John Watson Gibson
Sir John Watson Gibson OBE (1885–1947) was an English civil engineer, key in developing the water supply infrastructure in the former British Empire, and instrumental in the design of Mulberry Harbour used in the Normandy landings.
Early life and career
Born in 1885 in Middlesbrough and educated at the Middlesbrough School for Boys. He apprenticed at S. Pearson & Son, assisting while there in the building of new concrete jetties at the docks in Southampton, Fenit for access to Tralee in Ireland, and the new King George Dock in Kingston upon Hull.
First World War
Designated an essential skill, he was refused permission to join his local troop of the British Army on the Western front. Hence loaned by them to the Ministry of Munitions, in 1916 he went to the United States as Director General of shell and gun supply. Returning to the UK in 1917, he became controller of Aircraft Requirements and Review. For his services to his country, Gibson was granted an OBE in 1918.
After the war he specialised in reservoirs and water supply. While working on the construction of the Queen Mary Reservoir at Staines (the largest water storage reservoir in the world at that time), he bought Stanwell Place (90 acres), and the adjoining Stanhope farm (261 acres, including Hammonds farm). In 1936 the Metropolitan Water Board bought most of Gibson's estate, in a contract encompassing 346 acre. It used this land in 1947 on which to develop the King George VI Reservoir.
Following work on the Sennar Dam, he entered into partnership in 1933 with Pauling & Co., forming Gibson and Pauling (Foreign) Ltd. in 1933 to build the Jebel Aulia Dam on the White Nile in Sudan, which was the largest dam in the world at that time. On the successful completion of the Gebel Aulia Dam, Gibson became managing director of Pauling & Co., a position he held until his death in March 1947.
Second World War
At the outbreak of the Second World War, Gibson offered his services as an engineer to his country. Throughout the war, his family moved into the country, allowing Gibson to lend Stanwell Place to the United States Army High Command. It was later used for two high level meetings of the Supreme Allied Command of General Dwight D. Eisenhower held in late June and the middle of July 1944, with attendees including Henry Stimson, George Marshall, and Admiral Ernest King.
Gibson decided due to his age to change his professional focus, designing in collaboration with the British Iron and Steel Federation, two prototype steel framed prefab houses. Eventually over 30,000 BISF houses were built to house families made homeless by the war action.
Death and burial
Gibson died aged 61 in 1947. In 1948 his estate sold Stanwell Place with its residual 22 acres to the King of Iraq, to whom it still belonged in 1956; his sons still owned the residual 17 acres of Stanhope farm.
- Local List – Statement of Public Consultation. Stanwell Borough Council. December 2003.
- Susan Reynolds (1962). "A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 3". british-history.ac.uk. Retrieved 2010-01-02.
- Howard Gibson and Leo D'Erlanger, ‘Gibson, Sir John Watson (1885–1947)’, rev. Robert Sharp, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 accessed 28 April 2010
- "Stanwell mural". signalproject.com. Retrieved 2010-01-02.