|Above: This photograph taken white James P. Watson was a member of the United States Army Medical Corps. The Corps distinctive green Maltese
type cross is visible on his hat ans well as both sleeves. He wears a M-1851 belt plate and carries a holstered revolver.
Below: The reverse of the above photograph inscribed to his uncle Charles Watson of Canada. Dated 20 July, 1903 it also shows that James P.
Watson was serving as Postmaster for Camp Angeles, Philippine Islands in addition to his regular duties with the Medical Corps.
|While I have not been able to find any service papers relating to Watson's time with the Highland Light Infantry one might assume from the
use of the regiment's old number "71st" in the above inscription that he was a member of the 1st Battalion. While this may indeed be the
case the use of that number could also be an anachronism on his part. Could he have been a member of a volunteer battalion? This could
explain the lack of service papers.
Watson who was born around 1874 emigrated to the United States sometime before 1898 when he became a naturalized American citizen on
21 April 1898. He enlisted in the 1st Illinois Volunteer Cavalry on five days later on 26 April. His enlistment took place in Chicago where he
seems to have taken up residence. I have found no record of Watson arriving in the U.S. via ship and he may have actually emigrated to
Canada first where he obviously had family.
|Watson mustered out of the 1st Illinois on 11 October, 1898 after that
unit failed to deploy during the Spanish-American War. About a year
later on 9 September, 1899 he enlisted "F" Company, 39th Regiment
of United States Volunteer Infantry at Fort Crook, Nebraska. He was
discharged on the 20th of that same month to transfer to the Hospital
Corps of the regular U.S. Army. His Hospital Corps unit must have
been attached to the 39th Regiment since he deployed with his former
regiment to the Philippines soon after. The 39th became known as
Bullard's Indians after its Colonel, Robert E. Lee Bullard who trained
the 39th with tactics he learned while fighting the Apaches in the
American Southwest in the 1880's. These tactics would prove very
successful against the Philippine guerrillas.
According the Register of Enlistments United States Army Watson
was discharged for the United States Army on 23 September, 1902 at
Angel Island, California. His character was listed as excellent. In the
Register he was listed as bing 5 feet 4 3/4 inches tall with blues eyes
and light coloured hair. His home town was mentioned as being
Edinburgh, Scotland and his pre-enlistment occupation being that of a
nurse. This last fact may help to identify Watson's family origins.
Watson must have taken a liking to the Philippines since he had
returned to the islands by 1904 when he is listed in the Official
Gazette as receiving a promotion within the Manila Police
Department from Clerk Class A with a new salary of $1000.00. By
1905, when the photograph at left was working as a "Clerk Class 10"
in the office of Manila's Chief of Police.
Watson pops up again in 1916 as a plaintiff against the Manila
Electric Railroad & Light Company where he complained about
being grossly overcharged on his electric bill. In 1921 he was heavily
involved in an ongoing case against prostitution and gambling
concerns in Manila that reach to the highest levels of local
government. This involvement must have stemmed for his taking up
the trade of private investigator several years earlier.
6 Inches by 7 3/4 Inches
(Approx. 15 cm x 19.5cm)
Above: Private James P. Watson of "H" Company, The Highland Light Infantry in a photograph taken c. 1891 in Scotland while stationed at
Hamilton Barracks. Watson inscribed this photograph some 14 years later to his cousin Charles Waston of Durham, Ontario, Canada while a
clerk for the Office of Chief of Police, Manila, Philippine Islands. In this photograph he wears a white drill jacket, tartan trews, a glengarry
cap and carries the ever present walking out stick.
|Above: The reverse of Watson's photograph take in Scotland
addressed to his cousin in Durham, Canada, Charles Watson.
5 1/4 Inches by 7 1/4 Inches
(Approx. 13.5 cm x 18.5cm)
Camp Angeles, Pampanga, Luzon,
20 July, 1903
|As stated in the Register of Enlistments Watson was born in Edinburgh,
Scotland around 1874-5. While this is little to go by from a genealogical stand
point his stated occupation of nurse may offer a clue as to his origins.
I have come across one James Watson in the 1891 Census of Scotland who was
born around 1874 in Edinburgh the son of Walter and Anne Watson. The fact
that caught my eye was that this James Watson was listed as being a Student of
Medicine. This poses the problem of him being both a student of medicine and a
member of the Highland Light Infantry during the year of 1891.
Perhaps these two James Watsons are different people or perhaps as stated
above our James P. Watson was a member of a volunteer battalion of the
Highland Light Infantry which would allow for him being both a student and a
soldier. It would explain how James P. Watson took up his posting in the U.S.
Army Medical Corps and his stated occupation at the time of his enlistment was
than of a nurse.
|Watson appears in the 1922 edition of the International Police and Detective Directory where he ran a full page advertisement for his firm known
both as the Philippine National Detective Agency and Watson's Detective Bureau. One of his marketing slogans was: "We give you the
information as we find it, or we do not give it to you at all."
Watson shows up again in the 24 March, 1931 edition of The Straits Times when a friend and fellow Scot, Leslie G. Scott was found floating dead in
Manila Bay by a local boatman Ambrosio Cruz. Watson told investigating police that Scott had recently lost his job due to excessive drinking and
grew despondent when he could not find employment. The death was ruled accidental/suicide.
It seems that James P. Watson was still a fixture in Manila when World War Two broke out. According to information at the National Archives and
Records Administration he was interred by the Japanese possibly in December, 1943 and survived the ordeal being released at the end of the war.
Watson remained in the Philippines for the rest of his life and died at St. Luke's Hospital in Manila on 18 July 1956 at the age of 80. His death
certificate states that he died from complications of a broken left femur. He is buried at North Cemetery in Manila. The death certificate also
states that his sister, Margaret W. Symonds had joined her brother in the Philippines and was a resident of Quezon City.