Major Bill Watoon (Watson/Watton/Wootton) Varzi, Italy, 1945

Discussion in 'General' started by vitellino, Apr 24, 2019.

  1. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    Hello everybody.

    I am trying to find out the identity of 'A British Army major wearing parachutist's uniform and regulation beret' (quote from The Broken Column, C.E.T. Warren and James Benson p. 197) who was in Varzi on 3 May 1945 and probably witnessed the execution of fascist Felice Fiorentini by the partisans without any form of trial.

    A reference in an Italian book quotes 'Bill Watoon, a British liason officer', who wrote an account of what happened in his memoirs.

    Any ideas of the true surname of Watoon, his regiment or where I could find a copy of his memoirs would be most appreciated.


    Edited to say I have founded another reference in The Broken Column to an American parachutist heading up a twelve-man team which parachuted into the Varzi area. He was known as 'Captain Bill'. Further edit: He was Captain William C. Wheeler on operation WallaWalla. I think I can rule him out.

    More editing: he may have been Basil W.S. Irwing, 'Bill' . Does anyone know if he wrote his memoirs?

    Final edit: It wasn't Irving. There's another thread on him on the forum. I have listened to his interview held in the IWM. He wasn't present at any execution thought he WAS the British Liason Officer in the Oltrepò where Varzi is situated from 8 March 1945 onwards. Will now send for the Italian book.
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2019
  2. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    Replying to my own thread:

    On this forum Jedburgh has posted a photo of Basil 'Bill' Irwin - see below left.

    On the same operation - Clover - as Irwin, but further east in the Piacenza area, was Major Stephen Hastings, British Liason Officer.

    I have posted a photo from an archive in the town of Pavia of the so called 'Bill Watoon' (centre) and to the right a photo of Hastings, taken in 1948. Any likenesses?

    Irwin SOE.JPG Bill Watoon.jpg stephen hastings.jpg


    I now believe that the man in the middle photo may be Maj. Harold W.'Bill' Tilman
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2019
  3. Blutto

    Blutto Plane Mad

    Irwin and Hastings show a similar hairline, however their ears are quite different. Note the longer lobes and greater upper protrusion of the ears in the Irwin photo. Watoon photo is obviously not as good and the ears might be similar to Hastings, but Watoon appears to have more of a peak (like Eddie Munster) to his hairline. There are a few more photos of Hastings here: Sir Stephen Lewis Edmonstone Hastings - National Portrait Gallery
  4. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    Thanks a lot.
    I didn't expect any likenesses between Irwin and Hastings, because Watoon appears to have been the pseudonym of EITHER Irwin OR Hastings.
    The last portrait of Hastings seems in the National Portrait Gallery seems to have a look of Watoon.
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2019
  5. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    Just to close the first part of this thread, it seems that the man in question was T/Captain William Robert Mackenzie Watson, P/89630 R.A. and SOE from Beith, Ayrshire, who was transferred from STS 26 to the Agents' List w.e.f. 1 January 1945.

    The photo in his National Archives file HS9/1564/3 bears a strong resemblance to the Italian photo in Pavia Archives.

    The next problem is, where could I find a copy of his memoirs? Nothing in IWM and I can't find him on the net. Perhaps his family has a copy (he had two children) - any ideas?


    Attached Files:

    Chris C likes this.
  6. Tony56

    Tony56 Member Patron

    Some more photos for you:
    Watson1.jpg Watson2.jpg
    vitellino and Tricky Dicky like this.
  7. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    For info on date of photo/marriage

    England & Wales, Civil Registration Marriage Index, 1916-2005
    Name: William R M Watson
    Registration Date: Jul 1940
    [Aug 1940]
    [Sep 1940]
    Registration Quarter: Jul-Aug-Sep
    Registration district: Surrey North Western
    Inferred County: Surrey
    Spouse: Irene P M A Graevenitz
    Volume Number: 2a
    Page Number: 1465

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  8. Tony56

    Tony56 Member Patron

    One more!
    Guy Hudson likes this.
  9. travers1940

    travers1940 Well-Known Member

    He appears (with brief detail) on three member trees on ancestry which confirm:

    William Watson died 1979
    Irene Watson died 2005

    Let me know if you want me message them via ancestry.
    vitellino likes this.
  10. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    I would be most grateful if you could, Travers, thank you so much.

    I am very anxious to trace a copy of these memoirs,

  11. travers1940

    travers1940 Well-Known Member

    Four messages sent today on ancestry.

    Will let you know what happens.
  12. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    Thanks a lot. I have sent you a private message with my email address.

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