William Watson – Military Defaulter

The Evening Post  6th November 1917[i] published a list of men from the Wellington Recruiting District (No 5) who
were ‘accretions to the First Division through coming of age, etc are called up.  Included in the list is:

                ‘ W, Watson,.  care  C Gray  Pahautanui ‘

It is possible that this was William John Watson born on the 27th August 1897 who had turned 20 and was the only son
of Katherine and Thomas Watson. 

The Evening Post on 7th December 1917[ii] carried a report of exemption appeals heard by the Third Military Board.
The Seaman’s Union put in appeals for fifty four of it’s member of which all but seven were adjourned sine die but
William Geddes, Jack Saunders, John Sim, Harry Stevens, William Watson, William Weeks and John Wilson were not
granted exemptions.  It is most likely the second group, like William Watson, were young men who only had limited
skills so were not essential in the operation of shipping but ideal as soldiers.

The Evening Post 30th March 1918[iii] carried a list of 207 men who had been called up and were now ordered to camp
for medical examinations. Included in the list:

                ‘ W, Watson,. c/o C Gray  Pahautanui'

There are no military records for William Watson on file and it is possible that he did not report to Trentham Camp for
his medical examination.  One option was to use sympathetic Seaman’s Union members to smuggle a defaulter out of
New Zealand ‘buried deep in the coal bunkers’  of ships like the TSS Manakau to countries without conscription.[iv]

In May  1919 a list of 2,045 names of Military defaulters was gazetted and the Evening Post published on
22nd May 1919[v] the names for the Wellington District. The list carried two names from the Porirua district: 

Ward Harry S – orchardist, Porirua Mental Hospital     
Watson William – Pahautanui

The gazetting as a Military defaulter meant the loss of civil liberties for 10 years:

It is accordingly publicly notified that the men whose names appear on the Military Defaulters List are
subject under the Act to the following disqualifications and penalties : -

1. They are deprived of civil rights for ten years from the 10th day of December, 1918, and are therefore incapable

a.  Of being appointed to, or of continuing to hold, any off or employment in the service of the Crown, or of
any local or other public authority;

b. Of being selected or appointed, or continuing to hold office, as a member of either House of Parliament,

or as a member of nay local or other public authority;

c. Of being enrolled as an elector or of voting at an election of members of either House of Parliament or

of members of any local or other public authority.

2. If any military defaulter was out of New Zealand on the 10th Day of December 1918, he is prohibited for
ten years from returning to New Zealand.

3. Military defaulters are prohibited for ten years from changing their names – that is to say, from assuming

or using or continuing to assume or use any name other than that by which they are described in the Military Defaulters List;

4. Any military defaulter who commits a breach of any foregoing provisions is liable, on summary conviction, to imprisonment for twelve months.

For Harry S Ward, if he had still be employed at the Porirua Mental Hospital, his call up address, he would have been dismissed from service.

The military defaulters would have also be subjected to some hostility from sections of the population who's men had served through the conflict.

Paperspast Online
TSS Manakau : Garagecollection.blogspot.co.nz

TSS Manakau, Prices Wharf Auckland: Auckland Library

[i] First Division Accretions, 6th November 1917, Evening Post
[ii] Exemption Appeals, 7th December 1917, Evening Post
[iii] Ordered to Parade, 30th March 1918, Evening Post
[iv] SS Manakau: garagecollection.blogspot.co.nz
[v] For Ten Years Deprived of Civil Rights Military Defaulters, 22nd May 1919, Evening Post

TSS Manakau - Pronces Wharf - Auckland