson (wife), 10359 - 95th Street, Edmonton, Alberta
Trade / CallingPainter and decorator
ReligionChurch of England
Service Details
Regimental Number812167
Service Record Link to Service Record
BattalionAlberta Regiment Depot
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Infantry
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentEdmonton, Alberta
Address at Enlistment10359 - 95th Street, Edmonton, Alberta
Date of EnlistmentApril 8, 1916
Age at Enlistment44
Theatre of ServiceGreat Britain
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathNovember 28, 1949
Age at Death77
Buried AtEdmonton Cemetery, Edmonton, Alberta

Watson, William

Private William Watson was 44 years old when he enlisted in April 1916. He served for more than two and a half years in Canada and the UK. His oldest son was missing and presumed killed in June 1916 at the Battle of Mount Sorrel.

William was born in Manchester, Lancashire, England on 29 February 1872. His parents were William Watson Sr. and Eliza Ashworth. William Sr. worked as a pavior and he and Eliza were married in Manchester in 1871. William was the oldest of at least eight children: William (1872), Robert (1873), James (1876), Edwin (1878), Frances (1880), Marian (1883) and twins Arthur and Charles (1889). Sadly the twins died as infants in 1889, William Sr. passed away in 1890, at age 40, and daughter Marian follwed in 1891, at age 7. Eliza stayed in the Manchester area and supported her family by working as a laundress.

William immigrated to Canada in the early 1890s and by the mid-1890s he was living in the Rat Portage area in northwestern Ontario. He worked as a painter and decorator. He was married in Rat Portage (later renamed Kenora) on 9 November 1898. His wife, Emma Morrison, was the daughter of John Morrison and Margaret Gordon. Emma had a son, Earl, who was apparently born in 1895 in Rat Portage. Another son, William Harold, was born in Fort Frances in 1900. Not long after that the family 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 the Watsons returned to Canada and settled in Edmonton, Alberta. William continued to work as a painter and decorator and he was a partner in a business called ‘Watson, Minkley Co., Interior Decorators and Designers.’

The war started in August 1914 and William enlisted in Edmonton on 8 April 1916, at age 44. He signed up with the 138th (Edmonton) Battalion and when the census was taken in June he was at Sarcee Camp near Calgary. His service file notes that he served as a bandsman and did little military training. His oldest son Earl Watson had enlisted in January 1915 and he was missing in action and presumed killed in June 1916, at the Battle of Mount Sorrel. William headed overseas with his unit later that summer, embarking from Halifax on 22 August on the SS Olympic and arriving in Liverpool at the end of the month.

In October William was transferred to the 137th Battalion. On 14 November a medical exam stated that he had myalgia in his right foot and he was fit for base duty. For the next month he was assigned to garrison duty with the 116th Battalion. On 17 December he was attached to the 125th Battalion and he served as an orderly at the YMCA in Witley. In June 1917 William was transferred to the Alberta Regiment Depot but he continued on command to the YMCA until November 1918. He returned to Canada about six weeks later, sailing on the SS Scotian and arriving at St. John, New Brunswick on 15 January 1919. He was discharged on demobilization on 17 February in Calgary.

Sometime in the 1920s William was hired as a painter for Imperial Oil and he worked for them for more than ten years. By the late 1930s he was retired. William passed away in Edmonton on 28 November 1949, at age 77, and Emma followed in 1950. They are both buried in Edmonton Cemetery. Their son William died in Vancouver in 1964 and he’s interred at Ocean View Burial Park. Edwin passed away in 1991 and he’s buried in Westlawn Memorial Gardens in Edmonton. Howard served with the Royal Canadian Air Force during the Second World War. He died in Victoria, British Columbia in 2004

By Becky Johnson

Grave marker photo and obituaries courtesy of Alison Glass.

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