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Commanding Officer, Otago Division of the RNVR (NZD): 1928 – 1936

Captain E. F. Watson, RD, RNR
Commanding Officer, Otago Division of the RNVR: 1928 – 1936

Captain E. F. (Ernest)Watson, RD, RNVR

Captain Ernest Fraser Watson was born about 1887 in Lamphanan, Aberdeenshire and educated at Aberdeen Grammar School.   At the age of 15 he left home to join the barque Strathdon of the Aberdeen White Star Line as a cadet.


The next four years were spent on that ship, rising to Third Mate.   He enlisted in  the Royal Naval Reserve in 1904 as a probationary midshipman with a requirement to train in the Royal Navy for 28 days each year.   His initial training was carried out in HMS DIDO.  After leaving the Strathdon he joined the Shaw Savill and Albion Line serving in the Waiwera and Matatua and rising to Second Officer.   He transferred to the Union Steamship Company in 1909 and the next year he did the required RNR training on HMS PIONEER on the New Zealand Station.


On the outbreak of war in 1914 he was mobilized as a Sub-Lieutenant and joined the New Zealand Expeditionary Force to Samoa as Beach Transport Officer.   Returning to New Zealand he was appointed to HMS PHILOMEL as Navigator.   His ship served in the Red Sea and Persian Gulf area till 1917 when it returned to New Zealand.


Lieutenant Watson was sent to the UK in charge of naval draft of machinists sent to man anti-submarine launches. He was then appointed as Navigator of the 4th Destroyer Flotilla operating from Devonport on Atlantic convoys. His last wartime service was as Senior Executive Officer on HMS OPHIR, an Armed Merchant Cruiser of the 9th Cruiser Squadron.


After WWI, the Union Steamship Company appointed him as Chief Mate on the Wingatui, an ex-German collier awarded to New Zealand as a war prize.


The next four years were spent on various ships as Chief Mate or Master.   He then joined the Otago Harbour Board as Piermaster.   In 1926 he retired from the RNR as a Lieutenant Commander but then Commander Swaby RN, in 1927, approached him with an offer of the command of the Otago Division, part of the New Zealand Division of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, which was about to be formed.   This was confirmed by his appointment on the 16th March 1928.  Promoted to Commander RNR, he continued in command until his retirement in June 1936.   Upon retirement, he was promoted to Captain RNVR.


Apart from the selection of officers and ratings the biggest problem was finding a suitable building.   Eventually he reached an agreement with Mr. Keith Ramsay for the renting (£200 pa) of a building in Tewsley Street, Dunedin.


During his time he had been a co-founder with CPO Carr of the Sea Cadet Corps in Dunedin.   He also ran the Dunedin School of Navigation.   When the Second World War broke out he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Army in charge of troop movements through the Dunedin railway station.


He had married Catherine McCallum of Port Chalmers and had two sons and a daughter. He died in 1962.

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