MAJOR JACK WATSON
Major John Bernard Robert Watson, known as Jack, was born in Scarborough, Yorkshire on 14 January 1917. He joined the Army in 1939, and served with the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry and then the South Lancashire Regiment. He was with one of their Battalions when it was chosen for conversion to a Parachute Battalion.
Watson became a platoon commander and was dropped into Normandy on D-Day. He was initially deployed at Pegasus Bridge and in the liberation of Ranville.
Extract from London Gazette, February 1945
On January 3, 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 [Projector, Infantry, Anti Tank] teams and beat off the tanks. On one occasion, 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.
Major Watson was awarded the Military Cross for his actions.
In 1946, Jack Watson gained a Regular Commission from the Army Air Corps to The West Yorkshire Regiment (Prince of Wales Own). He moved up through the ranks and from from 1954 to 1957, he was a Staff Officer of Infantry and Officer Commanding Airportability Wing, RAF Old Sarum.
Major Jack Watson retired from the military in 1958 and died on 12 April 2011.