Personal info

  • Name: Joseph WATT
  • D.O.B: 25th Jun, 1887
  • D.O.A: 15th May, 1917
  • D.O.D: 13th Feb, 1955
  • Award: Victoria Cross
  • Occupation at time of action: Skipper, HM Drifter Gowan Lea, Royal Naval Reserve
  • Book: The Complete History - Volume 2
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Sources & Acknowledgements

The Straits of Otranto, The Adriatic 15 May 1917

15 May 1917

More details about:
The First World War 1917 

The Otranto barrage, put in place in 1916 between the heel of Italy and Corfu, was intended to prevent U-boats based at Cattaro (modern Kotor) in Southern Dalmatia from sailing out into the Mediterranean. It consisted of a fleet of 120 armed fishing boats with nets and 30 motor launches. Largely ineffectual, it served chiefly as an irritant and was attacked four times by the Austrian navy in March and April 1917. On 15 May 1917 three Austrian light cruisers engaged the barrage once more. That night it consisted of 47 drifters. Most of the little boats put up a stout resistance. The Gowan Lea was attacked by the Austrian cruiser Novara which only moved on when it assumed, incorrectly, that she was sinking.


 For most conspicuous gallantry when the Allied Drifter line in the Straits of Otranto was attacked by Austrian light cruisers on the morning of the 15th May, 1917. When hailed by an Austrian cruiser at about 100 yards range and ordered to stop and abandon his drifter the “Gowan Lea,” Skipper Watt ordered full speed ahead and called upon his crew to give three cheers and fight to the finish. The cruiser was then engaged, but after one round had been fired, a shot from the enemy disabled the breech of the drifter’s gun. The gun’s crew, however, stuck to the gun, endeavouring to make it work, being under heavy fire all the time. After the cruiser had passed on Skipper Watt took the “Gowan Lea” alongside the badly damaged drifter “Floandi” and assisted to remove the dead and wounded. 

Third Supplement to The London Gazette of 28 August 1917. 29 August 1917, Numb. 30258, p. 8985

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