Assistant Paymaster Stuart Watson
Died 1st November 1914, aged 23
Stuart Watson was born on the 10th of February 1891 in Burnley, Lancashire. His parents were Janet Mathew, also known as Jessie, and Andrew Alexander Watson. He had one sister, Jessie Evelyn, who was two years older than he. His father was a medical surgeon who had graduated in 1880 from the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh and had a medical practice in Burnley. By 1911, he was Medical Superintendent at Stretton House, the private lunatic asylum in Church Stretton. The family lived in Woodcote on Cunnery Road.
On the 15th July 1908 Stuart, then aged 17 joined the Royal Navy as an Assistant Clerk. After two and half months he was selected to be trained as a German interpreter and was transferred to the Navy barracks training unit at Devonport. Here he passed the Acting Interpreter in German exam in April 1909 and was then transferred to HMS Bellerophon, the lead ship of her class of three dreadnought battleships.
He was still ranked as an Assistant Clerk, but in 19th July 1909 he was promoted to Clerk 1st Class. The Bellerophon was a participant in combined fleet manoeuvres in June–July and was reviewed by King Edward VII during Cowes Week on 31 July 1909. Captain Evans Thomas wrote of Stuart that he “shows promise of becoming an able & efficient officer.”
On 1st April 1910 Stuart was transferred to HMS Jupiter, another Majestic class warship, as a Clerk. He passed the Intermediate Exam 1st Class on 16th January 1911. The Captain, Gilpin-Brown, recorded the following year that he also “has carried out Acting Officer’s duties in absence of F.Paym. entirely to my satisfaction but requires further tuition”. However, six months later, the Captain’s records said “Rather prone to carelessness. A period in a fully commissioned ship would be to his advantage.” Stuart left the ship in July 1911.
Three months later, in October 1911, he joined the HMS Dartmouth, a Town class light cruiser, as a Clerk. He was soon promoted to Acting Paymaster and Acting Interpreter in German. He spent two years on the ship, leaving on 1st September 1913, just before she was sent to the East Indies.
He immediately joined HMS Suffolk as Acting Paymaster. At the outbreak of World War I, in August 1914, HMS Suffolk searched for German commerce raiders in the Atlantic, while protecting British shipping.
On 5 August, the HMS Good Hope, a Drake-class armoured cruiser, was ordered to steam to Halifax, Canada, to join the flagship of Rear-Admiral Sir Christopher G. F. M. Cradock, commanding the Fourth Cruiser Squadron. HMS Good Hope arrived at Halifax on 14 August, and on 15 August met HMS Suffolk at sea. The two captains swopped command and changed ships and Rear Admiral Cradock and his staff, including Stuart, were transferred to HMS Good Hope, which then sailed for Bermuda.
Officers aboard HMS Good Hope, Falkland Islands, 18 October 1914
Back row 2nd from left is Stuart Watson
The ship was then employed in sweeping the West Indies and South Atlantic for enemy cruisers and raiders. Early in October, she proceeded to the Falkland Islands and on the 22nd of that month, sailed for the Pacific with instructions to find and destroy the German naval squadron commanded by elite German Admiral Graf Maximilian von Spee. Although badly outgunned and having older ships, the British Admiral Cradock understood his instructions from the Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, that he was considered to have sufficient forces for his task and that he had to engage with the clearly superior German force. On the evening of the 1st November the battle began off the central Chilean coast near the town of Coronel. By nightfall the HMS Good Hope was sunk with all hands, a total of 919 officers and enlisted men. The HMS Monmouth was also sunk with the loss of 738 lives. Not a single German died.
Stuart’s effects of £562 19s 2d were distributed to his father Dr. A. A. Watson. His medals were the 1914-15 Star, the Victory and the British War Medal.
Photo: Officers aboard HMS Good Hope - http://www.gwpda.org/naval/j0500001.htm