THE VICTORIA CROSS AWARDED TO CHIEF SKIPPER JOSEPH WATT, ROYAL NAVAL RESERVE, WAS SOLD AT AUCTION BY SPINK OF LONDON AND ACQUIRED BY THE LORD ASHCROFT VC COLLECTION.
16 January 2013


( select to enlarge )
Medal entitlement of Chief Skipper Joseph Watt,
Royal Naval Reserve

  • Victoria Cross
  • 1914-15 Star
  • British War Medal ( 1914-20 )
  • Victory Medal ( 1914-19 )
  • Defence Medal ( 1939-45 )
  • King George VI Coronation Medal ( 1937 )
  • Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal ( 1953 )
  • Gold Medal for Good & Zealous Service ( Serbia )
  • Medal of Military Valour ( Italy )
  • Croix de Guerre ( France )

The Victoria Cross and other medals awarded to Chief Skipper Joseph Watt, Royal Naval Reserve, captain of the drifter "Gowan Lea", were sold at auction by Spink of London on the 19th April 2012. The sale hammer price realised £170,000. The Victoria Cross group was purchased by the Michael Ashcroft Trust the holding institution for the Lord Ashcroft VC Collection and will be displayed in the Imperial War Museum's Lord Ashcroft Gallery.

Joseph Watt was entitled to the First World War Trio of 1914-15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal. However, there is no record of him ever applying for, or receiving these campaign medals. The WWII Defence Medal and Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal are also missing from the group.


For the award of the Victoria Cross

[ London Gazette, 29 August 1917 ], Straits of Otranto, Adriatic Sea, 15 May 1917, Skipper Joseph Watt, Royal Naval Reserve.

For most conspicuous gallantry when the Allied Drifter line in the Straits of Otranto was attacked by Austrian light cruisers on the morning of 15th May 1917. When hailed by an Austrian cruiser at about 100 yards range and ordered to stop and abandon his drifter the "Gowan Lea" Skipper Watt ordered full speed ahead and called upon his crew to give three cheers and fight to the finish.

The cruiser was then engaged, but after one round had been fired, a shot from the enemy disabled the breech of the drifterís gun. The gunís crew, however, stuck to the gun, endeavouring to make it work, being under heavy fire all the time. After the cruiser had passed on Skipper Watt took the "Gowan Lea" alongside the badly damaged freighter "Floandi" and assisted to remove the dead and wounded.

Joseph Watt was invested with his Victoria Cross by King George V at Buckingham Palace on the 6th April 1918.


On the night of 14th / 15th May 1917 the Austro-Hungarian navy launched an attack on the Otranto Barrage determined once and for all to break the barrier to allow their U-boats access to the Mediterranian and Allied shipping lanes. The attack on the Barrage began at 3:15 am when there were 47 drifters stretched across the straits in seven groups. The whole raid by the Austro-Hungarian light cruisers and destroyers took little under an hour after which 14 of the drifters had been sunk and many more damaged.

In total one Victoria Cross; two Distinguished Service Orders; six Distinguished Service Crosses; five Conspicuous Gallantry Medals; eighteen Distinguished Service Medals; and 31 Mentioned-in-Despatches were awarded for the action.


Joseph Watt died on the 13th February 1955, aged 67, at Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire, and was buried in the town's Kirktown Cemetery.

Acquisitions

Go to VC UK flag Home Page

Iain Stewart, 16 January 2013