Oliver Cyril Spencer Watson VC, DSO

Oliver Cyril Spencer Watson (07/09/1876 – 28/03/1918), was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions on 28 March 1918 at Rossignol Wood, north of Hebuterne, France while an Acting Lieutenant-Colonel commanding the 2nd/5th Battalion, King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry.

The Citation, recorded in the London Gazette of Supplement: 30675, Page: 5555, reads:

“Maj (A /Lt -Col ) Oliver Cyril Spencer Watson. D S O (R of O ), late K O Yorks LI.

For most conspicuous bravery, self-sacrificing devotion to duty, and exceptionally gallant leading during a critical period of operations.

His command was at a point where continual attacks were made by the enemy in order to pierce the line, and an intricate system of old trenches in front, coupled with the fact that his position was under constant rifle and machine-gun fire, rendered the situation still more dangerous.

A counter-attack had been made against the enemy position, which at first achieved its object, but as they were holding out in two improvised strong points, Lt -Col 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 machinegun 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 doubt saved the line. Both in the assault and in 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 Lt -Col Watson was killed while covering the withdrawal.”

He was Mentioned in Despatches and awarded the DSO in May 1917, having been wounded at Bullecourt on 3 May 1917.

He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Arras Memorial to the Missing Bay 7.

Arras Memorial to the Missing. Image courtesy of Ralph McLean and the South African War Graves Project


© DRW 2017-2018. Created 01/05/2017. Inscription image courtesy of Mark Green. 

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