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Sergeant Ralph Beverly Watson (a.k.a. Joseph Ralph Watson) was born in Hull, England on October 23, 1883, to parents Joseph Watson and Lavinia Sanderson. Moving to Canada sometime prior to the war, he settled in Ottawa where he married Beulah Bahnsen in January of 1915. On May 25 that same year he enlisted from there as a Private in the Canadian Army Medical Corps.

He embarked for England on the troop ship S.S. Missanabie in July of 1915 and was sent into action in France in February of 1916. While hospitalized on several occasions, most seriously for gas poisoning, Watson survived through to the end of the war and was demobilized on February 3, 1919.

The Watson letters are not a typical collection for the Canadian Letters & Images Project in that most collections are of letters and other items that have been donated to us by individuals or families who have had them passed down directly from the original writer. But in this case, the letters collected here were published together as the book Letters of a Canadian Stretcher Bearer in 1918. Published while the war was still ongoing, the author was identified only as “R.A.L.”; other identifying details such as dates were also changed in order to preserve anonymity (e.g. the book gives the date of enlistment as May 31 instead of Watson’s real enlistment date of May 25). The real identity of the author appears to have remained unknown for many decades, but has since been identified as Ralph Beverly Watson (born Joseph Ralph Watson, he was going by “Ralph Beverly” at the time of his marriage and enlistment).

Now in the public domain, Letters of a Canadian Stretcher Bearer was digitized by the Internet Archive Digital Library in 2008 from the collection of the University of California Libraries, and is available online through the website (see External links below). The individual letter files in this collection were created from the digitized copy as part of a data-analysis research project at Vancouver Island University.

External links:
Sgt. Watson's Service Record (Reg/Ser# 63) is available through Library and Archives Canada.
Letters of a Canadian Stretcher Bearer, by Coningsby William Dawson, 1918, provided online by the Internet Foundation at

Collection Contents

Telegrams (1)
Letters (112)
Poems (1)