Watson, Roger Wentworth

He was the second son of John Williams Watson of Mark’s Barn, Crewkerne and then of 33 Avonmore Road, West Kensington. His mother, Edith Deverell Watson, was the daughter of William Latham.   Born in London he entered Mr Bather’s House (Turner’s) from Horris Hill, and was Senior Commoner Prefect from 1911-1912. He played in Association Football in 1912 and for two years in the second XI cricket team. In the autumn of 1912 he went to King’s College, Cambridge. Literature was his great interest, and he had hopes of being a writer one day.

At the outbreak of war he obtained a commission in 8th Battalion, King’s Royal Rifle Corps, one of the New Army Battalions formed by volunteers late in 1914. He was promoted to Lieutenant in March 1915. 8KRRC was among the first to be sent to France, leaving on 18th May 1915. At Dickebusch, near Ypres they took over a sector of the front line for the first time in their own right. Up to then, they had been attached to the North Midlands Brigade for instruction in trench warfare, but by 5th June were ready for independent operations. On 23rd July 8KRRC moved to the Sanctuary Wood area, near Hooge, and here had its first real taste of battle.

Watson died at Hooge on 30th July 1915 (although the CWGC website gives the date of 20th July). 8KRRC were involved in a costly action with several Wykehamists either killed or wounded. At about midnight on the night of 29th July 8KRRC came out of the line and were replaced by 8th Battalion Rifle Corps. 8KRRC then set out for Ypres, with Watson’s C Company going into dug-outs near a site known as the “White House”. At 3.15 a.m. the site of the old chateau stables exploded with liquid flame pouring from the German trenches, each cloud of flame covering an area of over 100 feet. 8th Rifle Brigade retreated to nearby Zoave Wood, and were joined shortly after by 8KRRC with orders to prepare a counter-attack to recover the lost trenches. The Germans did not follow up their initial success but spent the morning and early afternoon fortifying their positions.

A British counter-attack was launched but relaliatory Geman machine gun fire caused it to fail with 8KRRC finding impossible to leave Zoave Wood. Eventually orders were received to abandon the attack.

Watson’s battalion had lost 10 officers, including Watson, and 190 men. The war diary records: “The losses had been very heavy, including Captain W.J. Davis the adjutant and Lieutenant Watson killed and eight officers wounded… The medical arrangements were entirely inadequate. Dr. Hawkes having been killed, only one doctor was available to cope with over five hundred cases. Great difficulties were experienced in finding and collecting the wounded in the thick woods, and when found in bringing them to dressing station. It being impossible to bring ambulances within nine hundred yards of the first aid station, many men had to remain out, exposed for over twenty-four hours. This, coupled with the fact that the battalion had had no rations for thirty-six hours, and suffered from want of water, caused the loss of many fine riflemen who might have been saved.”

War: World War 1

  • Surname: Watson
  • Forenames or initials: Roger Wentworth
  • House: I
  • Years in School: 1907-1912
  • Rank: Lieutenant
  • Regiment: King's Royal Rifle Corps
  • Date of Birth: 29th November 1893
  • Date of Death: 30th July 1915
  • How Died: Killed in Action
  • Location in War Cloister: Outer E3
  • Decoration: NA
  • Burial Site: SANCTUARY WOOD CEMETEY: Grave II. D. 4.