Private Harry Watson
54th Bn Canadian Infantry

Town Memorial P10.R2.C2

shoulder patch
54 Bn Canadian Infantry
Canadian Expeditionary Force

Taken, Not Given, Liam Sumption, L&DLHS

Harry Watson
54th Canadian Regt
Aug 3 1917

Harry Watson died of wounds received on 28 July 1917, on 3rd August. The Parish magazine issue of September 1917 (1) gives this information. It also states that he was serving with the 54th Canadian Machine Gun section. If this was part of the 54th Canadian Infantry, then the reference for the War Diary in the Public Record Office, Richmond, Kew would be W095 – 3902. (2)

The Parish magazine says that his C.O. wrote to his parents as follows: “Harry was one of my best gunners and receive the fatal wound standing by his gun in action, his pal being instantly killed at the time. He was always a good soldier, well liked by all his platoon and his loss is keenly felt."

Notes on sources
1. Parish magazine of St Mary and St Nicholas, Leatherhead, issue of September 1917.
2. Volume W095 entitled 'Finding Aids' in the Public Record Office, Richmond, Kew.

Further research


Service Number 472976
Died 03/08/1917
Aged 29
54th Bn. Canadian Infantry
Son of Alfred and Ann Watson, of "Carol," Kingston Rd., Leatherhead, Surrey, England. Born at Camberwell, London, England.
Location: Pas de Calais, France
Cemetery/memorial reference: II. G. 20.

Harry emigrated to Canada. He enlisted there on 20 January 1916. He embarked for the UK on 20th June 1916, arriving on 28 June 1916, and was based at Bramshott, Hampshire.

He left for France on 13 August 1916.

A few months later his brother Private Edwin Watson died on 25 November 1917 serving with the 7th Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment.

According to the Parish Magazine Harry Watson died of wounds received on 28 July 1917, on 3rd August.

The 54 Bn War Diary for 28 July 1917 viewed online in the Canadian archives states:

M.30.a.05.40 28/7/17 Bright and clear. Enemy shelled vicinity of Bn HQ and Coys billets during early morning, and dropped several gas shells over in evening. Bn HQ moved M.29.d.7.5. Usual Working Party supplied.

No casualties are mentioned but two occurred the following day, on 29 July 1917:

M.29.d.7.5. 29/7/17 Heavy thunderstorms during day. CO went over FL system with a view to pushing out outposts on the Bn front. On returning to Bn Hd Qrs all necessary dispositions were made. The outposts were to be pushed out without artillery support. At 6pm 29th July 1917 sections consisting of 1 NCO and 7 ORs (2 Riflemen, 2 Rifle Grenadiers and 3 Bombers) from 'C' and 'B' Coys left the FL and established outposts at N.19.d.2.4 and N.19.d.07 and  N.19.a.9.0 - very little opposition was encountered.

At 8.19pm the enemy commenced to throw fish tails* into the post at N.19.d.2.4 wounding two of the post. This continued, and the post had to return to the FL, bringing their casualties with them. The Stokes Guns were turned on and the firing was silenced. At 11.00 pm this post was  re-established and is now held.

At 10.00pm a section left the FL and established an outpost at M.25.b.6.8 digging themselves a small strong point. At 10.20pm the outpost at N.19.a.9.0 observed a hostile patrol approaching. Dispositions were quickly made by the NCO in charge resulting in the capture of one prisoner, belonging to the 22nd R?R and the killing of another Bosche, the remainder running away. Bn HQ moved to M.29.d.2.4. Usual Working Party supplied.

Although no mention is made of machine guns a search for 54 Machine Gun Regiment produced no result.  

* Fish Tail: “A German trench mortar shell eight inches long, corrugated, with a hollow stem which slips over the gun when fired. It carries fish-tail shaped wings, hence its name. Also sometimes called Pineapple.”

His life

Harry was born on 10 February 1888 in Camberwell, London

His father was Alfred Watson (1865-1928), a Carpenter. Alfred's parents have not been traced.

His mother was Ann Townsend, born Wargrave, Berkshire 1866, a daughter of Thomas Townsend (1827-1877) who was a Farmer, and Sarah Ann Kent (1830-1910).

His parents were married on 5 April 1885 at St Giles, Camberwell, Surrey.

His siblings were Alfred Thomas born about 1887 in Camberwell, London; the rest were born in Leatherhead - Edwin born 1889, Blanche Mary born about 1892 and Robin Frank born about 1898.

Before leaving home he lived at:
1891 Census: Kingston Road, Leatherhead Common: his maternal grandmother lived with them
1901 Census: New Cottage, Kingston Road, Leatherhead (after 2 Park Road Cottage in the Census page)

After WW1

Harry's father died in 1928. His mother, Ann, died in 1927 and his brother Robin in 1931. All are buried in the Churchyard of Leatherhead Parish Church:

E/608 WATSON Alfred b1865 d1928 63 08/02/1928
E/608 WATSON Ann b1866 d1927 61 07/12/1927
E/612 WATSON Robin Frank b1898 d1931 33 12/03/1931

His brother Alfred Thomas had emigrated to Canada in 1912, became a soldier, got married in Elgin, Ontario in 1915. In 1926, he had a son Douglas (1926-2012). Alfred died in 1937 from complications following a fall.

Harry Watson is remembered on these memorials
Leatherhead Town Memorial

Leatherhead RBL Roll of Honour, Leatherhead Parish Church
Ladies War Shrine, Leatherhead Parish Church
The virtual Canadian War Memorial
Canadian WWI Book of Remembrance

the website editor would like to add further information on this casualty especially of his time in Canada 
e.g. a photo of him, and of any recollections within his family

last updated 13 Sep 20