Private David Robert Watson


David Robert Watson was born on 15 July 1897 at Glenavy, Lisburn, County Antrim, the third of at least eight children of mill-owner Hugh Henry Boyle Watson and his wife Edith Sarah (née Wilson). At some point the family moved to England. By the time of the 1911 Census David was living at Woodland View, Mirfield, near Leeds, Yorkshire, with his parents and five of his siblings.

Watson enlisted in the North Irish Horse on 11 December 1915 (No.2246). He trained at the regiment's Antrim reserve camp until November 1916, when he and around 100 other North Irish Horsemen volunteered to transfer to the Royal Irish Rifles. The formal transfer took place on 7 December (Watson was issued regimental number 40932), and on that day the men embarked for France. There they were posted to the 1st Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles (Watson to D Company), joining it on the Somme front on 12 December.

At the beginning of March the 1st Battalion took part in a short but fierce attack in the sector in front of Bouchavesnes, captured by the French the previous September and only recently handed over to the BEF. Initially held in reserve, at midday on 5 March the battalion was ordered to relieve the 2nd Royal Berkshires in the front line. This they accomplished that night. According to the battalion war diary for the next few days:

[5 March] The shelling was again heavy. 1 OR was killed 3 OR wounded. D Coy held the new front line, C Coy were in Pallas Trench, A Coy in a new trench leading from Pallas to old British front line, B Coy in old British line.
[6 March] Shelling still severe but consolidation continued.
[7 March] 5 OR killed 19 OR wounded.
[8 March] 11pm. Battalion relieved in the front line by 2 Rifle Brigade, move to a base in Bouchavesne and Lock Barracks.

Watson was one of the men wounded on 7 March, in the right leg. He was evacuated by ambulance train to a hospital in Rouen, and then to the UK.

It is probable that, following his recovery, Watson remained on home service until the end of the war. On 30 January 1919 he was discharged, being 'no longer physically fit for military service' (paragraph 392 (xvi), King's Regulations). He was granted a pension, his level of disability assessed at 20 per cent.

Watson married Bessie Matilda Sugden at Bushey Congregational Church, near Watford, Hertfordshire, on 8 April 1931. At the time of the 1939 Register they were living at 42 Talbot Avenue, Watford, David working as a chemical engineer and serving as an ARP warden. He died at Watford on 14 December 1947.