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Last Updated: Saturday, 15 September 2007, 13:01 GMT 14:01 UK
Hundreds for Sir Tasker funeral
Sir Tasker's coffin was carried into the cathedral by serving soldiers.

Around 650 mourners filled Llandaff Cathedral for the funeral of Sir Tasker Watkins VC, the eminent judge and former Welsh Rugby Union president.

His coffin, adorned with a union jack and white lilies, was carried into the service by six serving officers from the second battalion the Royal Welsh.

The Archbishop of Wales Barry Morgan spoke of Sir Tasker's "sheer kindness and modesty", which had shone through.

He might have been small in size, he said, but was a man "big in stature".

Sir Tasker, who was awarded the Victoria Cross for his gallantry in Normandy during World War II aged 25, died last weekend.

Saturday's service, in Cardiff, was led by John Lewis, the cathedral's dean, while readings were given by a family friend and Canon Graham Holcombe.

The congregation sang The Lord's My Shepherd and Cwm Rhondda in Welsh.

The goat major of the third battalion of the Royal Welsh, Shenkin, was also present outside the cathedral with Sgt Joseph BEM.

Llandaff Cathedral
The cathedral was so full, some mourners had to stand at the back

Giving the address, Dr Morgan said faith had been important to Sir Tasker whose battlefield experience and death of his son "brought him face-to-face more than most with death".

Dr Morgan said: "He had experienced first hand how faith had helped the soldiers under his command. He told me that was when he saw real faith, not superstition when the chips were down."

Llandaff Cathedral was close to Sir Tasker's heart and he had studied for his bar examination under it's bombed open roof.

Dr Morgan added: "There is so much to give thanks for and I don't just mean gallantry in battle, eminence in his chosen profession and his contribution to rugby in Wales but the sheer quality of the man."

Sir Tasker had married his childhood sweetheart, he said, and had visited her at St Winifred's every day to read to her and sit with her.

Dr Morgan said: "Sheer kindness and modesty shone through whenever you met him.

"In spite of all his achievements, he never forgot his roots. He was totally self-effacing and could mix with royalty and the common man and woman and treat them the same."

He added: "Small in size he might have been but he was a man big in stature."

Sir Tasker Watkins
Sir Tasker Watkins was president of the WRU from 1993 to 2004

The congregation laughed as Dr Morgan recalled Sir Tasker's response after they heard a businessman boast of how wonderful he was and his wealth.

Sir Tasker had said: "I would want to ask him what would your mother make of all this?".

In prayers, the Very Revd John Lewis gave thanks for Sir Tasker's "love and devotion" as a husband, father, father-in-law, and grandfather.

Before the service, First Minister Rhodri Morgan said: "The military valour of being awarded the VC, his extraordinary achievements in law and as president of the WRU, always had the same Tasker Watkins's touch of determination to do what he wanted to do and intelligence.

"If you put the two things together, there's not much you cannot achieve. I don't think we will see his like again."

Born a miner's son in Nelson near Caerphilly, a week after the end of World War I, Sir Tasker died after a short illness following a fall at his Llandaff home.

The funeral was followed by a service at Thornhill Crematorium.

A memorial service at Llandaff Cathedral is planned for 1 December.


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
First Minister Rhodri Morgan explains why so many attended the funeral.



SEE ALSO
War hero Sir Tasker Watkins dies
09 Sep 07 |  South East Wales
Sir Tasker - the modest VC holder
10 Sep 07 |  South East Wales
'Superb gallantry' of Sir Tasker
09 Sep 07 |  South East Wales
WRU president steps down
30 Jul 04 |  Welsh
Sir Tasker given freeman honour
12 Apr 06 |  South East Wales

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