Saturday, 10 November 2018

Henry Watson of Nafferton

I am writing this on 10th November, a day before the 100th anniversary of the Armistice which ended the First World War.

There are many commemorations planned and I have been looking at local men from Eastrington, Howden, Gilberdyke, Newport and Barmby on the Marsh who were killed.

But in this blog post I am going to write about my grandfather Henry Watson. He was my father's father. I never knew him as he died quite suddenly when I was a baby. My father, who was born in Driffield and brought up in Nafferton, spoke of his father a lot and with great affection.

Henry was born  on 1st May 1887 at Flixton, near Scarborough. His father, Henry Sylvester Watson was a blacksmith who worked on farm machinery and who eventually worked as engineer at Nafferton Waterworks.

Young Henry grew up and served his apprenticeship as a grocer. While working for Hall brothers in Nafferton he met their niece Amy Hall  of Driffield who was to become his wife.

He joined the 5th East Yorkshire cyclist regiment as a territorial  on 7th Jan 1915 at Driffield. He was then aged 28 years 8 months and was 5ft 4 inches tall. He was sent for training at Roos.

On 4th December 1915 he married Amy Hall at All Saints Church Driffield. He was posted to France and in 1917 t was transferred to the  4th Reserve Yorkshire and Lancashire regiment. He was part of a trench mortar group  and fought with them at Loos and Arras.

Henry and Amy's son, my father, Douglas Lloyd Watson was born on 22nd November 1917 at 13 Church Street, Driffield, the home of Amy's parents.

On April 10th 1918 Private Henry Watson was hit by a bullet near his right eye and by a piece of shrapnel in his lower back. He also breathed in mustard gas.

Private Henry Watson, my grandfather


He was taken to the 83rd general field hospital at Boulogne and then later to the King George Hospital in London.

He recovered from his injuries although his eyesight was affected and he lost his sense of smell. He was given a small pension and  after the war had a grocer's shop in Nafferton.

Henry Watson outside his shop in Nafferton


In a strange twist he joined the ARP in 1939 and whilst undergoing training was given a canister of mustard gas to smell.  He was certain he would not be able to smell it as he had had no sense of smell since 1918. But to his surprise  as he inhaled it his sense of smell returned. This story made all the newspapers and I even found a version of it in an Australian paper.

Also in 1939 my father was called up to serve in another war. He survived  Dunkirk [ I don't know the details as he would never talk about his war experiences] and three years in North Africa.

After the war he settled in Eastrington, my mother's home and taught countless generations at Howden schools.

My father Douglas Watson who survived the beaches of Dunkirk and three years in North Africa before returning home and teaching  at Howden Council and later Howden Secondary schools.


So when I stand on the river bank at Skelton tomorrow night I too will remember all those who served in both wars and,  as well as those who did not return,  I will remember  those, including my own family members who returned but who were thrust from ordinary Yorkshire lives into the horrors of war.











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