• Christina Drummond

Captain Vivian Holmes Watkins, 1st/2nd Battalion, the Monmouthshire Regiment


Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1915, Captain Vivian Holmes Watkins, 1st/2nd Battalion, the Monmouthshire Regiment, died of wounds received a month earlier on the Western Front.

The fifth of six sons of a solicitor, he was educated at Monmouth Grammar School, where he was a sergeant in the Cadet Corps. After leaving school he became an articled pupil to the town clerk of Cardiff, and was commissioned into the Monmouthshire Regiment in February of 1912. When the Great War broke out and his battalion was mobilised for war, he was working as a solicitor on the legal staff of the Cardiff Corporation. Having been promoted to the rank of captain in July of 1914, he landed in France on the 7th of November, 1914.

On the 16th of January, 1915, he was inspecting the water pumps in the trenches, which had become severely flooded after days of relentless rain. As he moved from one trench to another to warn his men to take care not expose themselves to the enemy, he was shot in the head by a sniper. The medic who attended him called to three other soldiers to make up a stretcher party to take Captain Watkins to the communications trench. Because of the heavy flooding, they had to exit part of one trench and attempt to rejoin it where the water level was lower, but they came under heavy fire - the medic and one of the soldiers were killed as were two others who tried to go to their aid. The two remaining stretcher-bearers believed they had no choice but to lie down beside Captain Watkins and wait. After six hours, once it was dark, it became safe enough for others to go to their assistance. Captain Watkins was sent to the Empire Hospital in Westminster, where sadly he died over a month later. He was buried in Panteg Cemetery in Pontypool with full military honours. On his headstone are the names of two of his brothers: Second-Lieutenant Horace Holmes Watkins, 3rd Battalion, the South Wales Borderers, age 23, killed while leading his men during the attack at Poelcappelle in October of 1914; and Lieutenant Mervyn Holmes Watkins, "C" Battery, 100th Brigade, Royal Field Artillery, age 25, killed in action on the Doiran Front in the then-Kingdom of Serbia in September of 1918.

Vivian, from Usk in Monmouthshire, was 24 years old.

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