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Watson, John Bernard Robert

Date of birth:
January 14th, 1917 (Scarborough/Yorkshire, Great Britain)
Date of death:
March 13th, 2011 (York, North Yorkshire, Great Britain)
Service number:
237916
Nationality:
British (1801-present, Kingdom)

Biography

Jack Watson joined the Army on the eve of war and served initially with the Duke of Cornwalls Light Infantry. In 1942, he joined the South Lancashire Regiment which became The parachute Regiment.
On 6 June 1944, he parachuted in to Normandy as 'Operation Overlord' began serving as Platoon Commander and Second in Command of 'A' Company. He saw continuous service throughout the campaign before returning to Britain as Commander of 'A' Company in Sept 1944. Watson was soon back into active service during the Ardennes and Holland campaign. During the Battle of Bure (3-6 Jan 1945) he was awarded the Military Cross. Following a brief return to Britain he once more parachuted into action during 'Operation Varsity' - Rhine Crossing and fought his way as Commander of 'A' Company across Northern Europe to the Baltic.
After the war he became a Company Commander in 2nd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment.
He was later Company Commander, 1st Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment, before retiring from military service in 1958.
He became the leader of the annual Airborne Normandy Pilgrimage and regularly visited the Ardennes and Rhine Crossing locations. He also became president of Airborne Assault Normandy Trust (AANT).

Promotions:
July 17th, 1942: 2nd Lieutenant
June 1st, 1943: Lieutenant (war sub)
November 23th, 1946: Lieutenant
November 23th, 1946: Captain
January 14th, 1953: Major
1958: Retirement

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Period:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Rank:
Acting Major
Unit:
Army Air Corps (Sutton Bridge)
On January 3rd, 1945, Major Watson was commanding A Company of a Parachute Battalion, which was leading the assault into Bure. When the Company was formed up on the start line, very heavy and accurate fire from enemy mortars, artillery and machine-guns came down on it. Some 28 casualties were incurred immediately, but Major Watson, completely disregarding the enemy fire, ran up and down the line reorganising the forming up, and by his personal leadership and example enabled the attack to be launched.

He led the Company several hundred yards down a slope and stormed into the village in spite of fire from enemy machine-guns from the nearest houses. Once in the village he kept the Company moving forward, clearing the houses constantly moving himself from place to place, with complete disregard for enemy fire and continually encouraging his men. Almost at once the enemy counter-attacked with Tiger tanks and infantry, but Major Watson immediately organised his PIAT teams and beat off the tanks. At one time in order to make a Tiger tank move its position and give a better shot to a PIAT, he deliberately drew attention to himself, though only 50 yards from the tank.

Although the enemy counter-attacked time and again, Major Watson coolly organised the defence, and having repelled the attacks, again advanced and eventually completed the clearing of that part of the village allotted to him.

His conduct, energy and gallantry throughout were beyond praise, and without him the attack might well have failed
Military Cross (MC)
Period:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Awarded on:
2005
Chevalier de l' Ordre National de la Legion d'Honneur

Sources

  • - Supplement to The London Gazette Issue 35645 published on the 24 July 1942
    - Supplement to The London Gazette Issue 36194 published on the 1 October 1943
    - Supplement to The London Gazette Issue 37027 published on the 10 April 1945
    - Supplement to The London Gazette Issue 37793 published on the 19 November 1946
    - Second Supplement to The London Gazette Issue 37832 published on the 27 December 1946
    - Supplement to The London Gazette Issue 39750 published on the 9 January 1953
    - ParaData
    - Airborne Assault Normandy Trust
    - The Daily Mail
    - Wikipedia