Philip Watson was born on 28th May 1894 at Kelshall and baptised 5th August 1894 in the village.
His father, George Watson, married Emma Wilmott on 13th October 1886 at Kelshall. Emma had a daughter already and they went on to have twelve more children between them, 6 boys and 6 girls, of which Philip was the fourth eldest.
George was employed either as an agricultural labourer or working with horses at a stud.
Kelshall is a very small village and the family appear to have lived at the same address during all three census returns between 1891 and 1911. Shown as either The Street or Church End it is believed that they lived near the Parish Church of St Faith.
Philip attended the local school from aged four and in 1911 his occupation was given as farm labourer. Given that Philip was around horses all his life it is not surprising to learn that he was eventually to enlist in the Military Mounted Police.
Philip’s Police Service Record has not survived but it is believed that he was Appointed on 21st July 1914 as Police Constable 318 at C Division at Watford. This is based on the fact that he shared the same anniversary date for pay increases and was on the same point on the salary scale, as Police Constable’s Bozeat and Collett. We know that the 21st July 1914 was their date of Appointment as their Police Service Records have survived.
During this period of the Police Service pay increases were not an automatic right. All ranks had to apply for their next pay increase due on the pay scale before the anniversary fell due, and the approval for had to be agreed throughout the rank structure with the final consent being given on an individual basis by the Chief Constable. Consequently, those who shared an anniversary date of Appointment would not necessarily be told that they had been given their next pay increase at the same time.
This was the case with Philip who was informed in General Order 133 of 18th August 1915 that he would receive an increased rate of pay from 24/6 to 25/8 per week from 22nd July 1915.
Whereas in General Order 125 of 29th July 1915 notified PC’s Bozeat and Collett were informed of the same thing nearly 3 weeks earlier.
PC 324 Bozeat C Division from 24/6 to 25/8 per week from 22nd July 1915
PC 320 Collett D Division from 24/6 to 25/8 per week from 22nd July 1915
Such were the vagaries of the administration of the time.
Nothing more is known of Philip’s Police Service until the following:
General Order 174 of 6th November 1915
Police Constable 318 Philip Watson C Division has submitted an application for permission to be allowed to resign his appointment as a Constable of the Hertford County Constabulary for the purposes of joining H.M. Army. Owing to the number of men who have enlisted from this Force, the Standing Joint Committee have given instructions that permission to join H.M. Forces cannot be given to any more men. Police Constable Watson is permitted to resign that on the clear understanding that the privileges conferred by the Police Constables (Naval and Military Services) Acts will not be extended to him. He will be paid up to the 3rd December 1915 inclusive.
Philip, for whatever reason, was clearly determined that he wanted to enlist.
Philip’s Army Service Record still exists albeit it is one of the “burnt collection” which survived the Blitz of the second World War. Consequently, parts are missing and other parts are illegible.
Philip enlisted the day after he left the Police on the 4th December 1915. He was attested at Watford as Lance Corporal P2839 in the Military Mounted Police signing up for the duration of the war.
The following was recorded:
Name: Philip Watson. Address: Church End, Kelshall, Royston, Herts. British: Yes. Age: 21 years 6 months. Trade: Police Constable. He stated he was single and had no previous military service.
His description on enlistment was also recorded: Apparent Age: 21 years 6 months. Height: 5 feet 11 ½ inches. Chest: 39 inches 3 inch expansion.
His next of kin was given as George Watson, father, Church End, Kelshall, Royston, Herts.
He joined his Regiment at Aldershot and presumably had his basic training.
Then on 9th March 1916 he sailed from Avonmouth on SS Cawdor Castle arriving at an unreadable destination on 23rd April 1916 as part of the East African Expeditionary Force.
Nothing is recorded as to which Units he was attached to or where he was serving however, he had the misfortune to suffer frequent bouts of disease and by following the list of hospitals he was admitted to, you can develop a sense of where he served.
Between the 3rd and 14th December 1916 he was treated for Malaria at the Base General Hospital at Voi in Kenya.
Between the 6th and 14th February 1917 he was again treated for Malaria but this time at the Base General Hospital in Nairobi, Kenya.
Then between the 7th and 26th March, the 31st March and the 16th April and 11th and the 25th June 1917 he was again admitted on each occasion to the No. 3 Base General Hospital in Nairobi for treatment for Malaria.
Then on 17th July 1917 until 1st August 1917 he was re-admitted to No. 3 Base General Hospital Nairobi with Synovitis (swelling of joints).
He managed to remain fit for nearly 9 months until the 22nd March 1918 when he was admitted to the S.A. General Hospital at Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania again with Malaria.
He again remained fit for nearly 8 months before succumbing to Influenza on the 23rd November 1918 and was admitted at Lumbo, Mozambique. On 13th January 1919 he was transferred to Dar Es Salaam and then on 22nd January 1919 he was invalided to South Africa for transference to England and struck off the strength.
It’s believed that he arrived at No. 1 General Hospital, Wynberg, South Africa on the 1st February 1919 still suffering from Influenza. Unfortunately, the next entry dated 19th March 1919 is unreadable. It is then believed he was re-admitted on the 3rd April 1919 to No. 1 General Hospital, Wynberg suffering again with Malaria. The next entry dated 26th April 1919 is also unreadable.
The final entry is for 20th May 1919 which reads that he died at Tempe Hospital, Bloemfontein from Pulmonary Tuberculous and Thrombosis.
From the Commonwealth War Graves Commission records it shows that Lance Corporal P/2839 Philip Watson Military Mounted Police, Military Police Corps who died on 20 May 1919 Age 24, the Son of Mr and Mrs G. Watson of Kelshall, Royston, Herts. Is remembered with Honour at Rooidam Military Cemetery, Rooidam, Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality, (near Bloemfontein) Free State, South Africa, Plot , Grave 21.
Philip authorised his effects to go to his father George. On 7th September 1923 George Watson signed in receipt of his son’s British War and Victory medals.