Stanley Holm WATSON CBE, DSO, MC, Serbian Order of the White Eagle

Badge Number: S9925, Sub Branch: Railways, Quorn, Peterborough and State

WATSON, Stanley Holm

Service Number: Officer
Enlisted: 19 August 1914, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Last Rank: Major
Last Unit: 2nd Division Headquarters
Born: Parkside, Unley, South Australia, 24 October 1887
Home Town: Glenelg, Holdfast Bay, South Australia
Schooling: Plympton Primary and Sturt Street Advanced School, Adelaide School of Mines and University of Adelaide, South Australia
Occupation: Railways Draftsman and Engineer
Died: Natural Causes, Adelaide, South Australia, 5 May 1985, aged 97 years
Cemetery: Centennial Park Cemetery, South Australia
Memorials: Adelaide Grand Masonic Lodge WW1 Honour Board (2), Adelaide South Australian Railways WW1 & WW2 Honour Boards, Glenelg and District WW1 & WW2 Honour Board, Myrtle Bank War Memorial, Plympton District Roll of Honor, S.A.R. Engineering Branch Midland System Roll of Honour, S.A.R. Engineering Branch Midland System Roll of Honour
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World War 1 Service

19 Aug 1914: Enlisted AIF WW1, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
20 Oct 1914: Involvement AIF WW1, Lieutenant, Officer, 1st Divisional Signal Company, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1,

--- :embarkation_roll: roll_number: '6' embarkation_place: Melbourne embarkation_ship: HMAT Karroo embarkation_ship_number: A10 public_note: ''

20 Oct 1914: Embarked AIF WW1, Lieutenant, 1st Divisional Signal Company, HMAT Karroo, Melbourne
25 Apr 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Lieutenant, 1st Divisional Signal Company, ANZAC / Gallipoli
23 Jul 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Captain, 2nd Divisional Signal Company, Battle for Pozières
5 Nov 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Captain, 2nd Divisional Signal Company, 'The Winter Offensive' - Flers/Gueudecourt winter of 1916/17
1 Mar 1917: Involvement AIF WW1, Major, 2nd Divisional Signal Company, German Withdrawal to Hindenburg Line and Outpost Villages
3 May 1917: Involvement AIF WW1, Major, 2nd Divisional Signal Company, Bullecourt (Second)
31 Jul 1917: Involvement AIF WW1, Major, 2nd Divisional Signal Company, Third Ypres
4 Jul 1918: Involvement AIF WW1, Major, 2nd Divisional Signal Company, Le Hamel - Blueprint for Victory
8 Aug 1918: Involvement AIF WW1, Major, 2nd Division Headquarters, "The Last Hundred Days",

Awarded the DSO

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Stanley Holm Watson (1887-1985)

Stan Watson is famously associated with 'Watson's Pier" at ANZAC Gallipoli, which he and some of his soldiers constructed using a defused Turkish shell as a pile driver. A replica of this apparatus is held in the Army Museum of South Australia, and a miniature in the Keswick Barracks Officers Mess.  He was also famously the 'last man off' from ANZAC in the evacuation.  Stan Watson became a doyen of the Royal Australian Corps of Engineers; their annual 'Waterloo Dinner' is as much associated with Watson's exploits at Gallipoli as it is with the role of Military Engineers at the Battle of Waterloo 100 years prior.

His biography in the Australian Dictionary of Biography;

Jean P. Fielding, 'Watson, Stanley Holm (1887–1985)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 25 July 2014.

See the full article here (

Stanley Holm Watson (1887-1985), railway engineer and soldier, was born on 24 October 1887 at Parkside, Adelaide, eldest of eight children of Harry Watson, a clerk with the Hydraulic Engineers' Department, and his wife Adelaide Elizabeth, née Menz. Educated at Plympton Primary and Sturt Street Advanced schools, Stan studied engineering at the School of Mines and the University of Adelaide. In 1904 he was apprenticed in the South Australian Railways for five years as a draftsman. On 12 June 1911 he married with Catholic rites Leila Vera McBride at Clarence Park.

Having joined the 6th Field Troop of Engineers (militia) as a second lieutenant in 1910, by August 1914 he was lieutenant and commanding officer of the 28th Signalling Company, Engineers. He was appointed to the Australian Imperial Force as lieutenant commanding headquarters section, 1st Australian Divisional Signal Company, on 19 August, left for Egypt in October and reached Gallipoli on 25 April 1915. With lines established, Watson and several 2nd Australian Field Company sappers constructed the first pier at Anzac Cove: using a defused Turkish shell as a pile-driver, they completed the jetty on 18 June; it was named 'Watson's Pier'. Appointed second-in-command, and officer commanding No.1 Section, of the 2nd Divisional Signal Company on 26 July, Watson was promoted captain in November. On 11 December Brigadier General (Sir) Brudenell White gave him responsibility for the lines covering the Anzac withdrawal on the nights of 18 and 19 December. On the 20th Watson sent the final signal: 'Evacuation complete 3.45 a.m.—casualties unknown'; he then left by the last lighter. He was mentioned in dispatches for 'distinguished and gallant services' in the evacuation of Gallipoli.

Reaching France in late March 1916 with the 2nd Divisional Signal Company, Watson was attached to artillery headquarters on 18 April and took part in every 2nd Division engagement in France and Belgium. Following the Somme battle for Pozières Ridge in July and August, he was recommended for the Military Cross for his services in the Albert Area, Gallipoli and Pozières. At Flers and Fricourt during November and December he 'showed great gallantry and devotion to duty in maintaining lines and controlling linesmen' and was awarded the Military Cross. Watson commanded the 2nd Divisional Signal Company from December 1916 and was awarded the Order of the White Eagle of Serbia. Promoted major in January 1917, he followed the German retirement from Butte de Warlencourt through Bapaume to the Hindenburg line in March and April, and served in the battle of Bullecourt in May. He was mentioned in dispatches in September for his work at Bapaume and Bullecourt.

Continuously in the Somme area from March 1918, after the battle of Hamel in July Watson laid a system of cables almost to the front lines. General Sir John Monash made him responsible for communications for the battle of Amiens which commenced on 8 August. Watson received a special mention in dispatches in November and in January 1919 was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for his work on the Somme from August to 3 September 1918, especially prior to 8 August 1918. 

Discharged in January 1919, Watson rejoined the South Australian Railways. He was acting resident engineer at Bordertown and Quorn, then superintendent at Peterborough in 1922 and in Adelaide in 1924. The State commissioner of railways sent him abroad in 1928 to study train control systems before their introduction in South Australia. General traffic manager from 1935, Watson became deputy commissioner of railways in 1948 and held the post until his retirement in 1952. For his services to transport he was appointed C.B.E. in 1958. During World War II, as a lieutenant-colonel, he had been Commanding Royal Engineer in South Australia.

Predeceased by his wife and son, and survived by his two daughters, Watson died in Adelaide on 5 May 1985. After a service at St Michael's Anglican Church, Mitcham, he was buried in Centennial Park cemetery. In delivering the eulogy, Brigadier Phillip Greville concluded: 'Colonel Watson combined the steadiness of the battle-wise soldier with the intellectual discipline of the civil engineer. He was, in one sense, a simple man—simple and direct as the railway lines he built—and just as purposeful'.

A natural leader, he 'was one of the most efficient and successful commanding officers of Signals in the First World War'.