Weekly Forum: October 21, 2014

Did Doctor Watson rejoin the British Army as a physician during World War I? What is the evidence and what are your surmises from knowing the life of the man?

Our Dr Bob Katz “Willow” wrote, in a BSJ article in 1992, that Watson spent World War I serving in the army performing pre-induction physicals. He would have been quite expert at identifying malingerers who were attempting to evade military service, as he had firsthand experience learning about malingering from Holmes, one of the first students of the subject (DYIN).

5 Replies to “Weekly Forum: October 21, 2014”

  1. I did go back and read Willow’s article on Watson’s WWI service, and it seems very plausible. Holmes says in LAST “As to you, Watson, you are joining up with your old service, as I understand, so London won’t be out of your way.” If Holmes meant the Northumberland Fusiliers, then, according to Wikipedia 29 of the 52 battalions did serve overseas during the war, seeing action in many major battles. Whether Watson could serve as a medical officer in his 60s in France is an fascinating question I would be interested in being addressed.

  2. According to the history of the Royal Army Medical Corps, before World War II officers were required to be at least 5 feet 2 inches tall and could join up to 30 years of age. I don’t find any mention of civilian doctors assigned to the Army Medical Corps, however this is certainly not definitive. There is a good deal of historical research that needs to be done in this area.

  3. More research turns up the WWI Territorial Force (TF) hospitals which were operated at home in Britain by TF staff and volunteers. This was a huge operation and involved vast numbers of hospitals in England and, particularly, in London. As a member of the Territorial Force, Doctor Watson would likely have seen service in a London Hospital. The numbers of casualties were staggering. Here is a link that describes the magnitude of this massing of medical facilities to treat the overwhelming numbers of wounded, maimed, gassed and other casualties of the Great War. From the descriptions, it would seem plausible that Doctor Watson as an experienced older physician would have seen service in the Territorial Force Medical Service.

    Copy and paste link: http://www.1914-1918.net/hospitals_uk.htm

  4. Although I put forward one suggestion about Watson’s WWI service many years back, there clearly is room for other interpretations. Watson would have been older than the average medical officer in the field/trenches, but he had a certain degree of influence in the government via Mycroft Holmes. How else might Watson have served during WWI? In the trenches of the Western Front? What about service on other fronts, such as Gallipoli or the Middle East? Perhaps he met TE Lawrence…..Let’s hear from our members as they indulge their scholarship and imaginations….How did The Good Doctor spend 1914-1918?

    1. Right you are, Willow, there are a number of possibilities. One of them is going to be the subject of my submission to the next Watsonian, so I will say no more here. Renew, everyone, and read it next year!

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