Gunner 50170 Donald Watson

Killed in Action on Thursday, 10th January 1918, age 25.
Buried in Grave M. 10. at Divisional Cemetery, Ieper, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium.

New Zealand Field Artillery.

Son of John and Mary Ann Watson.
Born: Tipton, Enlisted: Rotorua, New Zealand, Resident: Rotorua, New Zealand.

First landed France & Flanders, 13th November 1917.
Medal entitlement: British War Medal, Victory Medal.
Soldier's Papers at National Archives survived and transcribed.

Not commemorated on any Tipton memorial.
Commemorated here because his death was reported in the Tipton Herald.

Link to Commonwealth War Graves Site: www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/93426/

Genealogical Data

Birth of Donald Watson registered December quarter 1892 in Dudley. (21st September 1892)

1901 Census
Horseley Heath, Tipton, Staffs.
John Watson (42, Grocer, born Scotland), his wife Mary Ann Watson (42, born West Bromwich), and their 5 children: Alfred J. (17, Grocer's Apprentice, born Tipton), Lilian (14, born Tipton), Alexander (9, born Tipton), Donald (8, born Tipton), and Madge (7, born Tipton).

1911 Census
Montcalm, Waxland Road, Halesowen.
Mrs Mary Ann Watson (52, Widow, born West Bromwich), and 4 of her 5 children: Lilian (24, School Mistress, born Tipton), Alexander (19, Draughtsman, born Tipton), Donald (18, Electric Crane Driver, born Tipton), Margaret (17, Assistant Teacher, born Tipton), and Alan (5, Grandson, born Tipton).

Personal Data

The Watson family migrated to New Zealand in 1911 or 1912, settling in the Wellington area. Donald had previously worked for New Zealand Railways in Wellington when he had served with the NZ Railway Battalion. He was living in Rotorua working as a Labourer when he attested for the 28th Reinforcement Draft on 31st January 1917.

Donald was 5 feet 9 inches tall, weighed 11 stone 7 pounds with a 34½-inch chest, and was an Anglican. He had a ruddy complexion, brown eyes , dark brown hair, had dimples on both cheeks, a mark on the bridge of his nose, a scar on his right leg and was in general good health. His next of kin was his mother, Mrs Mary Ann Watson, living at 93 Tainui Terrace, Lyall Bay, Wellington, New Zealand, his father John Watson (a Scot) had died, probably in 1903.

Donald departed from Wellington on 14th July 1917 on HM NZ Transport 'Waitemata', and trans-shipped to HM NZ Transport 'Norman' in Cape Town on 28th August 1917. He arrived in Plymouth on 24th September 1917 and moved to Aldershot for further training. He arrived in Etaples, France on 13th November 1917, and was posted to the 3rd Battery, 1st Brigade of the NZ Field Artillery on 11th December 1917.

It was unofficially reported by a comrade that Donald had been hit bit a shell and badly wounded on 10th January 1917. He died before he could be moved to a Field Ambulance and was buried at what is now Divisional Cemetery a mile west of Ypres.

Action resulting in his death

The 3rd Battle of Ypres ended in November 1917 with the capture of the village of Passchendaele. The New Zealand Division remained in the Ypres sector over the winter of 1917/1918 with the infantry near Polygon Wood, and the artillery some distance back near the Dickebusch Road west of Ypres. Both sides used their artillery on counter-battery fire and harassing fire on the supply dumps and horse-lines. This may be the cause of 13 men of NZ Field Artillery, including Donald Watson, being killed on 10th January and buried in Rows K and M of the Divisional Cemetery, a mile west of Ypres.

The book "New Zealand Artillery in the Field, 1914-18" by Lieutenant J. R. Byrne contains the following: "Hostile shelling was responsible for a number of casualties at gun positions, one unlucky shot on the night of the 9th January penetrating a dug-out in the 3rd Battery and killing all five occupants." This may have been the incident which lead the the death of Donald Watson.

Newspaper Cuttings

Tipton Herald 9th February 1918
A cablegram was received this week by Mr. A. Watson, of Dudley, giving him the sad news that his brother, Gunner Donald Watson, who was attached to the Signalling Section of the New Zealand Field Artillery has been killed in action. Before going out to New Zealand six years ago, he lived with his parents in Waxland Road, Halesowen, and was employed at Messrs Stewart and Lloyds, Coombs Wood. He was a member of the Halesowen Liberal Club whilst resident in the district, and when on four days leave last November he paid a visit to his friends. Gunner Watson was born at Dudley Port, and was educated at the Church Schools, Tipton. He was 25 years of age and single. He was killed about the middle of January, and a large circle of friends in the district will hear of his death with much sorrow.