Topic: Arnold Henfrey Watson (1882-1960)

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Arnold Henfrey Watson was a farmer at Pongakawa when in March 1916 he took a trip to the recruiting office in Rotorua to join up.

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View Henry's war record online here

Arnold Henfrey Watson 1916 (cropped)From the 19th Mounted Reinforcements he was drafted into the 15th NZ Company of the Imperial Camel Corps, where he remained until it was disbanded in mid-1918.

All his life Arnold was interested in drawing, painting and natural history. Towards the end of the war he was co-opted by Lt-Col. James McCarroll, commanding officer of the Auckland Mounted Rifles, as a semi-official war artist. In the last year of conflict and the more relaxed time after the Armistice in November 1918 he had enough free time to sketch the native wildlife of Palestine and Egypt. He filled the spare spaces in his diaries with tiny, carefully-observed drawings of plants and insects, some in full colour. He also had cartoons published in the ‘Kia Ora Coo-ee’, the magazine produced in Cairo for ANZAC troops in the Middle East. 

After the war he married Christine Vingoe and they had two children, a son and a daughter. In the 1940s they retired from farming and moved to Mount Maunganui, where Arnold swam at the beach every morning. He drowned while surfing in 1960.


April Sun 23 1916

 Easter Sunday – St. George

NW.1 Change in weather. Helped Trevor to milk. went along to Wickhams in afternoon. Had dust up with gloves. Got back at 7 pm.

 Mon 24 - Bank Holiday Rain during Night. Raining in early morning & midday. Thunderstorm. Went out to fencing but knocked off at 2.30 owing to rain. 

Tues 25 Cloudy SW.1. Finished putting in posts on Fence  

Wed 26 SW. Fine day. Started running out & tightening wires. Finished Big gully portion of Fence. J.M. Edkins turned up.

1916 April

Thur 27 SW 1 Nice day. Running out & tightening. 4 strains Back Fence. Edkins left.  

Fri 28 NW 1. Started raining at 8.30 am. Showery all day. Went out to Back but knocked of[f] on account of rain.

Sat 29 Raining most of day NW 3. put most of day helping Gray pit saw.

One year later...

Arnold Watson on his camel in the Middle East, World War I, c 1917 croppedAPRIL 1917

 22 SUNDAY Cold Night hot day. Got to Deir el Belah at 7 am. Camped & put down lines. Had good wash & Clean up. Went over to evacuated L H [Light Horse] lines, for wood & Barley put bivvy up & turned in early.


Eight Hours Day, Melbourne

Hot day. Orders to move out 4 miles to fresh grazing ground, at 9 am. got away & got to spot at 10.30 am, fixing up camp.

 24 TUESDAY SE Hottest day we Experienced  Went out to outpost at 7.30. Commenced trench digging. & went on till midday but knocked off owing to heat, but commenced again at 6pm & went on till midnight.

25 WEDNESDAY Very hot day SE Left outpost at 6.30 am got back to Camp. Cleaning lines, & getting tucker on go. Orders to Move out again at 5 pm on Line, near Tel el Jemmi. Camel Holding at night

26 THURSDAY Cold Day. On picquet at night. Went to Deir el Belah the trip taking from 7.30am till 4 pm. to water Camels. Got Ready for outpost. did first shift from 7 till 8 pm. 

27 FRIDAY Cool day Trench digging till 10 am & again from 2 pm 

28 SATURDAY Dull day. Thunderstorm in distance. Moved into camp for breakfast Digging Bomb trenches all day, On Outpost at  night. Letters from Mother, Winks M. W. & Mrs ZBW. & parcels fromHome & V. B.

29 SUNDAY Cool day got back from picquet. Had breakfast & went out Trench digging all day. went in at 3pm got tea & went out to relieve day post. On duty from 2 to 3 am.  

Arnold sometimes sketched within his diaries (see related items, and the video below).

High quality scans of the diaries, and the originals, are held in the Tauranga City Libraries Research Collections. 


A version of this article was archived in August 2016 at Perma CC

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Arnold Henfrey Watson (1882-1960)

First Names:Arnold
Last Name:Watson