Distinguished Service Order, GV, 1914 Star, with copy clasp, British War and Victory Medal, with MiD Oakleaf, Lt Colonel Robert Algernon Briscoe Ponsonby Watts, Somerset Light Infantry, commanding officer of 22nd Artist Rifles, London Regiment. In WW2 he was an Intelligence Liasion Officer with the Ministry of Economic Warfare which oversaw Special Operations Executive.
Swing mounted as worn on original delicate silk ribbons, the DSO top bar being adapted into a “slider bar” to facilitate mounting, the 1914 bar is not original, with the BWM backwards to display the design. Some slight chipping to reverse of DSO but otherwise very good condition on the white enamel arms, having been mounted for wear.
1914 Star impressed: “Lieut: R. A. B. P. Watts. Som: L.I.”, Pair impressed: “Lt. Col. R. A. B. P. Watts.”
With the group is curious handmade wooden toy of a sailor, about 45mm in height, with a very old tag that reads: “Given to R.B.P. Watts, by H.R.H. Duchess of Albany, Claremont Esher Nov 17 Dec 18 / 14”
Claremont, the Mansion in Esher, Surrey was purchased by Queen Victoria in 1900 for her 4th and youngest son Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany, the gift being from his wife, Princess Helena of Waldeck and Pyrmont, the Duchess of Albany.
During the war the Charitable Duchess of Albany had most of Claremont converted into a sanatorium for convalescent officers, so it appears she had visited him on one of the few occasions during the war he was invalided home.
Award of the D.S.O. announced in the Supplement to the London Gazette, 3rd February 1920, reading:
“The King has been graciously pleased to approve of the under mentioned rewards, on the recommendation of the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Allied Forces, for distinguished service in connection with Military Operations in Murmansk, North Russia. Dated 11th November 1919-
AWARDED THE DISTINGUISHED SERVICE ORDER – Capt Robert Algernon Briscoe Ponsonby Watts, Som. L.I.”
Robert Algernon Briscoe Ponsoby Watts, was born on 20th April 1887, being commissioned on 4th May 1907 shortly after his 20th Birthday.
The Field Newspaper, 29th June 1907, shows him playing Cricket for 2nd Battalion Somerset Light Infantry, where he managed 23 runs not out on 20th June 1907 whilst playing against the Royal Navy Barracks.
He held the permanent rank of Major from 18th July 1926 and retired from the Somerset Light Infantry on 3rd August 1927 with the Brevet of Colonel, late Territorial Army.
The Broad Arrow, 6th February 1914, hints at his selection to be posted for service in North Russia following the war:
“PRINCE ALBERT’S (SOMERSET LIGHT INFANTRY) – Lieut R.A.B.P. Watts is seconded whilst studying the Russian Language; 10th Jan”
When the war broke out, as a Lieutenant with the Somerset Light Infantry he was posted to France with the “Old Contemptibles”. He disemarked in France on 27th October 1914, joining the 1st Battalion Somerset L.I. and being posted to “B” Company.
Promoted to Captain on 10th June 1916, London Gazette 19th June 1915.
Having seen extensive service in the last year, he was admitted to hospital suffering from Shell Shock, being discharged on 27th November 1915 from Millbank Military Hospital, London.
After further service in France with 1st Battalion, he ended up back at Millbank Hospital being discharged on 26th September 1917 suffering from Appendicitis.
He Married Alice Christine Barker-Hahlo, daughter of Major Hemon Barker-Hahlo in Kensington during 1926.
Bath Chronicle 1st May 1937:
“Major R. A. B. P. Watts, D.S.O. (Lieut-Colonel and Bt-Colonel Territorial Army), Somerset L.I., ceases to belong to the Reserve of Officers, having attained the age limit.”
He got himself into some trouble for assailing some poor Policeman due to stress in WW2, Yorkshire Evening Post 6th February 1940 reports:
“COLONEL APOLOGIES – HIGH HANDED CONDUCT TO POLICEMEN
Colonel Robert ALgernon Ponsonby Watts, Liaison Officer attached to the Ministry of Economic Warfare, of Kenginston, apologised at West London Police Court today for what he described as his ‘high-handed manner and quite indefensible conduct to two police officers.’
Arrested on a warrant after he had failed to attend the court to answer a summons for driving his car without insurance, Watts was fined £5 with 6 Guinea costs, He was also disqualified for a month.
Mr C. M. Melville, prosecuting, said Watts was stopped by Police Officers in Cromwell Road, Kensington, and asked for his driving license and insurance certificate.
‘A SWOLLEN-HEADED LOT’
He refused, saying: ‘I am on important business for the Ministry of Economic Warfare. There is a notice on the windscreen. Can’t you read? What’s more you are detaining me. To ____(Hell?) with you; I will show you nothing.’
He eventually accepted a form of warning to produce his insurance certificate at Bow Street, but failed to do so.
Mr Melville added that when the officers called at his house, Watts refused to listen to what they had to say. he made a number of remarks such as: ‘I am not going to produce my certificate to a swollen-headed lot like you. To ____ (Hell?) with you. I will have you dressed down.’
Watts was summoned but failed to attend, so a warrant was issued.
After Watts had tendered his apology to the court, Mr Charles Doughty, K.C., defending, said that the man had been in a state of some nervous trouble because he had been grossly overworking himself at the Ministry.
Imposing the fine the magistrate said the Colonel had behaved in an extraordinary manner for a man in his position.”
Lt Col Watts died during 1963 in Okehampton, Devon.