b. 11/04/1867 Velsen, Holland. d. 15/06/1917 London, England.
Thomas Colclough Watson (1867-1917) was born in Velsen, Netherlands on 11th April 1867, the son of Thomas Colclough Watson and Eliza Holmes Watson (nee Reed). He was educated at Louth, Lincolnshire, and abroad, and entered the Royal Engineers on 18th February 1888. On 16th January 1892, he married in Meerut, India, to Edythe, the daughter of Major-General John Whateley Welchman, CB. Their only child, Gerald Thomas Colclough Watson was born in October 1892.
Watson’s wife had been awarded the Royal Red Cross for her actions during the Black Mountains Expedition in 1888. This meant that Thomas and Edythe Watson, alongside Lord Frederick Sleigh Roberts and his wife, are the only two British officers and their wives to hold the VC and RRC.
Lieutenant Watson would be awarded his Victoria Cross for his actions at the village of Bilot on the North West Frontier of India on the 16th September 1897. His actions would be gazetted on the 20th May 1898 alongside James Morris Colquhoun Colvin, also awarded the VC in the same action.
On the night of 16/17 September 1897 in the Mamund Valley, North-West India, Lieutenant Watson and James Morris Colquhoun Colvin collected a party of volunteers (including James Smith) and led them into the dark and burning village of Bilot, to try to dislodge the enemy who were inflicting losses on British troops. After being wounded and driven back by very heavy fire at close quarters, Lieutenant Watson made a second attempt to clear the village and only gave up after a second repulse and being again severely wounded.
Watson was presented with his Victoria Cross on the 23rd June 1898 at Windsor Castle by Queen Victoria. Following his investiture, he remained in the Royal Engineers, and would serve in the Great War. He took part in the Mesopotamia Campaign of 1915, where he had the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. In June of that year, he contracted a disease, and was forced to be invalided back to London. Sadly, Watson didn’t recover from the illness fully, and passed away on the 15th June 1917, aged 50. He was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium, and his ashes were interred in an urn in the East Columbarium. His medals were sold at auction on 11th December 2014 at Dix, Noonan and Webb, for a hammer price of £260,000. They were purchased by the Ashcroft Trust and are displayed in the Imperial War Museum.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: LORD ASHCROFT GALLERY, IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM, LONDON.
BURIAL PLACE: GOLDERS GREEN CREMATORIUM, LONDON.
Thomas Watson's medals at IWM (Thomas Stewart)
Cemetery Plan courtesy of Kevin Brazier
Golders Green Crematorium, London