Watson, Admiral Charles

Charles Watson

Watson, Admiral Charles (1714-1757) a victor of the Battle of palashi. Born in Westminster and with seafaring family tradition, Watson entered the British navy in 1728. As the nephew of the First Lord of the Admiralty, he passed rapidly through the subordinate ranks and got command in 1743. In 1747-48 Watson was sent out as commander-in-chief on the Newfoundland and North American station. In 1754, he was appointed commander-in-chief in the East Indies. In June 1756, Watson had been promoted to the rank of vice-admiral in the capacity of which he came to the Bengal waters carrying with him Lt Colonel robert clive and his small army in December 1756.

Supported by Watson's guns, Robert Clive led the re-capture of Calcutta from the control of nawab sirajuddaula who had previously ousted the British from the settlement. The fort william was taken by a combined detachment of seamen and soldiers. Then, a few days later, they conquered hughli port. After taking over Hughli Watson stormed chandannagar and drove the french out of the settlement. But his greatest achievement was his participation in a series of open and secret negotiations with the elements hostile to Sirajuddaula and finally concluding a secret pact with them for ousting the nawab in favour of mir jafar, the Mir Bakshi or Paymaster General of the nawab's army. In the process, Watson always held high his professional commitment. When Clive asked him to sign a false document to beguile umichand, an unprincipled and greedy merchant in the conspiracy, who threatened Clive that he would divulge the secrecy to the nawab unless paid handsomely, Watson refused to do so, because it was against his professional ethics. But, for Clive, ethics had little importance. He signed the document and silenced the conspirator. In the Battle of Palashi, Robert Clive mainly depended on Watson's marines that acted as the artillery.

The two victors came to blows after the conquest at palashi. Both of them became keenly interested to become the governor of the Fort William. Clive installed himself as the governor of the fort though he was far junior to Watson in rank and services. Clive threw a duel to Watson unless he recognised him as governor. Admiral Watson refused to accept the duel with a junior ranker. Frustrated and climatically exhausted Watson died in Calcutta on 16 August 1757. Though buried in Calcutta, a monument to his memory was erected in Westminster Abbey at the cost of the east india company. [Sirajul Islam]