This watch (WCMA, 2017.10.1.02) was given to Private Robert Major (1892-1974) of Eramosa Township in 1918 by his friends and family when he enlisted in the First World War. It was made by Savage and Co. of Guelph, and features a luminous display with radium-painted watch hands and numbers. The face of the watch is shielded by a dial guard, or shrapnel cover, to protect it from damage.

photograph of wristwatch

Caption: The back of the wristwatch is marked with Robert's service information.
Credit: WCMA, 2017.10.1.02.

Robert's friends and neighbours wrote a letter to accompany the gift, expressing their hope that he will be safe and return home soon. They describe Robert's character to be "one of sterling worth, and of soundest qualities, - a fitting representative of our Canadian youth - one, who will do credit to his county."





Caption: The letter was written by Lydia Ferris Harwood (b. 1898) on behalf of Robert's friends and neighbours.
Click here to see an enlarged image of the letter.
Credit: WCMA, A2017.10.

The letter closes,

"We hope that, as you fare forth, you will carry with you, only pleasant thoughts and memories of us all, - and know that our thoughts will follow you in your farthest journeys, with the best of wishes, and the most earnest of prayers, for your safe and early return."

Robert was born on 13 August, 1892 to Frank Major (1861-1941) and Isabella (Weatherston) Major (1862-1936), who farmed in Eramosa Township on Concession 5, Lot 13. As a farmer's son, Robert was needed on the home front during the early years of the war. When Conscription came into force in 1918, Robert was no longer exempt from military service. He enlisted in the 2nd Depot Battalion, 2nd Central Ontario Regiment in Oshawa on 16 January 1918. He was transferred to the 259th Battalion, Canadian Rifles (Siberia) and sailed to Vladivostok, Russia with the Canadian Siberian Expeditionary Force aboard the S.S. Teesta in December 1918. He returned to Victoria, B.C. on 3 June 1919 aboard the Empress of Russia.

image of Robert Major's attestation paper dated January 1918.

Caption: Robert Major's attestation paper, January 1918. Click here to view enlarged attestation paper

sepia photograph of Pte. Robert Major, 1918


Caption: Photograph of Pte. Robert Major, 1918. Click here to see an enlarged image.
Credit: WCMA, ph 49291.



Robert married Elizabeth Campbell (1894-1964) at Barrie Hill United Church on 12 May 1920. Robert's sister, Sadie Major, and friend Lorne Allan acted as witnesses. Lorne grew up on a neighbouring farm and also served overseas during the Great War.

Caption: Robert Major and Elizabeth Campbell (centre) on their wedding day, surrounded by their friends and family. Lorne Allan is standing on the groom's right, and Sadie Major is to the left of the bride.
Click here to enlarge the image.

Robert's wristwatch was passed down to his daughter, Bernice (Major) McKenzie (1923-2010), who in turn passed it down to her daughter. The Wellington County Museum and Archives is thrilled to accept this unique watch into the artifact collection.



© 2023 County of Wellington, 74 Woolwich St. Guelph, Ontario N1H 3T9, T 519.837.2600, TF 1.800.663.0750, F 519.837.1909