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Last Updated: Monday, 10 September 2007, 17:19 GMT 18:19 UK
Sir Tasker - the modest VC holder
Gemma Williams
BBC Wales news website

Painting of Sir Tasker at war
A section of the painting depicting Sir Tasker's attack
He may have been awarded the Victoria Cross in World War II, but Sir Tasker Watkins was always uncomfortable about a painting portraying his heroism.

Sir Tasker, who has died at 88, was given the honour for gallantry in France in 1944 for his assault on a German machine-gun post in Normandy.

The miner's son, who was a top judge and WRU president, was always modest and reticent to talk about his heroism.

One historian said it was typical of the reaction of many VC holders.

When Sir Tasker's feelings were made known to John Dart, curator of the Museum of the Welch Regiment of the Royal Regiment of Wales the picture was immediately removed from public view.

Sir Tasker simply did his duty. He just got on with it and in doing that he won a VC.
John Dart, museum curator

The oil painting, which depicts Sir Tasker in his battle uniform, running with his machine gun at the enemy, is now kept in the museum's archives in Cardiff Castle.

Mr Dart said: "The picture basically shows him taking (someone's) life. Although there's no-one dead, it's him in the act of killing someone who's trying to kill him.

"As far as I'm aware, he didn't want his grandchildren to know what their granddad did. I was told that he disliked it intensely."

Mr Dart believes Sir Tasker's reaction to the painting is typical of that of war heroes.

Sir Tasker's medals
Sir Tasker's medals include the VC and MBE.

"Nobody likes to glorify war," he said. "Sir Tasker simply did his duty. He just got on with it and in doing that he won a VC."

Sir Tasker was known for his modesty by all who knew him.

Julie Morgan, MP for Cardiff North and wife of First Minister Rhodri Morgan, was a family friend of Sir Tasker's.

Her late father, Jack Edwards, shared lodgings with him in London when they were both teachers and the pair played rugby for London Welsh.

She said she had been aware of the painting but said Sir Tasker had never talked about his war days with her.

Queen Mother

"He was a very private person," said Mrs Morgan, whose father came from Senghenydd, not far from Sir Tasker's native Nelson.

"He didn't regard what he did to get the VC as anything other than a day's work."

With Sir Tasker's death, there are only 12 living holders of the VC worldwide.

Those who are left are just as modest as Sir Tasker, according to John Glanfield, a military historian and author of The Bravest of the Brave: The Story of the Victoria Cross.

Mr Glanfield said: "I had lunch with a dozen or so VC holders and the Queen Mother in about 1993 or '94.

Sir Tasker in his uniform
Sir Tasker was a member of the Welch Regiment

"I was amazed at the reticence of all of them to talk about what happened to them. Their attitude was 'it's just a job.'"

Although he never met Sir Tasker, Mr Glanfield believes his attitude to his painting reflects that of many VC holders.

"Many of them feel that their mates on other occasions were equally as gallant but were not honoured. The honour went to them," he said.

"They feel that there's a lack of justice in a way that others weren't honoured in the same way.

"I can imagine that's what was going through Sir Tasker's mind as he was being recorded as a hero."




SEE ALSO
War hero Sir Tasker Watkins dies
09 Sep 07 |  South East Wales
'Superb gallantry' of Sir Tasker
09 Sep 07 |  South East Wales
Sir Tasker given freeman honour
12 Apr 06 |  South East Wales

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