Monday, September 10, 2007

Sir Tasker Watkins, VC

I've pretty much always lived my life according to the precept. "if you're going to be a mediocrity, be the best mediocrity you can".

Not every body does however. The Welsh team wore black armbands in their opening World Cup game yesterday as a tribute to Sir Tasker Watkins, Welsh Rugby Union president for 11 years.

Born in 1918, the son of a coal miner, he won a grammar school scholarship and became a teacher in London. On joining up, he served through the Second World War, initially in the ranks but ending up as a major after being promoted in the field and winning a Victoria Cross along the way. His VC citation reads:
On 16 August 1944 at Barfour, Normandy, France, Lieutenant Watkins' company came under murderous machine-gun fire while advancing through corn fields set with booby traps. The only officer left, Lieutenant Watkins led a bayonet charge with his 30 remaining men against 50 enemy infantry, practically wiping them out. Finally, at dusk, separated from the rest of the battalion, he ordered his men to scatter and after he had personally charged and silenced an enemy machine-gun post, he brought them back to safety. His superb leadership not only saved his men, but decisively influenced the course of the battle.

After the war he read for the bar, and ended his distinguished legal career as deputy Lord Chief Justice.

A Welsh Born Icon, and as Winston Churchill said of another, "we shall never see his like again."

It is also instructive to observe in a period of declining social mobility in the UK, that the Army and the Law (scarcely considered bastions of egalitarianism) were the two institutions through which he ascended.


John said...

The position of Deputy Lord Chief Justice was created specifically for Tasker.
He used to take a pint in Llandaff - the Horse and Groom I think. He told me the tale of taking the machine gunner out with his bayonet once.
Genuinely interesting man, Da thought the earth of him.

Nick Browne said...

I know Dad rated him very highly. Were they acquainted via work? I amazed and jealous to think that you have had a drink with him.

Who paid? (Only joking.)

John said...

Actually it was The Butchers where he used to sweep them back - What was I thinking ? The Horse and Groom is in town !