Daventry war hero's missing gold watch reunited with family at last

Left: Oliver Dipper sits next to his brother Oliver. Centre: the gold watch resurfaced in South Africa. Right: Oliver at Buckingham Palace before receiving his MBE
Left: Oliver Dipper sits next to his brother Oliver. Centre: the gold watch resurfaced in South Africa. Right: Oliver at Buckingham Palace before receiving his MBE

While browsing a flea market in Cape Town - the South African city overlooked by the flat-topped Table Mountain - Colonel Brad Geyser's eye was caught by a gold watch.

Flipping it over, the South African Defence Force soldier noticed it was inscribed with the words presented to RSM O C Dipper 7th Northumberland Fusiliers 1930.

Colonel Brad Geyser

Colonel Brad Geyser

Col Geyser bought the timepiece and set about trying to return it to its owner, but he needed help to trace the family of Regimental Sergeant Major Dipper.

He contacted the chairman of the fusiliers association in Northumberland, retired Major Chester Potts, via social media.

Major Potts agreed to help and he began researching. He soon found out that Oliver Charles Dipper had lived in Drayton Lane, Daventry.

Born in 1896, RSM Dipper joined the army at the outbreak of the First World War, aged 17, and he was posted to the 18th battalion of the Northumberland Fusiliers; he would later serve in the 8th battalion of the same infantry regiment.

Oliver Dipper is seated second from left in the middle row

Oliver Dipper is seated second from left in the middle row

During his time in the trenches with the 8th, RSM Dipper won the distinguished conduct medal - often considered a near miss for a Victoria Cross.

His citation reads: "At Oisy-le-Verger, on September 27, 1918, he rendered invaluable assistance to his company commander by his gallantry under heavy fire, and in assisting in directing the platoons of his company.

"At Paillencourt, on October 10, 1918, after all the officers of his company had become casualties, he took command of it and led it to its final objective."

RSM Dipper was of military stock. His father fought in the Boer War but returned home in October 1900 invalided. He joined up again in 1914, this time in the Royal Army Veterinary Corps and was subsequently wounded.

Oliver Dipper pictured left

Oliver Dipper pictured left

George Dipper, RSM Dipper's brother, served in the Northamptonshire Regiment for the duration of the war.

The gold watch was presented to RSM Dipper on St George's Day, April 23, 1930, by his officers in the 7th battalion of the Northumberland Fusiliers in Alnwick.

When World War Two broke out, Oliver was in Egypt with the 1st battalion of the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers. His wife and family were evacuated to South Africa and among their luggage was RSM Dipper's gold watch.

During their stay in Africa's southernmost country, the watch disappeared.

Now, decades after resurfacing in the flea market, the engraved timepiece has been reunited thanks to Major Potts and Col Geyser's efforts.

After reading about her father in a Daventry Express article in 2015, Oliver's daughter Dorothy Pullen was put in touch with Col Geyser.

On August 23 she was finally presented with her father's watch at the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers' HQ in the Tower of London.

"The family are very grateful for this magnificent gesture by Col Geyser and the solving of a mystery of many years," said Dorothy.

Unfortunately, Col Geyser was unable to make the ceremony.

"I am disappointed that I can't be there at the presentation, but I hope to visit the UK soon and meet Dorothy," he said.

Oliver Charles Dipper, who rose to the rank of Colonel and was awarded an MBE after the Second World War, served his country for 54 years