The Airmen's Stories - P/O A R Watson
Arthur Roy Watson was born in June 1921 in Basford, Nottinghamshire and educated at Long Eaton Secondary School and Nottingham High School.
He entered RAF College Cranwell in September 1939 as a Flight Cadet. The scheme was suspended after the outbreak of war and Watson enlisted in the RAFVR in October 1939 as an Airman u/t Pilot at FTS Cranwell.
After a shortened course he graduated in July 1940 with a Permanent Commission and joined 152 Squadron at Warmwell.
On 15th September Watson claimed a He111 destroyed and on the 27th a Ju88 and a Me110. He may have been shot down in this engagement and wounded. He went on sick leave and did not fly operationally again till October 1940.
He was shot down in combat with Me109's on 28th November 1940. He baled out but fell dead after his parachute failed to develop. His Spitfire, R6597, crashed near Wareham.
The diary of P/O Dennis Fox-Male contains a disturbing account of Watson's loss:
.....his number 2, Doc, was gliding out of formation with some glycol streaming from his tank.
Boy turned on his back
and followed the 109 down. Soon we heard him say that he had shot the enemy plane down into the sea. The squadron
re-grouped and soon we were ordered to return to Warmwell and land.
It was a shock to learn from one of the pilots that
Doc had bailed out but his parachute had failed to open properly and he was killed when he hit the ground.
It was a custom
in the squadron if you landed safely by parachute to give the Corporal in charge of the parachute packing section the princely
sum (in those days) of ten shillings. Our corporal, although he looked rather gormless, had a good reputation and was extremely
conscientious. We all admired and thanked him - as we had to.
He was terribly upset at Doc Watson’s failure to open his parachute and of course there was an enquiry. I have read in a book
and in Boy’s mess diary that he bungled the opening but from discussions in the squadron, after the investigation, I do not think
that this was accurate.
We were always instructed to check our parachutes first thing every day. The vital thing was to undo the 'poppers' over the flap
which covered and protected the pin in the back of the parachute. When the rip cord was pulled it jerked the pin out of its metal
holder and the parachute unfolded. It was essential to make sure that the pin was straight and not bent.
I was told that Doc’s pin was found to be bent right back - as far as you can bend your index finger- and in trying to pull the bent
pin out he had in the end ripped the whole patch out - too late for the parachute to open.
The implication is that the parachute was sabotaged but of course as stated above it was the pilot's responsibility to check the ripcord mechanism.
Watston was 19 years old. He is buried in Nottingham Southern Cemetery.