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Biographical entry Watkins, Sir Tasker (1918 - 2007)

Hon FRCS 1992; VC 1944; GBE 1990; KStJ 1998.

18 November 1918
Nelson, Glamorgan, Wales
9 September 2007
Cardiff, Wales


Sir Tasker Watkins was a war hero, holder of the Victoria Cross, Deputy Chief Justice for England and Wales from 1988 to 1993, and an honorary fellow of the College. He was born in Nelson, Glamorgan, on 18 November 1918, the son of a mining engineer. He won a scholarship to Pontypridd County School, where he played rugby football, and was studying to become a commercial attaché when the war broke out.

He enlisted into the Welch Regiment and rose to become a lieutenant in command of a company, which was ordered to attack the railway at Bafour, near Falaise, under intense fire. He charged two German posts, killing and wounding the occupants with his Sten gun, and went on to attack an anti-tank gun emplacement when his Sten jammed, so he threw it into a German’s face, and finished him off with his revolver. His company, now reduced to about 30, was now counterattacked by some 50 Germans. Watkins led a bayonet charge which wiped out many of the enemy and then attempted to withdraw round the enemy flank, but was challenged by a German position. Ordering his men to scatter, he charged the post with a Bren gun, silenced it, and led the remnants of his company back to headquarters, having saved the lives of half of his men. For his valour he was decorated with the Victoria Cross and promoted to major.

After the war he took up the law. He was called to the Bar in 1948, took silk in 1965 and in 1971 joined the Bench as a judge. He enjoyed a distinguished legal career as Judge of the High Court, Lord Justice of Appeal, and Deputy Chief Justice for England and Wales from 1988 until he retired in 1993. Among his duties was to act as counsel during the enquiry into the Aberfan disaster.

He was president of the Welsh Rugby Union from 1993 until 2004.

He married Eirwen Evans in 1941 and they had two children, a son, who died in 1982, and a daughter, Mair. He died in the University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff, on 9 September 2007.

Sources used to compile this entry: [The Times 10 September 2007; The Independent 10 September 2007; The Guardian 10 September 2007].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England