WATSON, CHARLES, naval officer; b. 1714, probably in London, England, son of John Watson; m. 1741 to Rebecca Buller; d. 16 Aug. 1757 at Calcutta, India.
Charles Watson entered the navy in 1728 as a volunteer per order (roughly the equivalent of a modern naval cadet) on the Romney. He was promoted lieutenant on 23 July 1734 and post captain four years later when he was given command of the Guarland, 20 guns. His quick rise through the ranks can probably be attributed to the fact that his uncle, Sir Charles Wager, was first lord of the admiralty.
Watson’s first visit to North America was in the summer of 1738, when the Guarland was sent to protect the fishery at Canso, Nova Scotia. During the next ten years he served in the Mediterranean and with the squadron guarding the western approaches to the English Channel. He returned to North America in 1748 as rear-admiral of the blue, governor of Newfoundland, and commander-in-chief, Cape Breton, an appointment he evidently owed to the patronage of the Duke of Bedford. The War of the Austrian Succession ended in October 1748, and Watson’s main duty became the reduction of the British naval establishment at Louisbourg in preparation for the return of the fortress to France. As governor of Newfoundland he began reconstruction of the magisterial system, revoking the commissions of justices of the peace who were military officers and giving them to civilians. He also attempted to deport Irish and Scots Catholics thought to be disaffected, the presence of large numbers of Catholics having been particularly alarming to the English since the 1745 rising in Scotland.
Watson relinquished his command in 1749, and nothing is known of him for the next five years. In 1754 he was made commander-in-chief, East Indies, and he served in this capacity with great distinction, cooperating with Robert Clive in the British victories of 1756 and 1757. He became vice-admiral of the white in 1757. The climate, however, undermined his health, and he died that year at Calcutta.
PRO, Adm. 1/480; 1/917; 1/2652; 1/2658; 2/71, ff.448–53; 3/56; 3/61; 107/3; CO 194/12, ff.57–78, 167; 194/13, ff.32–33. Charnock, Biographia navalis. DNB. G.B., Adm., Commissioned sea officers, 1660–1815. W. L. Clowes et al., The Royal Navy, a history from the earliest times to the present (7v., London, 1897–1903), III. Lounsbury, British fishery at Nfld.