Monday, 19 March 2012


The legal advisor who told me about trials by combat also said that some systems of trial by combat were resolved by you fighting the judge. I said this would probably go badly if you were in Minnesota, because you'd have to fight the amazing Alan Page. (If you follow anything like as slavishly as you should, you already know about Alan Page.)

My legal adviser said that Alan Page might be sousaphone-playing, terrifying NFL player, marathon running quasi-saint, but he'd rather fight him than have had to take on the diminutive Tasker Watkins, one of Wales' scariest ever judges.

The miner's son rose to deputy Lord Chief Justice and Lord Justice of Appeal, and he spent eleven years as President of the Welsh Rugby Football Union (a role which had traditionally been held for one year). In 1944 he was awarded a VC, whose 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.

In his own words, "I just got so totally bloody angry".

1 comment:

Ellis Sareen said...

This is the legal advisor.

The brief version of the late Sir Tasker's citation omits some elements. The full version is here:

Supplement to the London Gazette of 31 October 1944, page 5015

The use of the jammed Sten gun is one thing, but perhaps most extraordinary is where he ordered his men to scatter, before charging a machine gun post himself, alone, carrying a Bren gun that must have been almost bigger than he was.