On 7th September 1914, after a Call to Arms was issued in the Port Sunlight works, John left the village to enlist with the 13th Battalion of the Cheshire Regiment along with nearly 700 fellow colleagues and local men.
After a year of training, the Battalion was sent to the Western Front in September 1915 and first saw action in October when the Battalion took over trenches on the North Bank of the river Lys, outside Armentieres. The Battalion was later heavily involved on the Somme and at Ypres, but it is probable that John missed these battles.
A false press report in the spring of 1916 claimed he had been killed in action, but he had in fact been wounded and after a period of convalescence he was transferred to the Royal Flying Corps where he remained for the rest of the War.
Many women were called on to work at Lever Brothers during the First World War to help fill the roles left by the men, and John’s two sisters Mary and Lucy both worked at the factory throughout this period. It’s not known if John wrote of his experiences, but postcards produced at home and abroad and sent to Lucy and Mary by him and his Port Sunlight friends have survived. These show the mutual support that existed at the time between the local families, and the close comradeship between the village soldiers during the early war years.
John Holford Watson returned to Port Sunlight after the War and to his role as an Engineer at the Lever Brothers Port Sunlight works. He retired in 1959 having served over 50 years with the firm, and died in 1987 aged 93.