Remembrance - The Yorkshire Regiment, First World War

Lieut Colonel Oliver C S WATSON, VC

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Lieutenant Colonel Oliver C S Watson, VC DSO For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty at Rossignol Wood on the 28th March 1918.   His command was at a dangerous point, where continuous attacks were made by the enemy in order to pierce the line.   A counterattack had been made against the enemy position which at first achieved its object, but as they were holding out in two improvised strong points, Lieutenant Colonel Watson saw that immediate action was necessary, and he led his remaining small reserve to the attack, organising bombing parties and leading attacks under intense rifle and machine gun fire.   Outnumbered, he finally ordered his men to retire, remaining himself in a communication trench to cover the retirement, though he faced almost certain death by so doing.   The assault he led was at a critical moment, and without a doubt saved the line.   Both in the assault and covering his men's retirement he held his life as nothing, and his splendid bravery inspired all troops in the vicinity to rise to the occasion and save a breach being made in a hardly-tried and attenuated line.   Lieutenant Colonel Watson was killed while covering the withdrawal.

Oliver Cyril Spencer Watson was born in Cavendish Square, London on 7th September 1876, the youngest son of William Spencer Watson MB FRCS and Georgina Mary Jane Watson.   He was educated at St. Paul's School and RMC Sandhurst.   He was commissioned into the Green Howards on 20th February 1897 and posted to the 2nd Battalion in India.   He served in the Tirah Campaign 1897 - 98 on the North West Frontier where he was severely wounded.
On 17 August 1898, he was promoted to Lieutenant and in 1900 made Transport Officer for 4th Brigade in the China Expedition.   He was invalided from India in 1903 and retired to the Reserve of Regular Officers on 16th January 1904.   He remained the estate agent for Sir Charles Henry MP at Parkwood and Crazies Hill unti11914.   During this period, he joined the 1st County of London Yeomanry in 1909 and made captain in November 1913.
He served in Gallipoli in April 1915 and promoted to major in July 1915 before returning to the UK.   Attached to 2/5th KOYLI in 1916, he went to France as second-in-command in 1917.   He was Mentioned in Despatches and awarded the DSO in May 1917.   He was wounded at Bullecourt 3 May 1917.   Lieutenant Colonel Oliver Watson DSO was killed and awarded the posthumous VC for gallantry at Rossignol Wood on 28 March 1918.   The citation was published in The London Gazette on 18 May 1918.
GOC Home Forces presented Watson's VC to his sister.   In 1956, Watson's medals were loaned to the Green Howards Regimental Museum, then in 1992 were donated as a gift to the Regiment by the husband of Watson's niece, Mrs Catherine Whittuck, who had died the previous year.

Information on the medal holders on this page, and other pages relating to the regiment's WW1 VC holders, is taken from "Beyond Their Duty" by Roger Chapman.   This book was specialy written to commemorate the only occasion on which all 18 Victoria Crosses won by members of the Green Howards regiment were together (April to October 2001, in the Green Howards Museum).   The book may be purchased from the Green Howards Museum Shop.

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