Image by Elliot & Fry 1900.
Born: 4th June 1853, Dublin, Leinster, Ireland.
Died: 6th January 1900; age: 46; KiA – leading a charge at dawn at Suffolk Hill, Colesberg, Northern Cape, South Africa.
Residence: 17, Victoria Park, Dover, Essex.
Passed examinations 2nd June 1873.
Lieutenant, entered the 12th Foot – 9th August 1873
Instructor of Musketry to his battalion from February 1880 – January 1883.
Promoted Captain – April 1883.
Brigade-Major – served with the Bechuanaland Expedition under Major-General Sir Charles Warren, 1884-1885. Mentioned in Despatches.
Egyptian Army – February 1886.
Promoted Major – October 1886.
Brigade-Major – First Column – served with the Hazara Expedition under Brigadier-General George Nicholas Channer, against Kala Dhaka – 1888. Mentioned in Despatches.
Served as road Commandant on the lines of communications with the Chitral Relief Force at the Fort of Chitral – 1895 – under General Sir Robert Cunliffe Low.
Deputy Assistant Adjutant General in Bengal – July 1889 – February 1896.
Promoted Lieutenant-Colonel – September 1898 and obtained command of the Suffolk Regiment, 1st Battalion.
Date of Entry Therein: November 1899 – South Africa.
Regiment: Suffolk Regiment, 1st Battalion, South Africa Field Force.
Medals and Clasps Awarded: Hazara Expedition medal with clasp & Chitral Relief Force medal with clasp + Cape Colony.
Father: William James Watson, born February 1804, Dublin, Leinster, Ireland – died April 1883, Dublin, of 25, Fitzwilliam Place, Dublin.
Mother: Sarah Watson (nee Morgan), born 1812, Dublin, Leinster, Ireland – died 1885, Dublin, of 25, Fitzwilliam Place, Dublin.
On the 5th December 1887, at Christ Church, Rawalpindi, Bengal, India, Arthur married Fairlie Caroline Gordon Anderson, born April 1859, Genoa, Liguria, Italy. Second daughter to the late Colonel William Acland Douglas Anderson (1829-1882), C.M.G. Fairlie House, South Yarra, Melbourne, Commandant of Military Forces of H.M’s Government of Victoria.
They had 3 daughters:
Fairlie Estella Caroline Watson, born December 1888, Simla, Bengal, India.
Sylvia Fairlie Douglas Watson, born September 1890, Ranikhet, Bengal, India.
Violet Agnes Fairlie Watson, born April 1894, Dalhousie, Bengal, India.
Arthur is also remembered on a private memorial at the Suffolk Regimental Chapel, St. Mary’s Church, Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk, and on his widow, Fairlie Wilson’s grave at Colchester Cemetery, Essex.
One of the notable Battles with a large loss of Suffolk life was the “Battle of Suffolk hill” at Colesberg, Northern Cape 5th- 6th January 1900. The hill was originally called Red or Grassy Hill. The Suffolk regiment was ordered to make a night attack on a Boer position on the heights, four companies, 354 of all ranks, set out at midnight under the command of Col. Watson. The Suffolks were met by a storm of bullets. The Colonel was amongst the first to fall, and the party later retired with 11 officers and 150+ men killed, wounded or captured.
Friday, 12th January 1900 Suffolk Chronicle & Mercury Newspaper.
COL. WATSON AND THREE OFFICERS KILLED.
Another disaster, in some respects resembling that of Nicholson’s Nek, is reported in connection with the operations in South Africa. In this the 1st Battalion Suffolk Regt. was unhappily involved, with the result that very nearly 180 officers and men were killed, wounded, and taken prisoners by the Boers. The story is told in a despatch from General French, commanding in the Colesberg district, as follows:-
French reports 6th January, “Situation much the same as yesterday,” but I regret to report that serious accident has happened to 1st Suffolk Regiment.
From news just come to hand from them, I gather that, with the authority and with the knowledge, of French, four Companies of 1st Suffolks advanced by night against a low hill one mile from their camp.
Orders to retire were given, it is said, by the enemy.
Three-quarters of the force retreated to the camp. The reminder held their ground till overpowered by greater numbers. They surrendered.
When the casualty list was made up, it was found the disaster was even more serious than was at first apparent. All the despatches from the scene – in the neighbourhood of Rensburg – affirm that the cry of “retire” was raised by the Boers. The importance of the hill is apparent from the fact that it commanded the Boer line of retreat towards the Free State. The abortive attempt is thus described by a correspondent:- Colonel Watson having urged the General to grant him permission, was allowed to attempt to occupy a very important hill commanding the road to Colesberg Bridge. The hill presents a bare face with a gentle ascent towards out position by rugged rocks, and has a steep front towards the east. Four Campanies of the Suffolk Regiment marched on the hill and took up a position. The Boers appeared in force from the east front and opened a hot fire.
A cry of “Retire” was raised, it is said by some of the Bores, and about two-thirds of our men retired.
The remainder held the position for twenty minutes longer, and then being outnumbered and surrounded, they surrendered.
The London Evening Standard, Wednesday, January 10, 1900.
The officers killed at Rensburg.
Lieut. Colonel Arthur John Watson, of the 1st Battalion of the Suffolk Regiment, was killed at Rensburg on Saturday last, was 46 years of age, having been born 4th June 1853. He entered the Army Sub Lieutenant of The 12th foot (now the Berkshires) on August 9th 1873, and received his Lieutenancy from the same date. He was instructor of musketry to the Regiment February 12th, 1880, to 24th, 1883, received his Company on the 14th April following, and, passing the Staff College in 1884, served with the Bechuanaland Expedition under Sir Charles Warren later in the year, and from February 17th to October 28th 1885, was Brigade Major in Bechuanaland, honorably mentioned in Despatches. He was employed on the Staff service with the Egyptian Army from 12th to September 7th, 1886, obtained is Major’s Commission on 21st October following, and in 1888 served in the Hazara Expedition as Brigade Major to the first Column under Brigadier General Channer, when he was again Mentioned in Despatches, and received the medal with clasp for his services. From July 20th, 1889, to February 20th 1896, he was Garrison Instructor in Bengal, Deputy Assistant Adjutant General for instruction in Punjanb, taking part in 1895 in the operations in Chitral, accompany the Relief Force under Sir Robert Low, acting as Road Commandant on the lines of communication. For services in this campaign he received his second medal with clasp. He was gazetted Lieut. Colonel of the Suffolk Regiment on 10th September, 1898.
Lieutenant Francis Alfred Pressland Wilkins, also of the 1st Battalion of the Suffolk Regiment, was 28 years of age, having been born on April 7th 1871. He entered the army in 1892, receiving Commission as Second Lieutenant on May 18th, and was gazetted to is Lieutenancy on June 19th, 18. He had been Adjutant of that Battalion since January 10th last year. Lieutenant Wilkins was an officer qualified interpreter French.
Lieutenant Seymour James Caley, of the same Battalion, 25 years of age, the date of his birth being August 5th 1874. He entered the Regiment as Second Lieutenant February 20th, 1895, and received his Lieutenancy on May 20th 1897. This was the first time he had been on campaign.
Lieutenant Cecin Arbuthnot White, the other officer killed belonging to suffolks, was born on August the 17th 1874, and entered the army from the Militia as Second Lieutenant of the Suffolk Regiment on May 15th, 1897, receiving his lieutenancy on March 22nd of last year.
Second Lieutenant Arthur Vivian West, of the 2nd Battalion of the Berkshires, who was the only officer killed at Rensburg on January 1st, who was the only son Lieut. Colonel Frederick West, and grandson of Admiral Sir John West G.C.B., and in his 24th year, having being born on June 18th 1876. He served in the ranks for just over 4 years, and was gazetted to Second Lieutenant in the Royal Berkshire Regiment on August 24th 1898.