P/O William Charles Watling (4194)

William Charles Watling (4194) was born in Middlesborough on 22nd February 1920 but his family later settled in Guernsey and he attended Elizabeth College there from 1936 to 1939. He excelled at Athletics, Cricket, Hockey and Football.

He entered the RAF College, Cranwell in September 1939 as a flight cadet. The course was suspended on the outbreak of war and he was transferred to the RAFVR as an Airman u/t Pilot, but still at Cranwell.

P/O W C Watling

After completing his flying training, he graduated with a Permanent Commission on 14th July 1940 and joined 92 Squadron at Pembrey on the 15th. He was then posted straight to 5 OTU Aston Down to convert to Spitfires and did not return to the 92 squadron till 2nd August.

He claimed a share in the destruction of a Ju88 on 14th August. He was shot down in combat with enemy aircraft over East Guldeford near Rye on 9th September in Spitfire P9372 and baled out, badly burned on face and hands. The official record is:

On 1940-09-09, Pilot W C Watling (Pilot Officer, RAF) with service number 44186, flew a Spitfire I with serial P9372 for this duty: Patrol. His mission was not completed. As part of 92 squadron he was airborne at 16.30 from Biggin Hill with the instructions that the squadron was to patrol Canterbury with 41 squadron’s spitfire up to nearby Maidstone in Kent. The official Air Ministry (RAF Historical Branch) narrative later told how 41 and 92 squadrons ‘took the first shock’ of the incoming German attack over Kent and Sussex, a force comprising ‘a large formation of bombers escorted by Me109s’. Somewhere and somehow in the whirling melee that followed Watling’s spitfire was hit and set ablaze at around 20 000 feet over the Sussex harbour town of Rye. Watling was forced, with no other option, than to bale out and, leaving P9372 to its fate, he drifted down to land in the sea of Winchelsea Beach from where he was eventually rescued suffering from bad burns to his face and hands.

Spitfire P9372 with Pilot Officer W C Watling on 9th Sept 1940

Returning to flying after recovering from his burns Watling probably destroyed a Me109 on 2nd November and damaged another on 1st December.

He was killed on 7th February 1941, still with 92 squadron. Two Spitfires, including Watling in R6924, took off from Manston in the morning for a weather test. Visibility was extremely bad and his aircraft flew into high ground near Deal. Watling was 20 years old and is buried in St. Mary Cray Cemetery, Orpington, Kent. He was recorded as having been killed in a flying accident.

Going back to his time at Elizabeth College he was a prolific and very successful sports player. He entered College in 1936 and gained his School Certificate the following year and Higher Certificate in 1938. He became a prefect in 1937. He played for the football 1st XI from 1936 to 1938 together with being awarded his colours and was captain in 1938. In hockey he played from 1937 to 1939 again gaining colours in the last two years and secretary in his last year. He was part of the Town house gym team and was boxing middleweight champion in 1938-39.

He was even more successful in athletics where he was part of the school team for three years, colours in all three years, secretary in 1938 and captain in 1939. He held the school record for the 220 yards in 1939. In the inter-collegiate meeting he set a new record in the 220 yards with 24.4 sec and in the 100 yards with 10.2 sec. He equalled the record for the quarter mile (440 yards) in 54 sec which he had won for three years and was the senior champion in both 1937 and 1939. In 1937 he won the ‘throwing the cricket ball’ event with a throw of 93 yards and nearly hitting the pavilion.

Cricket was also a sport he excelled at, playing in all three summers from 1937 to 1939, gaining colours in each year and captain in 1939. In 1937 and 1938 he was the recipient of the Dr Robinson’s Bowling Belt and in 1939 he was awarded the Royal Irish Cup for batting. Incredibly he took five or more wickets on 17 occasions. His exploits were:

1937  

EC                104                                   GICC                     86-8             12-3-32-7

EC                203-7           103*             GICC                      80                11-2-29-7

EC                61                19                FW Mourants          61                13-3-26-3

EC                126-2                               Pilgrims                  97                12-3-25-3         

EC               139-6           49                Commercial Lge      67                9.2-2-25-5   

EC                95                                    Pilgrims                  124-5           12-5-19-1         

EC                26-2                                 GICC                      45                8-2-17-3         

EC                73                                    2nd Bn Sherwood F  113               15-6-32-7         

EC                137-4                               GICC                      83                10.3-3-17-6 

EC                106-5                               FW Mourant            158-6           14-1-39-2         

EC                128               20                HMS Nelson            101               12-2-49-3         

EC                126                                   Vic Coll                   156               18-4-70-2         

EC                111-0                               GICC                      106-8           11-3-23-0         

EC                137-8                               Commercial lge      109-3           8-0-22-0         

EC                254               47                King Edward school 264-4           23-3-76-1         

EC                139               56*               Taunton school       113-9           15-1-43-4         

EC                121                                   Vic Coll                   101               14.4-6-16-3 

EC                154-0                               OEs                        156-6           19-4-48-3         

In the players profiles in the school magazine his bowling was described as unplayable at times.

1938

1st in 400 yards in win over Vic Coll by 50 -13 pts

EC                155-8           65*               Sherwood Forrests  61                8-5-6-5

EC                181-2d          83*               GICC                      42                9-3-9-2

EC                64                6                  FW Mourant            124-7           8-1-37-1

EC                162-4d          23*               GICC                      154-5           13-2-42-0

EC                101-7           5                  GICC                      147               19-4-53-5

EC                108               0                  Commercial Lge      120               14-4-41-5

EC                181-2d          17                Pilgrims                  101-9           13-3-24-4

EC                174               12                GICC                      104-7           12-4-35-2

EC                72                4                  FW Mourant            60                14-5-22-3

EC                135               14                Vic Coll                   70                14.4-7-14-6

EC                163-9           50                GICC                      152-9d          11-2-35-3

EC                188               64                King Edward school 68                12-5-17-3

EC                167               40                Tauntons school     112               15-6-33-8

EC                78                1                  Vic Coll                   89                15-4-30-6

1939

1st in 100 yards, 1st in 400 yards (equal record 54 sec) in EC win over VC by 52-11 pts

EC                169-6           60                Royal Irish Fus        87                10-1-16-6

EC                123-8d          57*               GICC                      63                5-0-14-3

EC                219-3d          15                Pilgrims                  102               11-4-27-2

EC                144               3                  FW Mourant            127-5           11-3-35-1

EC                133-8d          0*                GICC                      54                13-7-10-7

EC                147-3           86*               Commercial Lge      135               14-2-34-6

EC                70                4                  GICC                      95-4             8-1-28-1

EC                64                0                  Commercial Lge      42                8-3-21-7

EC                98                8                  FW Mourant            85                11-1-12-5

EC                180               0                  Vic Coll                   35                8-1-19-6

EC                43-1   aban   11*               GICC                      116-6d          18-7-42-2

EC                109               32                King Edward school 44                9-4-14-1

EC                163               23                Tauntons school     31                11-3-14-1

EC                109               8                  Vic Coll                   103               17-4-35-2

He was described as one of the most outstanding athletes the college has produced. Besides captain of cricket, football, and hockey he was senior athletics champion, held the 100 yards and 220 yards records and equalled the 440 yards record. He was middleweight boxing champion and an enthusiastic member of the music society, and gained 6th place on entrance to Cranwell in 1939.

He belonged to the OTC, was a member of the chess club in 1939, choral society in 1938 and 1939. He left school in July 1939 and took up his place at Cranford.

Lt Col Rule Maxwell Glasse Wetherall (3216)

Rule Maxwell Glasse Wetherall was an older casualty of the war as he had been a student at the College from 1909 in the junior department to 1919 being 38 when he was killed early in the conflict. He was a member of the 2nd Battalion of the Northampton Regiment rising to Lt Colonel. There is confusion about his names. The military have it as Grant but the College admissions have it as Glasse. The latter is much more plausible as that was his mother’s name.

Known as Max he played cricket for a couple of years. His record is;

1918

EC                53-4                                 Castle Cornet         119               2 for 31

EC                54-9             5                  Royal Garrison Art. 73                0 for 3

EC                92-5                                 Royal Garrison Art. 88                3 for 18

EC                74-7             6                  P de la Mare XI       158-8

EC                48                0                  Harding XI              66

EC                185               1*                Vic Coll                   64 and 55-2 0 for 10

1919

EC                112-3                               Royal Gsy Light Inf 30

His military involvement is well documented. He was active in holding positions in northern France during the evacuation of Dunkirk.

Withdrawal:  On 25th May 1940 at 1800 hrs the 58th Battalion withdrew to Nerville St Vaast and was heavily bombed. Fortunately, there were no casualties. Just after 2200 hrs the Battalion now commanded by Major RMG Wetherall (sic) occupied a position 1.5 miles south of Nerville St Vaast. No sooner had the position been occupied than orders were received to move with the greatest possible speed to Douai. Half of the Battalion was loaded onto ‘A’ Escelon vehicles which proceeded to Douai whilst the remainder moved by march route to be picked up on a second lift by ‘A’ Echelon transport. After a hot meal the Battalion took up defensive positions of 5 bridges, but at 2100 hrs 24th May was ordered to withdraw, this time to Seclin, just south of Lille. A day was spent at Seclin reorganising and standing by ‘to move at ½ hr notice’. At 0330 26th May we moved off by march route to Templemars on the Lille-Seclin road, where we picked up TCVs (troop carrying vehicles) and in them moved towards St Eloi. At Messines the convoy came under fire; after debussing the journey was continued on foot reaching St Eloi at 2000 hrs.

Holding the canal and railway:   The next defensive position was on the Ypres-Comines canal, facing north-east; right was ‘B’ company; centre ‘D’ company; left ‘A’ company. Battalion HQ details forming the reserve. During the night the FDLs (Fast Deployment Logistics) were moved forward to the line of the railway to conform with the position held by the 150th Brigade on the left. No contact was made with the enemy during the night. During the afternoon of 27th May ‘B’ and ‘D’ companies gained contact with the enemy and managed to prevent infiltration while ‘A’ company had two of its forward positions overrun. By 1630 hrs touch had been lost with the 150th Brigade on the left of ‘A’ company and a section of carriers under 2nd Lt RCR Roche was moved forward to protect the left flank. The position of ‘B’ and ‘D’ companies’ fronts grew serious and by 2000 hrs the enemy attacked strongly and drove back the Battalion on the right. ‘B’ and ‘D’ companies had to give ground and occupied positions on a ridge which was some 400 yards north-east of Battalion HQ. ‘A’ company held their position and in fact the Battalion front merely pivoted on ‘A’ company. In order to stabilize the position about 40 men from Battalion HQ personnel and stragglers from other units were taken forward by the second in command (Major Watts) and dug in alongside ‘B’ and ‘D’ companies.

The Brigadier left Brigade H.Q. to visit battalions and to impress the C.O.’s that there must be no withdrawal from the positions now held as the Brigadier had been informed by G.O.C that 5 Div MUST hang on in order to protect the northern flank of the remainder of the British Expeditionary Force which was beginning a withdrawal to the coast. The 2nd Northamptons were next visited, Battalion HQ in a farm a short distance south-east of St. Eloi on the St. Eloi – Warneton road. Maj R.M.G. Wetherall (sic), who was in command, appeared to have a good grasp of the situation and was unruffled. The Brigadier discussed the arrangements to be made for sending out patrols across the Ypres-Comines canal which was now the forward defensive line.

Counter attack;      on 28th May at dawn ‘B’ and ‘D’ companies attacked in an attempt to regain their position on the canal banks. Largely owing to inadequate artillery support and strong enemy opposition the attack failed and ‘B’ and ‘D’ companies were forced to consolidate near their start line. Both companies had casualties from mortar and artillery fire. The Commanding Officer Major RMG Wetherall (sic) went off to visit the right forward company and was killed. The position grew rapidly worse and by 0830 hrs both ‘B’ and ‘D’ companies had so few men left unwounded that it was purely a question of time how long they could maintain their positions. ’A’ company had several casualties and was in close contact with the enemy.

The final enemy attack:    Major Watts, who had taken over command, left to inform the Brigade Commander of the position. During his absence a very strong enemy attack came in between ‘A’ and ‘B’ companies and broke through to Battalion HQ. A further attack came in on ‘D’ company’s right flank. As the CO returned his carrier was knocked out by an anti-tank gun and he was, by this time, covering the whole area. The enemy was firmly entrenched on the ridge and on their favour. ‘A’ company was completely cut off from the rest of the Battalion and continued to fight until overwhelmed by sheer force. A mere trickle of 40 NCOs and men were able to get out from this position when the Battalion was ordered to withdraw and the small force moved by military transport to Driridders.

Lt Col RMG Wetherall with the boxing team

Lieutenant Colonel RULE MAXWELL GLASSE WETHERALL 15089, Cdg. 2nd Bn., Northamptonshire Regiment who died age 39 on 28 May 1940
Son of Henry Rule Wetherall and Rita Cecilia Glasse Wetherall; husband of Margaret Evelyn Wetherall, of Moor Park, Surrey.
Remembered with honour in Oosttaverne Wood Cemetery, Belgium