Today, we explore the life of Private James Watson, one of three WW1 soldiers buried in High Blantyre Cemetery.
James was born at 50 Bardykes Rows “Newton, Cambuslang” on 11th September 1893. There is a Blantyre connection as his father Alexander Watson was from Springwell and his mother Janet Scott from Spittal. James was born 3 months after his parents married, their second child behind older sister Janet.
By 1901, the family lived in Blantyre and James had 3 siblings.
Entering Military Service with the 15th Battalion of the Royal Scots. By the time WW1 started in 1914, James was 20 years old. Seeing some action in the opening years, he was awarded the bronze star for his efforts in 1914 and 1915. His military record isn’t squeaky clean however and he received a 7 day punishment for being absent for one morning whilst on active duty. It doesn’t say why, so could have been anything really.
In Autumn 1916, he spent 2 months in a hospital in Warrington, back in England. In March 1917, like many soldiers, he made an informal will, promising to leave anything he owned to his father. He had good reason to make a will, for 3 weeks earlier, he had been captured by the Germans.
James was arrested by the Germans on 28th February 1917 and taken to Hamburg as a Prisoner of War. This would undoubtably have been a worrying, difficult time. Coincidentally, below the entry on the German form, is another Blantyre man Thomas Hamilton, so the men may have gravitated towards each other post arrest.
It is unclear however, if he escaped or was released. HIs military record show he was officially a Prisoner of War from 29th April 1917 until 22nd November 1918, a period of 208 days. By December 1918, he was back in England and was very ill. Sadly, James died on 9 December 1918 of influenza at the Military Hospital in Dover less that one month after the end of the war and only 17 days after his release from the Germans. He was 25 years old.
There’s more to this story which needs uncovered. His body was taken back home to Blantyre and he is buried in Lair 911 at High Blantyre Cemetery (pictured).
Incredibly, a huge amount of information exists relating to James. From his birth and death certificates, to enlistment records, telegrams, wills, pension and military records. However, about the only thing NOT in there is a photo of him. Perhaps thats something YOU can help with?
As with all soldiers, he is remembered here this week on Blantyre Project, and hopefully there are living family members who can tell us more about this brave man. With thanks to Alex Rochead for many of these records, without which would have been difficult to tell this story.