Lord Ashcroft KCMG PC has had his latest “hero of the month” article published in Britain at War, the country’s best-selling military history monthly magazine.
The August issue of the magazine has a two-page write-up on the life and bravery of Chief Skipper Joseph Watt, who was awarded the Victoria Cross (VC) for outstanding bravery during the Great War.
Watt, who like his father was a fisherman, volunteered for the Patrol Service in the summer of 1914 after the outbreak of the war. After duties in the North Sea, he was posted to Italy.
Here, as the skipper of an 87-foot wooden vessel, HMS Drifter Gowanlea, he served off the heel of Italy as part of the “Otranto Barrage”, which sought to prevent enemy submarines from operating out of Cattaro, 140 miles to the north.
On the night of May 14/15 1917, the Austro-Hungarian Navy launched an all-out attack on some 47 poorly-armed drifters. Despite having only a tiny 6-pounder gun, Watt refused to surrender to a heavily-armed light cruiser. He told his eight-strong crew, “Let’s fight to the finish.”
Heavy enemy fire struck the Gowanlea and Watt was almost killed by a shell that hit the wheelhouse. Despite his vessel being badly damaged, Watt and his crew even joined in the rescue of injured men from other damaged boats. Watt was awarded the VC on August 29 1917 for his astonishing gallantry and he survived the war before returning to his native Scotland.
Lord Ashcroft’s articles for Britain at War over the past five years have been largely based on excerpts from his six books on gallantry: Victoria Cross Heroes, Special Forces Heroes, George Cross Heroes, Heroes of the Skies, Special Ops Heroes and Victoria Cross Heroes Volume II.
For the foreseeable future, Lord Ashcroft’s “hero of the month” articles will concentrate on men who were awarded the VC during the First World War. Lord Ashcroft is a military historian who has lectured extensively on courage and his various medal collections.
- Lord Ashcroft’s latest article appears in the August issue of Britain at War which is on sale now.