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Charles Vincent Watson (1882–1930)

by Chris Clark

This article was published:

Charles Vincent Watson (1882-1930), public servant and soldier, was born on 2 June 1882 at Horsham, Victoria, son of New Zealand-born George Rolleston Watson, civil engineer, and his English-born wife Catherine Elizabeth, née Donnelly. Educated at Xavier College, Kew, he was a pupil-architect and, after qualifying in 1905, assistant engineer and architect with the Victorian Public Works Department. Transferring to the Commonwealth Public Service, he became assistant examiner of architectural and engineering patents in the Attorney-General's Department.

Having served in the volunteer junior cadet corps from 1896 and as a reservist from 1901 in the Victorian Rifle Corps, in 1907 Watson was commissioned second lieutenant in the 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment. Promoted lieutenant in 1909, he joined the headquarters of the Australian Intelligence Corps in 1910 as staff officer to Colonel (Sir) James McCay. A captain from 1911, Watson transferred to the Victorian district section of the Intelligence Corps in 1912. On 8 October he married Eileen Catherine Ryan at St Mary's Catholic Church, Hawthorn.

On the outbreak of World War I Watson volunteered for service with the Australian Imperial Force, but was retained in Australia for duty with the intelligence section of the general staff at district headquarters, Melbourne, and as chief instructor of the A.I.F. Officer Training School at Broadmeadows, Victoria, and officer commanding the A.I.F. training camp at Liverpool, New South Wales. Promoted major in April 1915, he was granted the honorary rank of lieutenant-colonel in October 1916 for meritorious service.

In July 1917 Watson obtained his release to serve overseas. As a major he transferred to the 58th Battalion, A.I.F., attended a three-month senior officers' course at Aldershot, England, and joined his unit at Courset, France, in January 1918 as a company commander. In April he was involved in operations at Vaire and Villers-Bretonneux, in the latter action as a 'special intelligence officer' employed on forward reconnaissance for which he was congratulated in corps orders.

Watson was appointed commanding officer of the 58th Battalion in May and led it at Hamel in July (when it was engaged east of Ville-sur-Ancre) and at Amiens in August. For this work he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order. He took part in the capture of Péronne in September, and his gallantry and leadership during the Australian attack on the Hindenburg line near Bellicourt (29 September–3 October) was recognized with a Bar to his D.S.O. The citation to this award referred to his prompt action 'under very heavy shell-fire in personally reconnoitring and ascertaining the exact situation at a critical time [which] enabled him to make dispositions restoring the situation'.

He was twice mentioned in dispatches for service during 1918 and awarded the Légion d'honneur.

Transferred to London in December as assistant provost marshal at A.I.F. Headquarters, in 1919 Watson represented the A.I.F. on the board which conducted the inter-allied games organized by the American general, J. J. Pershing. In September Watson assumed the additional duties of officer commanding the Australian Provost Corps. He returned to Australia in January 1920 and his A.I.F. appointment ended in May.

Watson resumed his public service career, rising to controller-general of patents and registrar of trade marks and designs in 1923. He represented the Australian government at an industrial property convention at The Hague in 1925 and was chairman of the Central War Gratuity Board. Prominent in Melbourne's sporting and club life, he was a committeeman of the Naval and Military Club and a member of the Athenaeum.

Continuing his links with peacetime soldiering through the 2nd Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment, in 1920 Watson had been given command of the 2nd Battalion, 58th Infantry; placed on the unattached list in 1924, he became temporary colonel commanding the 15th Infantry Brigade in 1927 and was promoted colonel in 1929.

On 10 February 1930, following an operation for appendicitis, Watson died in a South Yarra private hospital and was buried in Box Hill cemetery with military honours. His wife and two sons survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • H. E. Renfree, History of the Crown Solicitor's Office (Canb, 1970)
  • C. D. Coulthard-Clark, The Citizen General Staff (Canb, 1976)
  • C. E. W. Bean, The A.I.F. in France, 1918 (Syd, 1937, 1942)
  • London Gazette, 31 Dec 1918, 1 Jan, 2 Apr, 11 July, 10 Dec 1919
  • Reveille (Sydney), 31 Mar 1930
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 11 Feb 1930
  • Queenslander, 13 Feb 1930
  • records (Australian War Memorial).

Citation details

Chris Clark, 'Watson, Charles Vincent (1882–1930)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 17 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (Melbourne University Press), 1990

View the front pages for Volume 12

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


2 June, 1882
Horsham, Victoria, Australia


10 February, 1930 (aged 47)
South Yarra, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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