“His splendid bravery inspired all troops in the vicinity to rise for the occasion”

An experienced officer who in peacetime had worked managing a Wargrave estate was one of the few to be honoured with the Victoria Cross for his great courage. Oliver Spencer Watson (1876-1918) is buried in France.

The Late Lieut.-Col. O. C. Spencer Watson, V.C.

A supplement to the “London Gazette” of May 8th gave the following particulars respecting the award of the V.C. to Lieut.-Col. O. C. Spencer Watson, D.S.O. (Reserve of Officers), late King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry:

“For most conspicuous bravery, self-sacrificing devotion to duty 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 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 impoverished points Lieut.-Col. Watson saw that immediate action was necessary, and he let 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 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 for the occasion and save a breach being made in a hardly tried and attenuated line. Lieut.-Col. Watson was killed while covering the withdrawal.”

“The Times” of May 11th gave the following particulars, respecting Lieut.-Col. Watson: –

He was the youngest son of the late W. Spencer Watson, F.R.C.S., and was educated at St Paul’s and passed into the Army from Sandhurst, being gazetted to the Yorks Light Infantry in 1897. He was invalided in 1904, after taking part in the Tirah campaign 1897-1898, in which he was dangerously wounded, and in the China campaign of 1900, receiving the medal for each of these campaigns, in the first case with two clasps.

In 1910 he joined a Yeomanry regiment, and on the outbreak of war went with them to Egypt as captain and took part in the fighting on the Gallipoli Peninsula. Promoted major, he came home to join a battalion of the Y.O.Y.L.I., going with them to France early in 1917. In May of that year he was dangerously wounded at Bullecourt, and received D.S.O. for gallantry and leadership.

He returned to the front last January, although he had not recovered from the effect of his wound; was shortly afterwards promoted lieut-colonel, and was killed in action on March 28th. Lieut-Colonel Watson was a keen sportsman, and was known locally as a good cricketer, boatman, and footballer, as well as a straight rider to hounds. Up to the time that he joined the forces in the present conflict he had been the estate agent to Sir Charles Henry, Bart., M.P., at Parkwood, and managed the Farm at Crazies Hill.

Wargrave parish magazine, June 1918 (D/P145/28A/31)

“We have lost another of our lads”

Many young Ascot men had paid the ultimate price, or suffered life changing injuries.

We are sorry to say that we have lost another of our lads, Stephen J. Bennett, or the Royal Engineers. He was a member of the Church Lads’ Brigade, and was due home, after eighteen months at the Front, for leave, when he fell, and may he rest.

Albert Victor Cook, of the Yorkshire Light Infantry, also fell on April 9th.

Many others from our parish have been wounded, and two have been discharged, crippled.

Ascot section of Winkfield District Magazine, September 1917 (D/P151/28A/9/9)

Two more dear young lads have joined the honoured dead

Sad news came for two Cookham Dean families, while other men were still joining up.

At the time of writing two more lives of dear young lads have passed from the list of those on Active Service to the number of those of the Honoured Dead who have given their lives for their King and Country. Sidney John Godfrey, of the Royal Berks Regt., and Edward Garrett, of the Grenadier Guards. The death of the first has been officially notified in The Gazette, and the news of the latter, received at present only through private sources, is of too circumstantial a nature, alas, to leave any room for doubt as to the actual fact, All alike join in deep sympathy for the fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, in their hour of sorrow.

The Roll of Honour
The following promotions are announced:- Lieut. Brian Lawrence, of the Nth. Staff Regt., is now Captain in the 4th Yorkshire Light Infantry; Sec. Lieut. Randall E. Hunt, A.S.C., is now Lieutenant; Pte Cecil Edwards, of the 13th City of London Regiment, is now Sec. Lieut. In the 8th Middlesex; Frederick Woodbridge is made Lance Corporal.

William Fitchett has enlisted in the 43rd battalion RFA; Alfred Tomlin and William Tomlin have joined the AOD; and Frederick Piercey (making the sixth of his family) has enlisted in the Royal Berks Regt. Lce Corporal Frederick Woodbridge has been badly wounded; Ernest Blinko and Charles Druce have each been wounded a second time; while as mentioned above Sidney John Godfrey and Edward Garrett were killed in action on Sept. 25th and on Oct. 17th respectively.

Cookham Dean parish magazine, November 1915 (D/P43B/28A/31)

A most acceptable gift of tobacco

Many schools celebrated Empire Day on 21 May, a few days earlier than normal. At Clewer, however, things were different.

Clewer Green School

The absence of the customary “Empire Day” celebration this year did not, however, permit the day, May 24th, to pass unnoticed.

In response to a request from the “Over-Seas Club” all the boys and girls throughout the kingdom were requested to bring a penny to school so that this club could send parcels of comforts to our brave sailors and soldiers at the front.

Our children responded splendidly, and we were able to forward to the Secreatry a sum of 20s, which was sufficient to forward 20 parcels each containing a good deal more than a shilling’s worth, as the huge quantities required were bought at wholesale rates.

The Secretary of the Club in acknowledging the gift from this school replied:
“Please accept sincere thanks for your remittance. My Committee also desire to express to all their keen appreciation of the splendid effort made by your school on behalf of the Fund.”

Each parcel contained a postcard with the name of the school sending the same and these postcards are constantly arriving from soldiers at the Front showing how much the gifts were appreciated. The following is typical:-

D Company,
King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry,
British Expeditionary Force.

“Will you please convey my sincerest thanks to the children of the School for their most acceptable gift of tobacco, which I received this morning. It is a great encouragement to us to know that although they are not able to come out here, they are doing their very utmost at home, which cannot be too highly praised.
With all good wishes,
Yours gratefully,
J. CROPPER, Sergeant.

Clewer parish magazine, September 1915 (D/P39/28A/9)