Remembering a Local Hero – Arnold Watson
Colonel (Retired) Paul Fleury
Born on November 27, 1898, in Aylmer Quebec, Arnold Watson joined the Canadian Army on June 15th 1916, only months after his 18th birthday. He was 5’ 6” tall, with a medium complexion, hazel-coloured eyes, and black hair. Arnold listed his work qualification as “farmer”. His father Duncan Watson had passed way in 1914 and Arnold’s now widowed mother Jane Lusk was still living in East Aylmer.
A year later, following military training in Canada, Arnold sailed from Halifax on the RMS Olympic (sister ship of the Titanic), landing in Liverpool England on June 10th, 1917. On arrival in the UK, he was posted to the 156th Battalion (The Brockville Rifles) a training unit at Seaford Camp, in East Sussex England.
While there Arnold helped to prepare fellow soldiers for service in France. In early 1918, the Brockville Rifles were disbanded to provide reinforcements to other regiments on the Western Front.
Because of this Arnold was sent to France where he joined the 2nd Battalion (The Eastern Ontario Regiment) otherwise known as the “Iron 2nd”. He served together with his brother William, until William was severely injured during fighting on August 9th, 1918. Arnold would go on to participate in all the major battles with the Iron 2nd through to the end of fighting on November 11th, 1918. He sailed on the RMS Baltic from Liverpool back to Canada and was discharged as a corporal from the Canadian Army in May 1919.
However, Arnold’s service to his country was not yet complete. In February 1932 he enlisted in the Governor Generals Foot Guards, completing annual training requirements every year thereafter. He married Ola in 1935 and had a daughter, Kathleen, in 1940.
At the outbreak of the 2nd World War in 1939, Arnold was 41 years old, but had more to give.
He was assigned to the Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps, the organization responsible for the procurement of all materials required by the Canadian Army throughout the War.
For his service in the 1st World War, Arnold received the British War and Victory Medals. For his service in the 2nd World War, he received the Canadian Volunteer Service medal, the War Medal and the Canadian Efficiency medal – the Efficiency Medal is awarded for long service and excellence and was given to less then 10,000 Canadians during the reign of King George VI – this was indicative of how small and unprepared the Canadian Armed Forces were prior to a war that would eventually see more than a million Canadians in uniform.
Following World War 2, Arnold returned to farming in the Aylmer area and his son Richard was born in 1950. Arnold passed in 1993, just short of his 95th birthday and is buried at the Pink Mountain View Cemetery at the corner of Chemin Vanier and Chemin Cook in Aylmer, along with his wife and daughter. Richard and his wife Louise maintain connections in the Aylmer area to this day.
Photo caption: Arnold Watson
Photo credit: Paul Fleury