Tasker Watkins

Tasker Watkins

honorific-prefix = The Right Honourable
name = Sir Tasker Watkins

imagesize = 150px
caption =
birth_date = birth date|1918|11|18|df=yes|
birth_place = Nelson, Wales
death_date = death date and age|2007|09|09|1918|11|18|df=yes
death_place = Cardiff, Wales
occupation = Soldier, Barrister, Lord Justice of Appeal
salary =
known_for =
networth =
website =

Sir Tasker Watkins VC GBE (18 November 1918 – 9 September 2007) was a Lord Justice of Appeal and deputy Lord Chief Justice. He was President of the Welsh Rugby Union from 1993 to 2004 and won the Victoria Cross in World War II.


The son of a coal miner, [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/wales/south_east/6985799.stm War hero Sir Tasker Watkins dies] BBC Wales News - 9 September 2007] Watkins was born in the small town of Nelson, Caerphilly.

Watkins won a scholarship to Pontypridd Boys' Grammar School, and became a teacher in London before joining The Welch Regiment when World War II broke out. [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/south_east/6985883.stm 'Superb gallantry' of Sir Tasker] BBC Wales - 9 September, 2007]

World War II

Watkins was commissioned into the Welch Regiment in 1941. A lieutenant in the 1/5th battalion, he was one officer in a group in Normandy post D-Day leading an assault on a Wehrmacht machine gun post. After all the other officers were killed in the approach, Watkins continued to lead the group and won his VC for two actions:LondonGazette
] Brendan Gallagher [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/main.jhtml?view=DETAILS&grid=&xml=/sport/2006/07/12/srbren12.xml Campaigners press for gallant Mayne to join VCs] Daily Telegraph - 12 July, 2006]

*Led a bayonet charge against 50 armed enemy infantry
*Then single-handedly took out the Nazi machine-gun post to ensure the safety of his unit

He was the first Welshman to be awarded a VC during the Second World War. His citation reads:

Wales rugby coach Graham Henry had Watkins' citation pinned up on the wall of the Welsh changing room before Six Nations encounters. Watkins' Victoria Cross is on display in the Welch Regiment Museum in Cardiff Castle.

Legal career

Watkins later achieved the rank of major, and on leaving the British Army, entered the legal profession. He was called to the bar in 1948 and became a barrister at the Middle Temple. He became a Queen's Counsel in 1965, and in 1966 served as Counsel (i.e. deputy) to the Attorney-General Sir Elwyn Jones on the tribunal into the Aberfan disaster, representing the families. [ [http://www.nuffield.ox.ac.uk/politics/aberfan/who2.htm Aberfan Disaster Archive - Witnesses examined by each Counsel at Tribunal of Inquiry] Nuffield Library, Oxford] [ [http://icwales.icnetwork.co.uk/0750expats/expats/tm_headline=aberfan--it-needn-t-have-happened&method=full&objectid=17957039&siteid=50082-name_page.html Aberfan: It needn't have happened] icWales.co.uk - October 19, 2006]

Watkins served as deputy chairman of Radnorshire Quarter Sessions between 1962 and 1971, and occupied the same position with Carmarthenshire Quarter Sessions from 1966 until 1971. He was Recorder of Merthyr Tydfil between 1968 and 1970 [Who's Who,1971 A & C Black ISBN 0713611405 p3307 ] and of Swansea during 1970 and 1971. Watkins was Leader of the Wales and Chester Circuit from 1970-71.

He was knighted in 1971 upon his appointment to the High Court bench, where he sat in the Family Division between 1971 and 1974 and the Queen's Bench Division from 1974 until 1980. He sat as Presiding Judge of the Wales and Chester Circuit between 1975 and 1980 before taking up the appointment as senior Presiding Judge for England and Wales to the Court of Appeal three years later, a post he held for eight years becoming deputy Lord Chief Justice.

Watkins chaired the Mental Health Review Tribunal, Wales Region, between 1960 and 1971 and was also chairman of the Judicial Studies Board during 1979 and 1980. He became a Privy Counsellor in 1980.

Welsh Rugby Union

Watkins played Rugby Union football as an outside-half for the Army, Cardiff RFC and Glamorgan Wanderers. He became president of the Welsh Rugby Union in 1993, overseeing the switch from the amateur era to professionalism and the move from club to regional rugby in Wales. When he stepped down on 26 September, 2004 he became the first man since Sir David Rocyn Jones in 1953 to hold office for more than one season, and his eleven years of service made him the second longest serving president in the WRU's 123 year history. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/rugby_union/welsh/3939905.stm WRU president steps down] BBC Sport - 30 July, 2004]

Watkins was appointed an honorary life vice patron of the WRU. [ [ Sir Tasker Watkins Takes Up New Post At WRU] WRU - 30 July, 2004] On announcement of his death, the Welsh team wore black armbands for their 2007 Rugby World Cup game against Canada in Nantes, France, as a tribute to the former WRU president. [http://www.wru.co.uk/1391_14748.php Sir Tasker Watkins passes away] WRU - 9 September, 2007]

Other interests

Watkins served as president of the University of Wales College of Medicine for 11 years from 1987, and was president of the British Legion in Wales from 1947 to 1968.

Appointed Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire (GBE) in 1990 and Knight of Justice of the Order of St John (KStJ) in 1998, in April 2006 he was made a Freeman of the City of Cardiff, with Lord Mayor Freda Salway describing Watkins as "one of Wales' most notable citizens." [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/south_east/4904918.stm Sir Tasker given freeman honour] BBC Wales - 12 April 2006] He was made a member of the Privy Council in 1980.

Watkins married Eirwen Evans in 1941. After falling at his home in Llandaff in August 2007, he was hospitalised at the University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff. Watkins died at the hospital on 9 September 2007. [ [http://icwales.icnetwork.co.uk/0100news/0200wales/tm_headline=welsh-hero-tasker-dies-at-88%26method=full%26objectid=19759728%26siteid=50082-name_page.html Welsh hero Tasker dies at 88] icWales.co.uk - 9 September, 2007] [ [http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/sport/rugby.html?in_article_id=480831&in_page_id=1780 Wales mourn Sir Tasker Watkins] Daily Mail - 9 September 2007] His funeral was held at Llandaff Cathedral on 15 September, and he was later cremated at Llandaff Crematorium. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/south_east/6995110.stm Hundreds for Sir Tasker funeral] BBC Wales - 15 September, 2007]

ee also

*British VCs of World War 2 (John Laffin, 1997)
*Monuments to Courage (David Harvey, 1999)
*The Register of the Victoria Cross (This England, 1997)



External links

* [http://www.guardian.co.uk/obituaries/story/0,,2165622,00.html Obituary, "The Guardian", 9 September 2007]
* [http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/obituaries/article2418759.ece Obituary, "The Times", 10 September 2007]
* [http://www.lastingtribute.co.uk/famousperson/watkins/2634761 Obituary and Public Tribute]
* [http://www.david-griffiths.co.uk/index.php?f=data_gallery&a=4 Official portrait of Tasker Watkins by David Griffiths]

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