MC [Palestine 1936-39]

MC & Bar [Norway]

MC & Second Bar

From Medal Recommendation:

“24th Guards Brigade, 1st British Division, 6 American Corps

P/63088 Captain, Temporary Major David Michael Lindsay GORDON-WATSON, M.C., 1st Battalion IRISH GUARDS

On the night of 3rd February / 4th February Major GORDON-WATSON was acting Commanding Officer of the 1st Battalion IRISH GUARDS in the area of 8836 North of CARROCETO. The enemy put in a very heavy attack on this area and owing to the position on the right of the road being evacuated, the area of Battalion H.Q. became untenable.

This Officer ordered Battalion H.Q. to withdraw to another Company's area. There was really heavy fire of all sorts coming down, but with great coolness this Officer got his party up and led them personally through the enemy, between his position and the rear one. He had a very stiff fight to get back and personally shot some 12 Germans at short range with revolver and sub-machine gun. Unfortunately the rear of his party got surrounded and taken prisoner, but subsequently escaped. Major GORDON-WATSON and three others got through and arrived in their own lines with 12 prisoners in addition to those already killed or wounded.

This Officer showed the greatest personal bravery all through that night and undoubtedly his own effort in shooting his way back made others realise that it was possible. His coolness and brave example was remarked on by all and I strongly recommend that he be awarded a further bar to the Military Cross he already holds.

Signed C.A. Montagu-Douglas-Scott, Lieutenant-Colonel, Commanding 1st Battalion IRISH GUARDS

Granted an Immediate 2nd Bar to M.C.”

From The Times, Thursday, May 30, 2002:

“Brigadier D. M. L. Gordon-Watson - Obituary

Brigadier D. M. L. Gordon-Watson, OBE, MC and 2 bars, was born on February 23, 1913. He died on May 20, 2002, aged 89.

Three-time winner of the Military Cross who served in Palestine and as military attache in Washington

Michael Gordon-Watson was both intellectually and physically vigorous. His ideas on operations, training and a host of topics, military and otherwise, appeared to spring from a limitless source. He won the Military Cross three times between 1938 and 1944, took part in three amphibious landings, commanded 1st and 2nd Battalions Irish Guards but perhaps most enjoyed discussing thoroughbred horses.

He won his first MC with 1st Irish Guards in Palestine during the Second Arab Rebellion in 1938. The British Army faced the thankless task of trying to keep some semblance of peace between Arabs and Jews, with both factions taking every opportunity to attack their would-be protectors. On August 18, 1938, he was sent to the aid of an officer with a small group of men who had been ambushed while passing through a village in Samaria. Most had been wounded and one of two RAF aircraft sent to the scene shot down. Gordon-Watson led his platoon in an attack on the terrorists and brought the survivors of the ambushed group to safety. In order to prevent the ammunition and bombs in the crashed aircraft falling into terrorist hands, he made a 400-yard dash to the machine, laid a short fuse from the petrol tank, lit it and returned to cover under fire as the wreck exploded behind him.

His first experience of an amphibious landing was in early 1940 during the British attempt to forestall the German occupation of Norway. 1st Irish Guards were an element of the force landed on the northern coast with the aim of ejecting the German force which had occupied Narvik. This was achieved by May 27 but the unleashing of the Blitzkrieg in the Low Countries and France led the Allies to abandon Norway. After sailing safely out of the Navik Fjord, the requisitioned Polish motor vessel Chobry being used to evacuate the Irish Guards was bombed and set ablaze in the Norwegian Sea.

The commanding officer was killed and other officers killed or seriously wounded leaving Gordon-Watson as the senior able-bodied officer - he was a captain and the battalion intelligence officer - to take charge. Disembarkation of the guardsmen, among whom there were relatively few casualties, into the motor vessel's escorting destroyers and a sloop was accomplished with flawless discipline, as testified by one of the destroyer captains. Gordon-Watson remained on board until the last man was safely away from the Chobry, although she was burning furiously amidships after the bombs had struck. He was awarded a bar to his MC for his courage during the evacuation.

He accompanied 1st Irish Guards as battalion second-in-command on Operation Torch, the Allied invasion of French North Africa in November 1942, and saw action in the battle for the Djebel Bou Aoukaz during the advance on Tunis with 24th Guards Brigade, in April 1943. His next and most formidable amphibious landing was at Anzio, with 24th Guards Brigade in 1st British Division under command of 6th American Corps. The Germans reacted swiftly to the orders of Field Marshal Kesselring and soon had the Allied landing force hemmed in to their bridgehead.

Gordon-Watson was temporarily in command of his battalion when the enemy attacked the Buon Riposo ridge on the salient towards Campoleone on the night of February 3-4,1944. The forward position of battalion headquarters became untenable, forcing him to withdraw. The Irish Guards were then isolated but fought their way back to the main brigade position. Gordon-Watson shot 12 of the enemy at short range with his sub-machinegun but he and his tactical headquarters eventually got through having taken several prisoners. He received a second bar to his MC.

1st Irish Guards suffered so heavily at Anzio that the survivors were absorbed into the 2nd and 3rd Battalions. Gordon-Watson went as second-in-command to the 2nd Battalion which had converted to tanks for the Normandy invasion with the Guards Armoured Division. He arrived in time for the battle of the Mortain Falaise pocket, the fighting through the Bocage and eventually the relief of Brussels. He then attended the wartime short course at the Staff College, Camberley, before going to Germany, first as Brigade Major 5th Guards Brigade then as commanding officer 2nd Battalion Irish Guards .

In August 1947 he returned to the re-formed 1st Irish Guards as commanding officer in Palestine, where a new crisis had developed. By then the British Mandate had less than a year to run while the increasingly bitter struggle between Arabs and Jews was reducing the country's administration to chaos. Even so, he was able to take a small group of his officers into the Negev desert in November 1947 to shoot gazelle and ibex. There was little opportunity for such relaxation, however, and he brought his battalion out through Haifa in June 1948. He was appointed OBE for his period in command.

He went to Washington as a military attache on promotion to colonel in 1952 before taking over Regimental Headquarters Irish Guards in London in 1952. He was Brigadier (General Staff) Headquarters British Army of the Rhine from 1959.

David Michael Lindsay Gordon-Watson was the only son of the eminent surgeon Sir Charles Gordon-Watson. He was educated at Downside and Christ Church, Oxford, where he read classics and from where he received a direct commission into the Irish Guards in 1934.

After leaving the Army in 1963, he farmed near Cranbourne, Dorset, and ran a small thoroughbred stud. His younger daughter Mary won a gold medal in the three-day team event on his horse Cornishman V at the Munich Olympics in 1972, an occasion which gave him and his family great satisfaction. He served on the Dorset County Council for some years and hunted regularly in Leicestershire until into his sixties.

He married Thalia Gordon in 1942. She survives him with their three sons and two daughters.”

Click here to view 1Bn group photo, Italy, 1944

Click here to view 1Bn group photo, Chelsea Barracks, 1944

Quis Separabit

Sources: The Times

Photos: IG Journal, 19?, 1954