Sunday, 6 September 2015

Dorothy Mortimer Watson - A Soldier's Will


Dorothy Mortimer Watson was born in Yorkshire in early 1888 and after training as a nurse she joined the Territorial Force Nursing Service in February 1915, working at No.2 Northern General Hospital, Beckett's Park, Leeds and also at the East Leeds War Hospital.  In September 1916 she applied for overseas service and was posted to St. John's Hospital, Malta. The following spring she contracted measles and on the 13th March 1917 she died of associated toxaemia. Despite the fact that she had one sister, Beatrice Balfour Kemp, on all correspondence she named her cousin Herbert Illingworth as her next-of-kin, so following her death arrangements for managing her estate were referred to him, and all her belongings returned to his address. However, in June 1917 Herbert Illingworth wrote to the War Office from his home, Carlrayne, Leadhall Lane, Harrogate:

... Staff Nurse D. M. Watson died intestate so far as a fully drawn out will is concerned but left in my charge on leaving England a letter which she asked me, acting as her guardian, to dispose of her possessions, in the event of her not returning.  Would this be considered a 'soldier's will' to be accepted as legal, if so can it be forwarded on your request.  The small amount of money of which she was possessed she wished to be given to her only sister, small keepsakes of no great monetary value are to be given to various friends. Her sister has need of financial assistance, she is married but her husband is in the army ... 

The letter, addressed to Herbert's wife, read:

East Leeds War Hospital, Beckett Street, Leeds, September 8th 1916

My dearest Nell,
I hope you will never have need to open this, but if you do, I would like you to have my ring with the diamond made into a tie pin for Stanley.  The rest of my money I think I would like Bea, my sister to have as she has most need of it. Will you have either my locket or my opal ring, & give the other to Clare, Pattie my brooch, and I have no more jewellery, so will you give Beatrice some little things amongst my work which I have made.  The rest of my things such as they are of course, you take.

Dorothy Watson


Three weeks later a reply was sent to Herbert Illingworth from the Assistant Financial Secretary at the War Office confirming that Dorothy Watson's brief letter could indeed be taken as a 'soldier's will.'

... it has been regarded by this Department as a valid Will executed by the late nurse whilst 'in actual military Service' within the meaning of the Wills Act, 1837.

Dorothy Mortimer Watson was buried at Pieta Cemetery, Malta
CWGC - Dorothy Watson

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Details taken from Dorothy Watson's service file held at The National Archives, WO399/15353

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