Double signed VC First Day Envelope
Double signed VC First Day Envelope
William Speakman-Pitt, VC (born 21 September 1927) is a British recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. He was the first man to receive a VC from Queen Elizabeth II. He is one of the five living VC holders.
He was born and raised in Altrincham, England. He was 24 years old and a private in the Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment), British Army, attached to the 1st Battalion, King's Own Scottish Borderers during the Korean War when the following deed took place at United Hill, for which he was awarded the VC. Although his award was made by King George VI, Speakman was the first VC invested by Queen Elizabeth II.
On 4 November 1951 in Korea, when the section holding the left shoulder of the company's position had been seriously depleted by casualties and was being overrun by the enemy, Private Speakman, on his own initiative, collected six men and a pile of grenades and led a series of charges. He broke up several enemy attacks, causing heavy casualties and in spite of being wounded in the leg continued to lead charge after charge. He kept the enemy at bay long enough to enable his company to withdraw safely.
Press reports of the time reported that Private Speakman began throwing bottles at the enemy after running out of grenades. The bottles were in fact beer bottles sent to the line for platoon consumption (40 men-approx 4 per man). By the time the platoon were attacked, the bottles were empty, thus constituting suitable weaponry.
He later achieved the rank of sergeant and served in Malaya (with the SAS) Borneo and Radfan. Speakman is a living recipient. His Victoria Cross is displayed in the National War Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh Castle, Scotland. He was interviewed for the 2006 television docudrama Victoria Cross Heroes which also included archive footage and dramatisations of his actions.
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. In World War II, he was awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest British award for gallantry in the face of the enemy. A war hero who was prominent in the law and in Rugby Union, Watkins was described as The Greatest Living Welshman.
Watkins was born in the small town of Nelson, Glamorgan.He won a scholarship to Pontypridd Boys' Grammar School. In 1931 he moved with his parents to Dagenham in east London. He attended school in Romford where he captained the cricket and football teams and played rugby. After leaving school he worked for export agents and a halibut oil company and became a teacher in London.
Following the outbreak of World War II, Watkins joined the British Army as a private in October 1939. After serving for a year as a private he was sent for officer training and was commissioned into the Welch Regiment on 17 May 1941 as second lieutenant. He was given the service number 187088
A lieutenant in the 1/5th Battalion, Welch Regiment, he was one officer in a group in Normandy after D-Day, leading an assault on a German Army machine gun post. After all the other officers were killed in the approach, Watkins continued to lead the group and won his VC for leading a bayonet charge against 50 armed enemy infantry and then single-handedly took out a machine-gun post to ensure the safety of his unit.
He was the first Welsh member of the Army to be awarded a VC during the Second World War. His citation read: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.
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 Lord Ashcroft Gallery in the Imperial War Museum.
Watkins later achieved the rank of major, and on leaving the Army, studied law. He was called to the bar (became a barrister) at the Middle Temple in 1948. He became a Queen's Counsel in 1965, and in 1966 served as Counsel to the Tribunal on the inquiry into the Aberfan disaster.
Watkins served as deputy chairman of Radnorshire Quarter Sessions between 1962 and 1971, and of Carmarthenshire Quarter Sessions from 1966 until 1971. He was Recorder of Merthyr Tydfil between 1968 and 1970 and of Swansea during 1970 and 1971. He was Leader of the Wales and Chester Circuit from 1970–71.
In 1971, he was appointed to the High Court bench, where he sat in the Family Division between 1971 and 1974, and thereafter in the Queen's Bench Division. He was a Presiding Judge of the Wales and Chester Circuit from 1975 until he was promoted to the Court of Appeal (receiving the customary appointment to the Privy Council) in 1980. He became the first Senior Presiding Judge in 1983. Lord Lane appointed him Deputy Chief Justice in 1988, a post in which he continued to serve in under Lane's successor as Lord Chief Justice, Lord Taylor of Gosforth, until retiring from the bench in 1993.
Watkins was a chairman of the Mental Health Review Tribunal, Wales Region, between 1960 and 1971 and was also chairman of the Judicial Studies Board during 1979 and 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. He stepped down on 26 September 2004 as the first man since Sir David Rocyn Jones in 1953 to hold office for more than one season. His 11 years of service made him the second longest serving president in the WRU's 123-year history.
Watkins was also chairman, President of Glamorgan Wanderers, and patron until his death. Watkins is now honoured by Glamorgan Wanderers as their First XV team shirt has the letters STW-VC (Sir Tasker Watkins VC) in a green box on the right shoulder. The Wanderers also have a working model statue of Watkins in their club house donated by Llantwit Major based sculptor Roger Andrews. It stands in a corner that has been called 'Tasker's Corner' by members of the club. Watkins has been called "The most influential Welshman of the late 20th century."
Watkins was appointed an honorary life vice patron of the WRU. 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.
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.
Watkins was once asked if he would like to become a member of parliament and was even told he could make it to be Prime Minister. Upon his acceptance a safe seat would be found for him. However Watkins turned this offer down.
After falling at his home in Llandaff in August 2007, Watkins was hospitalised at the University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff. Watkins died at the hospital on 9 September 2007 His funeral was held at Llandaff Cathedral on 15 September, and he was later cremated at Thornhill Crematorium.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Tasker Watkins was born at Nelson, Glamorgan, on November 18 1918 and educated at Pontypridd Grammar School. After the outbreak of war he served in the ranks from October 1939 until May 1941, when he was granted an emergency commission as a second lieutenant, the Welch Regiment.
In 1943 he attended the Advanced Handling and Fieldcraft School at Llanberis, Caernarfonshire, then worked as an instructor in the rifle wing of the school. He was posted to 103 Reinforcement Group in Normandy in June 1944, joining the 1/5th Company of the Welch Regiment the next month.
Tasker Watkins was awarded a Victoria Cross for his conduct during the North-West Europe Campaign of 1944-45.
The battalion had been ordered to attack objectives near the railway at Bafour, about five miles west of Falaise, as part of the move to trap the Fifth and Seventh German Armies in the Falaise "pocket".
Watkins's company had to cross open cornfields containing a number of booby traps, and while doing so came under heavy machine-gun fire from posts in the corn, as well as being targeted by an 88mm gun.
When heavy casualties slowed the advance of the Welch, Lieutenant Watkins found himself the only officer left, and put himself at the head of his men. Although subjected to short-range German fire, he charged two enemy posts in turn, killing or wounding the occupants with his Sten gun.
On reaching his objective he found an anti-tank gun manned by a German soldier. At that vital moment his Sten gun jammed, so he threw it into the German's face and shot him with his pistol before the man had a chance to recover. Immediately after this the company, now down to 30, was counter-attacked by 50 Germans. Once again Watkins led a bayonet charge that resulted in the destruction and dispersal of the enemy.
The battalion had now been given orders to withdraw, but this could not be passed on to Watkins's company as its radio had been destroyed. He and his men thus found themselves alone and surrounded by enemy in fading light.
Watkins tried to lead his company back to rejoin the battalion by moving round the flanks of the enemy position through the corn. While going through the cornfield, however, he was challenged by an enemy post at close range. Ordering his men to scatter, he charged the post with a Bren gun and silenced it. Then he led the remnants of his company back to battalion headquarters.
Watkins's citation recorded that "his superb gallantry and total disregard for his own safety during an extremely diffcult period were responsible for saving the lives of his men and had a decisive influence on the course of the battle" - which resulted in the capture of 50,000 German prisoners and 10,000 enemy killed.
He was promoted from lieutenant to major on the field. After recovering in hospital from a leg wound he went home on leave, taking a bus from Cardiff to his home village, near Mountain Ash, Glamorgan. He arrived unnoticed. Interviewed subsequently, all he would say about the action was that the men with him were Welsh, and "I am proud of that".
Watkins was decorated with the Victoria Cross by King George VI at Buckingham Palace on March 8 1945, after which he worked as an instructor at 164 Officer Cadet Training Unit.
Demobbed in 1946, he read for the Bar. He was called by Middle Temple in 1948 and started practising in common law on the Wales and Chester Circuit. After taking Silk in 1965 he moved to chambers at No 1 Crown Office Row in the Temple, where to begin with he would often spend the night on a camp bed.
An economical and persuasive advocate, Watkins was deputy counsel to the Attorney-General, Sir Elwyn Jones, at the Aberfan Disaster Inquiry in 1966. In his closing address he observed with force and accuracy that the subject of tip stability had received less consideration than any other aspect of coal mining.
He also prosecuted in a number of cases involving Welsh extremists, including the Free Wales Army trial in 1969, which followed the discovery of a plot to attack Caernarfon Castle and assassinate Prince Charles.
As chairman of the Welsh branch of the Mental Review Tribunal from 1960 until 1971, Watkins headed the inquiry into the ill-treatment of mentally ill patients at Farleigh Hospital in Somerset. His report told a grim story of self-satisfaction and set attitudes at all levels of the staff, and recommended a code of conduct for nurses.
Watkins was deputy chairman of Radnor Quarter Sessions from 1962 to 1971. He was Recorder of Merthyr Tydfil from 1968 to 1970, and of Swansea in 1970-71, when he was also Leader of the Wales and Chester Circuit.
He was appointed a Judge of the High Court in the Family Division in 1971 - and that year released a fraudster from prison after hearing of the man's gallantry in diving into a fast-flowing river to save a four-year-old girl.
He transferrred to the Queen's Bench Division in 1974, and from 1975 to 1980 was Presiding Judge on the Wales and Chester Circuit. He was promoted to the Court of Appeal in 1980.
In 1982 Watkins headed a working party set up by Lord Lane, then the Lord Chief Justice, which proposed changes in Crown Court procedure designed to speed up and cut the costs of criminal trials. His appointment the next year as the first Senior Presiding Judge for England and Wales was designed to relieve Lane of some of his heavy administrative burden.
Watkins was viewed rather as a safe pair of hands with sound judgment than as a great intellectual or law maker. During his time as a Recorder and his early years on the bench, he spoke quietly and rarely appeared ruffled or bad-tempered. In common with many judges, though, he grew less patient as the years wore on.
He tended to say what he thought. In 1984 he described Britain's first woman coroner, Dr Mary McHugh, as a "mistress of discourtesy" and a "very stubborn lady" when she appeared to delay the inquest into the death in Moscow of a British banker.
In the same year he declared the film Scum, a vivid portrayal of the violence and savagery of life in a British borstal, to be "gratuitously offensive and revolting" and strongly rebuked IBA executives for allowing it to be shown.
Watkins was appointed Deputy Chief Justice of England in 1988 and worked closely with Lord Lane on judicial postings and the administration of the criminal justice system. He asked High Court judges to fill in time sheets to show how they spent their working days, in an attempt to boost the case for more judicial manpower.
In 1991 he sat alongside Lord Lane in the historic appeal case that established that husbands living with their wives can be convicted of raping them. It was, said Lane, "the removal of a common law fiction that has become anachronistic and offensive".
Two years later Watkins himself delivered another well-received judgment, recommending that Derek Bentley be given a posthumous conditional pardon. An epileptic with a mental capacity "just above the level of a feeble-minded person", Bentley had been hanged in 1953 after allegedly encouraging Christopher Craig to shoot PC Sydney Miles with the words "Let him have it, Chris" during an attempted burglary.
Watkins retired from the bench, aged 75, in 1993; and that year he was voted in as the new president of the Welsh Rugby Union, after the first contest for the office in the Union's history. Later in the year he chaired the sub-committee which ended up by sacking the Union's secretary, Denis Evans, for "maladministration".
On standing down from the presidency in 2004 Watkins was made honorary life vice-patron of the Welsh RU, of which the Queen is Patron.
Watkins was also variously a member of the TA Association, Glamorgan and Wales, from 1947; president of the British Legion of Wales from 1947 to 1968; a Deputy Lieutenant for Glamorgan from 1956; president of Glamorgan Wanderers Rugby Football Club - for whom he had played as a young man, captaining the club's 2nd XV - from 1968; and president of the University of Wales College of Medicine from 1987 to 1998.
He was knighted in 1971 and was sworn of the Privy Council on his appointment to the Court of Appeal in 1980. He was appointed GBE in 1990.
In 2001, as Armistice Day approached once more, Watkins was invited to reflect on the award of his VC. "You must believe me when I say it was just another day in the life of a soldier," he insisted. "I did what needed doing to help colleagues and friends, just as others looked out for me during the fighting that summer… I didn't wake up the next day a better or braver person, just different. I'd seen more killing and death in 24 hours - indeed been part of that terrible process - than is right for anybody. From that point onwards I have tried to take a more caring view of my fellow human beings, and that, of course, always includes your opponent, whether it be in war, sport or just life generally."
Tasker Watkins married, in 1941, Eirwen Evans, who survives him with their daughter; a son predeceased him.
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