Herbert Gilles Watson

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Herbert Gilles Watson
Born (1889-03-30)30 March 1889
Caversham, New Zealand
Died 29 March 1942(1942-03-29) (aged 52)
Victoria, Australia
Allegiance British Empire
Service/branch Aviation
Rank Captain
Unit No. 4 Squadron AFC
Awards Distinguished Flying Cross
Other work Horse breeder

Captain Herbert Gilles Watson was a World War I flying ace credited with 14 aerial victories. He was the highest scoring New Zealand born ace in the Australian Flying Corps, and the fourth highest scorer in his squadron.[1][2]

Although born in New Zealand, Watson was a clerk[3] working in Sydney, Australia at the outbreak of war.[4] He enlisted in No. 2 Troop of the Australian Army Signal Corps on 28 October 1914.[3] He left Australia in December 1914, sailing for the Middle East; he trained in Egypt. He served at Gallipoli in 1915, and was medically evacuated with wounds, to England.[3]

Watson transferred to the Royal Flying Corps in 1917, and was trained in England. On 5 February 1918, he was assigned to 4 Squadron AFC as a Sopwith Camel pilot. He drove an Albatros D.V down out of control for his first victory, on 19 April 1918.[5] He steadily accumulated triumphs, shooting down eight aircraft by the end of June. Watson was subsequently awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) in mid-July.[6] His final tally was three enemy observation balloons destroyed, including one set afire; four enemy fighters destroyed; an enemy observation plane destroyed in conjunction with Lieutenant Elwyn King; four enemy fighters and an observation plane driven down out of control. As he completed his string of wins, he was appointed a flight commander with the rank of captain.[5]

Postwar, Watson became a horse breeder in Victoria.[5] He returned to service in the Royal Australian Air Force during early World War II.[3] He died on 29 March 1942 in Victoria, Australia; his will named his widow, Rosalie Grace Watson, as executor of his estate.[7]

Honors and awards[edit]

Text of citation for Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC)

Lt. Herbert Gillis Watson (Australian Flying Corps).
Whilst on offensive patrol he encountered several Pfalz scouts, one of which he shot down. He has also in three weeks shot down four enemy machines and destroyed a balloon, attacking the latter at 6,000 feet, following it down to 1,000 feet, when it burst into flames.[8]


  1. ^ http://www.theaerodrome.com/aces/nzealand/watson2.php Retrieved on 10 June 2010.
  2. ^ Shores et al (1990), pp. 376–377.
  3. ^ a b c d http://www.theaerodrome.com/aces/nzealand/attestation/watson2.php Retrieved on 11 June 2010.
  4. ^ Shores et al (1990), p. 376.
  5. ^ a b c Shores et al (1990), p. 377.
  6. ^ Newton (1996), p. 59.
  7. ^ (Victoria Gazette, 27 May 1942) http://gazette.slv.vic.gov.au/images/1942/V/general/194.pdf Retrieved 9 February 2011.
  8. ^ (Supplement to the London Gazette, 3 August 1918) http://www.london-gazette.co.uk/issues/30827/supplements/9204 Retrieved on 11 June 2010.


  • Newton, Dennis (1996). Australian Air Aces: Australian Fighter Pilots in Combat. Fyshwick: Aerospace Publications. ISBN 1-875671-25-0. 
  • Shores, Christopher; Franks, Norman; Guest, Russell (1990). Above the Trenches: A Complete Record of the Fighter Aces and Units of the British Empire Air Forces, 1915-1920. London: Grub Street. ISBN 0-948817-19-4. OCLC 22113328.