Topic: Watson, William James

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A soldier of the Great War killed in action near Armentiers.

Private William James Watson – 10/991 Watson, William James  

William was born at Coalgate, 13 March 1884 second son of William and Elizabeth Mary Watson, Cardross Park, Coalgate. His last address was 13 Collins Street, Port Ahuriri, where he worked as a labourer for Richardson and Co. He was 5ft 10inches tall, with a florid complexion, grey eyes and brown hair. 

He enlisted on 15 August 1914 at Napier and he left with the Main Body 16 October 1914 with the Hawke's Bay Battalion, Wellington Infantry. He was in the landing at Gallipoli where he was wounded on 7 August, 1915, being shot through the left shoulder. He was first sent to St Patrick’s Hospital in Malta then sent to England on the HS Plassey where he was admitted to the New Crown Hospital, Cheltenham on 23 September 1915. After time at Hornchurch he re-joined his unit in the field in France on 16 April 1916. He was killed in action on 26 July aged 32. He was buried in the Cite Bonjean Military Cemetery, Armentieres, France. During the three months the New Zealand Forces had been tasked with guarding this section of the Arnentieres trenches they suffered 2,500 casualties, including 375 killed. In New Zealand William is remembered on the Malvern County and South Malvern War Memorials.


CWGC Cemetery locale history: Armentieres is a town in the Department of the Nord, on the Belgian frontier, 14.5 kilometres north-west of Lille.  Armentieres was occupied by the 4th Division on 17 October 1914 and it remained within the Allied lines until its evacuation ahead of the German advance on 10 April 1918, after a prolonged and heavy bombardment with gas shell. It was occupied by the Germans next day, and was not recovered until 3 October 1918. CITE BONJEAN MILITARY CEMETERY was begun (Plot IX) in October 1914 and during the winter of 1914-15 it was used for civilian burials (later removed), the town cemetery at Le Bizet being too greatly exposed. The cemetery continued to be used by field ambulances and fighting units (particularly the 4th, 6th, 21st, New Zealand, 17th and 57th (West Lancashire) Divisions and the Australian Corps) until April 1918. Plots V, VI, VII and X were then used by the Germans. The cemetery now contains 2,132 Commonwealth burials of the First World War. In 1925, 455 German graves were removed from Plots V and VI, but more than 500 remain in the cemetery. Within the cemetery stands the CITE BONJEAN (NEW ZEALAND) MEMORIAL, commemorating 47 officers and men of the New Zealand Division who died in the neighbourhood of Armentieres and have no known grave. This is one of seven memorials in France and Belgium to those New Zealand soldiers who died on the Western Front and whose graves are not known. The memorials are all in cemeteries chosen as appropriate to the fighting in which the men died. The cemetery and memorial were designed by Sir Herbert Baker.

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Watson, William James

First Names:William James
Last Name:Watson
Date of Birth:13 March 1884
Place of Birth:Coalgate
Date of Death:26 July 1916
Place of Death:Somme, France
Memorial or Cemetery:Cite Bonjean Military Cemetery, Armentiers
Age at death:30
User Name:Selwyn Library
Occupation before enlisting:Labourer
Marital Status:Single
Regiment or Service:Wellington Infantry Regiment
Country:New Zealand
Enlistment details:Enlisted from 13 Collins Street, Port Ahuriri, Napier
Parents or Next of Kin:Son of William and Elizabeth Mary Watson, Coalgate, Canterbury
Service Number:10/991
Rank last held:Private
Embarkation:16 October 1916
Place of Embarkation:Wellington
Transport:Limerick or Arawa
Theatres of War:France
Cause of Death:Killed in action