Lest We Forget

1939 - 1945

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning, We will remember them.

Watson, James Wilson

Fireman & Trimmer, Merchant Navy, SS Empire Duke
Service Number
Merchant Seaman R.343970
6 Sept 1926 in Cowdenbeath
Date of death
22 July 1945 (Aged 19)
Other Memorials
Scottish National War Memorial (Edinburgh Castle)

Other Information

He had lived at 2 Whinneyknowe, North Queensferry.

He was accidentally drowned while his ship was in Montreal Harbour, Canada. It is not known if his body was recovered.

The Empire Duke was a “Liberty Ship” and had been used for research into the problems of fatigue fractures in these hastily built ships. It is not known when James joined the ship, but she was launched on 20 July 1943 and completed in November. Armament consisted of either a 4-in or a 4.7-inch gun, and six machine guns.

Empire Duke departed from Sunderland on 2 December 1943 for the Tyne, arriving that day.

She departed from the Tyne on 18 December to join Convoy FN 1208, and arrived at Methil, the following day.

She took part in a variety of convoys in the North Atlantic and Mediterranean until the early part summer 1944 when she took part in the research work for several weeks,

She departed from Southend on 12 June as a member of Convoy ETM 7, which arrived at the Seine Bay, France the next day (six days after D-Day).

She spent the next three months shuttling between those two places in various ETM and FTM convoys, arriving at Southend on 12 September as a member of Convoy FTM 2A.

Empire Duke departed from Southend on 30 October as a member of Convoy FN 1526, which arrived at Methil on 1 November.

She departed from Methil on 24 November with Convoy FS 1646, arriving at Southend on 26 November.

She spent the next four months sailing between Southend and Antwerp, Belgium with various TAM and ATM convoys, arriving at Southend on 28 March 1945 as a member of Convoy ATM 106.

She then operated in various North Atlantic convoys until the end of the war.

In June–July 1945 Empire Duke sailed from Montreal to The Downs, off the coast of Kent and then back to Montreal.

She then sailed from Montreal on 11 August, arriving in Casablanca on 24 August.

Although killed in a peace-time accident, James is assumed to have been at sea since the middle of the war and hence deemed to be a casualty of the war.

SS Empire Duke
SS Empire Duke


Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Scottish National War Memorial (Edinburgh Castle)

National Archives. Discharge Certificate


Here dead we lie, Because we did not choose
To live and shame the land, From which we sprung.

Life, to be sure, Is nothing much to lose,
But young men think it is, And we were young.

[A.E. Housman]

When You Go Home,
Tell Them Of Us And Say,

For Your Tomorrow,
We gave our Today

[Kohima, attributed to John Maxwell Edmonds]

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