Veteran Stories:
T. Russell Watson

Army

  • T. Russell Watson at a training camp in Ottawa, Ontario, 1917. Mr. Watson sailed to England on the SS Megantic and arrived on December 7, 1917. He fought in France until he was killed on October 11, 1918. Courtesy of Marie Cuthbert.

    T. Russell Watson at a training camp in Ottawa, Ontario, 1917. Mr. Watson sailed to England on the SS Megantic and arrived on December 7, 1917. He fought in France until he was killed on October 11, 1918. Courtesy of Marie Cuthbert.
  • T. Russell Watson was hit in the face with this piece of shrapnel, which he called a splinter. When he had surgery to remove it, he asked the nurse if he could keep it.

    T. Russell Watson was hit in the face with this piece of shrapnel, which he called a splinter. When he had surgery to remove it, he asked the nurse if he could keep it.
  • Letter from T. Russell Watson to his parents from France on August 30, 1918. He writes that it may be a while before he receives more letters and that he read the last one from home by moonlight in the trenches.

    Letter from T. Russell Watson to his parents from France on August 30, 1918. He writes that it may be a while before he receives more letters and that he read the last one from home by moonlight in the trenches.
  • Page two of T. Russell Watson's August 30, 1918 where he described his stay at the hospital for the removal of the shrapnel from his face.

    Page two of T. Russell Watson's August 30, 1918 where he described his stay at the hospital for the removal of the shrapnel from his face.
  • Letter from Russell to his brother from a hospital in France on September 14, 1918. He had not received mail from home in a while and his face was healing well from the shrapnel injury.

    Letter from Russell to his brother from a hospital in France on September 14, 1918. He had not received mail from home in a while and his face was healing well from the shrapnel injury.
  • Page two of Russell's letter to his brother. He comments on enjoying the sports and other amusements available for hospitalized soldiers and wishes his brother good luck with the harvest on the family farm in Alberta.

    Page two of Russell's letter to his brother. He comments on enjoying the sports and other amusements available for hospitalized soldiers and wishes his brother good luck with the harvest on the family farm in Alberta.
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Transcript

My name is Marie Cuthbert, and my father married Cecilia Barbara Watson, who is the sister of Russell Watson, who is the person we are talking about who died in the First World War. I have many letters that Russell wrote to his family in Conlinton, Alberta. Here's a letter from Seaford, England, March the 11th, 1918, to his mother:

"The socks you sent me are good. I have got good woolen clothes. I want you to be careful not to work too hard;" – she worked on a farm and she worked very hard – "there is no need for you to do any outside work. People in this country are not working extra hard, and I think manage to enjoy themselves as much as usual, even though there's a war. I want you to do your best not to worry about me. I am better able to stand this work than millions of others that are at it. I am not afraid of anything in this life or after it. If anything happens, you must remember that I am ready to either live or die."

He says:

"It is not likely that I shall get home until a year or so after the war is over, for it would be only fair to send those who came over first back first. I think, though, that the war will last for a long time yet. If Britain can get her supplies, she can fight for years.

It is wonderful how quietly people take news of a bad nature. One must admire British pluck. I rather like army life on the whole, and when I get a chance, I intend to study military work. There is no doubt that armies are as necessary for the life of a modern nation as they ever were.

I must close now and study for the history class tonight.

Your loving son,

Russell"

Apparently, they were allowed to take classes while they were training in Seaford, England.

The sisters were at university, and he wrote a letter to them, saying:

"We get lots of food, and I believe there is no serious shortage in England at present, and there may not be one for a long time yet. A lot of new land is being plowed up, and city people are growing potatoes in lots and parks, and other places.

I have had a really good time all the while I have been in England, and the time I spent in hospital" (he apparently caught measles) "was just as good as any for ourself, and was quite well except for the first week after I took the measles, and even then I was quite comfortable most of the time. Men are well-treated in hospital.

The YMCA has a building in almost every camp, and they do splendid work.

Your Brother,

Russell"

This was written on March the 31st, 1918, from Seaford. He wrote to his folks:

"Dear Folks,

I'm still in England, but expect to go to France in a short time now, for I am right up now with the other men." (He had to catch up, being in hospital). "I threw my live bombs yesterday in the bombing test. I have finished my course in gas drill. I did pretty well in the musketry test. Those getting ninety points are first-class shots, and those getting over one hundred and twenty-five points are marksmen, and are allowed to wear the crossed rifles badge. I got one hundred and twenty-nine points."

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