17 February 2013

Victoria Cross: O. C. S. Watson

OLIVER CYRIL SPENCER WATSON, DSO

Major (acting Lieutenant-Colonel), King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry

Born: 7 September 1876, Cavendish Square, London
Died: 28 March 1918, Rossignol Wood, near Hebuterne, France

Citation: 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 [at Rossignol Wood, north of Hebuterne, France], 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.

[London Gazette issue 30675 dated 8 May 1918, published 7 May 1918.]

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