Victor was born on the 20th of May 1899 in Wagga Wagga, NSW – the son of Gideon Petilla WATSON and Eliza Annie PARR, who married in Wagga Wagga in 1879
Gideon, who throughout his life had been a “Jack of many trades” including Bridge builder, Timber Merchant, and Farmer, died on the 16/1/1937 at their home “Emanuel,” Wagga, aged 76
Annie died in the Welwyn Private Hospital, Wagga on the 25/11/1945, aged 83
Siblings (all born Wagga): Ada Florence b.1880 – d.1881; William John b.1882; Ethel Maud b.1884; Eliza A b.1885; Frances E. b.1887; Walter Gideon b.1893 – Labourer – WW1: Dvr 372, 1st LH – d.5/7/1968; Samuel P b.1895 – d.1909; Selina B. b.1897 – d.1898; Ada B b.1901; Florence M b.1903; Cecil Henry b.1905
[Uncle: James Arthur Dwyer, manager of the Gasworks, Orange, NSW]
Religion: Church of England
Educated at Coffin Rock School
Enlisted at Liverpool, NSW, on the 15/6/1915 at the age of 16 (not 18 as he stated)
Embarked as Private 2024, with the 3rd Reinforcements of the 17th Battalion on the A54 Runic 9/8/1915 for Egypt
Proceeded to join the M.E.F. Gallipoli 4/10/1915 and taken on strength of the 17th Bn (D Coy) 12/10/1915 on the Gallipoli Peninsula
Admitted to hospital 6/12/1915 with Rheumatism, and taken aboard the Grantully Castle 10/12/1915 for return to Egypt where he was admitted to the 3rd Auxiliary Hospital, Heliopolis 14/12/1915
Discharged to the overseas Base 4/1/1916 and returned to duty 1/2/1916
Admitted to the 2nd Australian Casualty Clearing Station, Ferry Post on the 12/2/1916 and discharged to duty 10/3/1916
Embarked at Alexandria 17/3/1916 to join the B.E.F., and disembarked Marseilles, France 23/3/1916
Whilst on Leave in England he was admitted to the 2nd Auxiliary Hospital, Southall 8/5/1917 with a Septic foot
Rejoined the 17th Bn in France 3/6/1917
Appointed Lance Corporal 1/7/1917
Wounded in action 9/10/1917, receiving gunshot wounds to both eyes, resulting in total blindness, and admitted to the 11th Australian Field Ambulance – transferred to the 8th Stationary Hospital, Wimereux 10/10/1917, before embarking on the Princess Elizabeth 15/10/1917 for England, where he was admitted to the 2nd London General Hospital
Transferred to St Dunstan's Hostel for Blinded Soldiers, Regents Park 20/2/1918, where he received training in Netting and Carpentry (and also showed an interest in massage)
During one of his many periods of Leave throughout his training…
Victor married Hilda May TEMPLE on the 17th of July 1919 at the Parish Church, St Marylebone, Westminster.
Hilda, who was 20 years old at the time of marriage, was the daughter of Thomas Temple, a Greengrocer. They had apparently met before he was wounded, so most likely during his earlier Leave in England in 1917.
The couple returned to Australia together on the Ormonde, embarking 15/11/1919, and arriving in Sydney 29/12/1919
Victor was discharged from the A.I.F. on the 3/3/1920
Manager of the Wagga branch shop of the Blinded Soldiers’ Tea Co. which opened in May 1920 – and closed in January 1921, at which time he accepted a position in the Company’s Sydney office
Residents of Baylis St, Wagga in 1920; Alfred Town in 1921; Homeleigh, Chatham Road, Ryde in 1925
Only Child: June Hilda b.20/6/1925 – Commercial Artist – married Roy SALYER (American Air Force) in May 1951 Ealing, London
With the intention of taking a course in Electrical Massage, Victor took his family to England in 1926. They travelled on the SS Runic arriving at Southampton on the 18th of August – Victor stating his occupation as a War Pensioner. The 18 month course was taken under the auspices of the National Institute for the Blind, and the practical experience was gained at Middlesex Hospital and the Royal National Hospital, London. Sitting with 200 other students for his final examination, he gained fourth place in the list of successful passes and received his diploma from the Chartered Society of Massage and Medical Societies of England.
The family then returned to Australia on the Mooltan, departing London on the 13/1/1928
Vice President of the New South Wales Blinded Soldiers’ Association in 1931
Working as a Masseur at Caulfield Repatriation Hospital in 1932
1930: 25 Carlotta Rd, Bellevue Hill, NSW (Masseur)
1934: 284 Hawthorn Rd, Caulfield, Vic (Masseur)
1936, 1954: 10 Hartley Ave, Caulfield, Vic (Masseur)
1963, 1980: 1/75 Allison Rd, Elsternwick North (Physiotherapist – with Alice Uira/Uria Watson)
The couple travelled to England on the Moreton Bay, arriving Southampton 11/6/1952 – their address whilst there given as their daughters: C/- Mrs Salyer in Ealing
They returned to Australia on the Strathnaver, departing England on the 11/9/1952, and passing through Fremantle on the 7/10/1952 en route to their home at 10 Hartley Ave, Caulfield, Vic
Hilda died in February 1957 and was cremated at Springvale Cemetery
Victor appears to have re-married (to Alice)
Alice died in June 1981, age 75 and her cremated remains were scattered
[The daughter of Francis Henry APPLEWARD and (Ellen?) Sarah RICHARDSON]
Victor died on the 1st of May 1984 in Elsternwick, Vic
He was cremated at the Springvale Cemetery and his ashes interred in the Banksia Garden, Wall G, Niche 464
Daily Advertiser (Wagga Wagga, NSW), Fri 11 Jun 1915 (p.4):
Mr Victor Watson has volunteered for the front, and will be leaving for Sydney shortly, where he will go into camp. Mr Watson’s elder brother (Walter) is now training in Egypt.
Daily Advertiser (Wagga Wagga, NSW), Tue 13 Nov 1917 (p.2):
Mrs G.P. Watson, of “Ellenthorpe,” Ladysmith, received word on November 10 from Base Records Office, Melbourne, that her son, Pte G.V.E. Watson, was admitted to 2nd London General Hospital, Chelsea, on October 15, suffering from gunshot wounds in the eyes, in consequence of which he is now blind.
Leader (Orange, NSW), Fri 30 Nov 1917 (p.2):
Word was received yesterday that Private Jack Dwyer, son of the manager of the gasworks, had been wounded in the fighting in France. Information was also received that Victor Watson, of Wagga, a cousin, had also been injured by gun-shot wound in the eyes and is now totally blind.
Leader (Orange, NSW), Mon 24 Jun 1918 (p.6):
THE ST DUNSTAN’S INSTITUTE
Mr J. Dwyer, manager of the Gasworks, has received a letter written to his sister, Mrs Watson, whose son lost both eyes in the war, telling her of how the blind are treated in the great hospital at St Dunstan’s. The letter is from Mrs Noel Farquharson, 41 Montpelier Square, Knightsbridge, London, and is as follows: –
“I thought you would like to hear something of your boy, and lately at St Dunstan’s he gave me your address, and said I might write to you. I am sure he tells you very little of himself – and you’ll just be anxious to know more about him.
First let me explain that I am what is called a ‘lounge sister’ at the Bungalow, St Dunstan’s. This is a large annexe, where we have nearly 200 men, and the college is another annexe. We were so disappointed when he did not come to us, but I think he had some friend at the college. All the same, most of the Australians are at our part, and we all, of course, think it’s the nicest! St Dunstan’s the main original building is a little way off in the same grounds, and is a rambling sort of place, not so easy for blind men to get about in as ours, which was built especially for them, but the men are extraordinarily happy at all three houses, and the cheeriest and bravest of folk. You’d think working there would be the saddest thing in the world, but it isn’t. Such fun goes on, such games and music and noise and laughter as well as work. Everything possible is done to help the men forget their tragic loss, and the first edge of helplessness, and sorrow is worn off in the society of some hundreds of other men equally afflicted. When I last saw your boy, his poor eyes were still bandaged up, but he looked so tall, and straight, and strong, and so brave. He said he was quite used to the dark now. We talked a little about you, and he said, “Mother feels it more than I do.” So when I wrote I made up my mind to tell you this. The spirit of him! He’s been to Brighton since, and I hope to see him at the Bungalow next week, and hear more of his doings. The sister at St Mark’s Hospital told me he was the most popular boy there, utterly uncomplaining and always brave and cheerful. His two poor dear eyes are gone. You know that? But the artificial eyes they make are so wonderful, that very often I am deceived and think they are natural.
I’ve forgotten to tell you that I was born in Australia, and have passed through near where you live, that is why Watson felt he’d like me to write to you, and when I tell you I have already lost two dearly-loved of my four brothers in this terrible war, and have a boy of my own (but he’s only 10, and too little to fight) you’ll understand the intense sympathy I have for you?
We lounge sisters have nothing whatever to do with the wards and nursing. We are merely lay helpers, and spend our duty hours in the lounge, reading to the men, helping them with their netting (they knit bags all their off-time)! playing, walking with them or writing for them, preparing and serving their tea. They recognise us at once by our voices, and it is a privilege to be with them. Two days ago I was alone in the quiet lounge with some of the men, when in came the Queen and Princess Mary and Prince Henry. She stopped ten minutes or so, talking to me and the men, and was so sweet and sympathetic with them all, and admired the bags they had made. Later she went on to the college – but I have not seen your boy yet to ask if she had a talk to him. Several of our Australians did. I hope so much you will write to me if you care to, and if there is anything I can possibly do for you or your boy. I hope you will tell me?
This terrible war cannot last for ever, and it has done all the harm it possibly can to your poor boy, and the time will not be so long now before he is with you again. I think he will like doing massage. He was so interested when I told him that in Japan it is a profession kept entirely for the blind!
With every good wish for you and my most earnest sympathy with you in the heartache your boy’s trouble must mean to you (but remember he says he feels it less).”
The Daily Express (Wagga Wagga, NSW), Wed 10 Dec 1919 (p.2):
BLIND SOLDIER RETURNING
Residents of Ladysmith are arranging a welcome home, in the shape of a wallet of notes, for Private Victor Watson, who is expected home in a couple of weeks’ time. Private Watson is a son of Mr Gideon Watson, sawmiller, of “Ellenthorpe,” and enlisted early in the war at 16 years of age. His is a sad case, he having had both eyes shot away by a rifle bullet. He is bringing home a bride, a young lady he met and became devotedly attached to prior to his wounding. She stood by him afterwards and is now coming out to make an Australian home with him.
Daily Advertiser (Wagga Wagga, NSW), Fri 14 May 1920 (p.2):
BLINDED SOLDIERS’ TEA CO.
There was a large gathering in Baylis-street, Wagga, yesterday afternoon on the occasion of the formal opening of a branch retail shop of the Blinded Soldiers’ Tea Company, Ltd., which is to be under the control of Mr G.V.E. Watson, a blinded soldier, of Wagga district. The opening ceremony was performed by the Mayor (Ald. I. Cullen), who wished the venture every success. Mr G.S. Coates, sales manager for the company, whose headquarters are in Sydney, responded, and explained the constitution and object of the company. The ladies of Wagga Red Cross Society, headed by the president, Mrs Mitchelmore, and secretary, Mrs Little, were present in force, and provided afternoon tea. They further presented the manager, Mr Watson, with a cash register.
The Daily Express (Wagga Wagga, NSW), Fri 6 Aug 1920 (p.2):
RED CROSS TEA
The ladies of the Wagga Red Cross Committee held their usual afternoon tea yesterday at the Blinded Soldiers’ Tea Co.’s rooms, Baylis Street, the hostesses being Mesdames Meads, Murray and Henningham. There was a goodly number of guests present, and a very satisfactory return was the result. Besides the afternoon tea a brisk counter trade was effected, which will bring this most deserving institution into greater prominence. These gatherings are to be held every Thursday. Mr Victor Watson, manager of the Wagga branch of the Blinded Soldiers’ Tea Co., has arranged for a stall at the forthcoming show, which should greatly extend its operations amongst country clients and financially benefit the company.
Daily Advertiser (Wagga Wagga, NSW), Fri 10 Sept 1920 (p.2):
ITEMS OF NEWS
TO HELP THE BLIND
The following resolution was carried at yesterday’s meeting of the Wagga branch of the Farmers and Settlers’ Association: “That we make application to the executive for the sum of £50, to be drawn from the Farmers’ Patriotic Fund, for the purpose of assisting Mr V. Watson, who was disfigured and totally blinded at the War.” Mr Watson is the blind soldier in charge of the Blind Soldiers’ Tea Depot in Baylis-street.
Daily Advertiser (Wagga Wagga, NSW), Fri 1 Oct 1920 (p.2):
BLIND SOLDIERS’ TEA DEPOT
Record business was reported at the afternoon tea served yesterday by members of the Wagga branch of the Red Cross Society at the Blind Soldiers’ Tea Depot. Mesdames Little, Wetten and Meads were the Red Cross ladies who assisted Mrs V. Watson in serving the tea. Mr Watson, the blind soldier who has charge of the Depot, was highly pleased with the result of the effort. The Depot is daily growing in popularity, and is now obtaining a firm footing. People living in outlying centres, who wish to patronise the Depot, should communicate by letter with Mrs Watson. All classes of tea, coffee and cocoa can be obtained in any quantity. The Depot is worthy of every one’s fullest support.
The Daily Express (Wagga Wagga, NSW), Fri 12 Nov 1920 (p.2):
AT ST JOHN’S CHURCH
An impressive service was conducted at St John’s Church of England last evening by the Ven. Archdeacon Pike, assisted by the Rev Chauvel, and was largely attended.
In front of the altar and immediately over the lectern, a bier was placed, draped with the Union Jack, and covered with memorial wreaths, in memory of some of the district boys who fell. Four returned soldiers stood on guard at the four corners of the bier, with arms reversed during the whole of the service, thereby adding greatly to the solemnity of the occasion. The soldiers were respectively Mr Roy Wansch, Mr Arthur Robinson, Mr Cecil Fuller and Mr Victor Watson, the blind soldier.
The Daily Express (Wagga Wagga, NSW), Mon 17 Jan 1921 (p.2):
LOCAL AND GENERAL
BLINDED SOLDIER’S TEA CO.
Finding that business locally does not justify keeping open a shop in Wagga, the Great Southern premises were closed on Saturday. The local agency will in future be conducted by Mr C.R. Reagan, Empire Hall Buildings, opposite. Mr Watson has accepted a position in Sydney central office of the company, and with Mrs Watson leaves for Sydney to-morrow.
Illawarra Mercury (Wollongong, NSW), Fri 25 Feb 1921 (p.7):
Mr Victor Watson, erstwhile of Alfred Town, via Wagga, and a blind Anzac, visited his uncle, Mr Sam Watson, of Port Kembla, during last week. The public sympathy of the blind digger’s townspeople may be gauged by the fact that they recently presented him with a cheque for £175, while the local Repatriation augmented this by £50. Mr Watson was accompanied by his wife when visiting his uncle, and intends entering business at Ryde.
The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW), Wed 24 Jun 1925 (p.12):
WATSON – June 20, to Mr and Mrs G.V.E. Watson, of Homeleigh, Chatham-road, Ryde – a daughter (June Hilda).
The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW), Fri 24 Feb 1928 (p.10):
PROFESSIONS FOR THE BLIND
The spirit of courage and perseverance which distinguished the men of the A.I.F. has endured in some of them since their return to civil life. This has been proved in the case of Mr Victor Watson, who returned to Sydney yesterday by the Mooltan.
Mr Watson lost both his eyes as the result of wounds received in France, where he was fighting with the A.I.F. He returned yesterday a fully-qualified electrical masseur, with a diploma from the Chartered Society of Massage and Medical Societies of England.
Mr Watson, who is a son of Mr and Mrs G. Watson, of Wagga, enlisted with the 17th Battalion when he was 16 years of age. He took part in the evacuation at Gallipoli, and later was for 18 months in action in France. He spent two years in St Dunstan’s Hospital after he was wounded, and returned to Australia in 1919. Then he determined to take up electrical massage, and went to England for that purpose in 1926.
Mr Watson received his training under the auspices of the National Institute for the Blind in England. It was an 18 months’ course, and the practical experience was gained at Middlesex Hospital and the Royal National Hospital, London. The principal of the massage training in London is a blind man. He graduated with honours when a student, and has been of the utmost help to others who suffered the handicaps of blindness. Mr Watson sat with 200 other students for his final examination, and gained fourth place in the list of successful passes.
The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW), Sat 19 Sept 1931 (p.7):
“We are prepared to bear our share in whatever sacrifices the rehabilitation of our country may demand,” read a resolution carried at the annual meeting of the New South Wales Blinded Soldiers’ Association recently. Captain Fred Aarons was elected president, and Mr G.V.E. Watson, vice-president.
The Herald (Melb, Vic), Thur 25 Feb 1932 (p.6):
MEN WHO HAVE Reshaped THEIR LIVES
…………………..while the sensitive, electric touch of Mr George Watson finds a profitable outlet in massage at Caulfield Repatriation Hospital. ………………………………
Albury Banner and Wodonga Express (NSW), Fri 9 Sept 1938 (p.11):
Blind Soldier Wins Card Tournament
Blindness, caused by war injuries, does not prevent George Watson, of Melbourne, from playing an expert game of cards. His memory is remarkable. Playing with a pack of cards marked with braille signs, he recently won a euchre tournament, conducted by the Caulfield Returned Soldiers’ Club, without losing a game. Watson is one of the best bridge players in the club. When the cards are dealt, the dummy hand is read out to him once only. His fellow players are required to state the suit and value of the cards as they play them. Watson’s fine card sense, combined with a retentive memory, bring him many successes. At his home Watson has a very fine garden, planted and looked after by himself. He knows every flower in it, and the visitor is surprised when asked questions indicating extensive knowledge of gardening and flowers. He identifies the flowers by touch. Voices are to Watson what faces are to other people. Following an introduction, he has been known to have remembered the voice and to have been able to name the speaker some days later when they met again.
The Argus (Melb, Vic), Mon 17 Jul 1944 (p.2):
WATSON – TEMPLE – Mr and Mrs G.V.E. Watson have pleasure in announcing the 25th anniversary of their wedding, celebrated at St Marylebone Parish Church, London, England, on July 17, 1919, by the Rev. J.E. Williams. (Present address, 10 Hartley ave, Caulfield, S.E.8.)
St Dunstan’s Review, No.334, Vol. XXXI, Dec 1946 (p.8):
Other Australian News
Some time ago we had the pleasure of greeting at Headquarters Mrs H. Watson, wife of our Australian St Dunstaner, G.V. Watson, of Melbourne. Mrs Watson was visiting England to see her father, who was very ill, but “Watty” had had to stay behind as the necessary permission was not forthcoming. He was in good hands, however – his daughter’s. Mrs Watson told us some items of news about other Australians, which we were glad to have, although, as Mrs Watson said, up-to-date news was difficult owing to the long distances and, therefore, restricted visiting. …………..
The Argus (Melb, Vic), Sat 17 Mar 1951 (p.8):
WATSON – SALYER – June, only child of Mr and Mrs G.V.E. Watson, Hartley av, Caulfield, to Roy (American Air Force), son of Mr and Mrs O.L. Salyer, of Chicago, U.S.A.
The Argus (Melb, Vic), Fri 4 May 1951 (p.8):
Honored guests in absentia at the luncheon which Mr and Mrs G.V.E. Watson, of Caulfield, gave at Menzies were their daughter, June, and Mr Roy Salyer, of the American Air Force, whose marriage was to take place at St Peter’s Church, Ealing, London, yesterday.
Miss June Watson, who is a commercial artist, left Melbourne last year for a holiday abroad, but romance has extended her journeying. As Mrs Roy Salyer she will eventually make her home in Chicago.
Father’s Obits 1937: https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/144392669
Mother’s Obit 1945: https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/144989771