View Full Version : F/L Thomas John Watkins, No.82 Squadron - recommended for VC, awarded DSO

8th February 2022, 23:22
WATKINS, Thomas John, F/L (44735) - No.82 Squadron (detached to Mediterranean Command) - Distinguished Service Order - awarded as per London Gazette dated 15 August 1941. Cited with Sergeant John Samuel Sergent (awarded DFM).

In June, 1941, Flight Lieutenant Watkins and Sergeant Sargent were pilot and observer respectively of an aircraft which participated in an attack on an enemy convoy off Lampedusa. Attacking a 6,000 ton merchant ship in the face of heavy anti-aircraft fire, Flight Lieutenant Watkins was severely wounded in the legs during his ran over the target. Nevertheless, he pressed home his attack, mast high, scoring hits on the objective. Enemy fighters then engaged his aircraft but, by skilful manoeuvring, he enabled his rear gunner to resist the attackers. On the return journey, Flight Lieutenant Watkins fell into a stupor as a result of his wounds and Sergeant Sargent, who was unable to call the air gunner as the intecommunication gear was put of order, removed the wounded pilot from his seat, took over the controls and flew the aircraft back to base. During this period, Flight Lieutenant Watkins had momentary periods of consciousness and, when informed that the aircraft was over base, insisted on taking control. Although in intense pain and very weak from loss of blood, by a supreme effort he regained his seat and made a landing without damaging the aircraft. Throughout Flight Lieutenant Watkins displayed the highest courage and devotion to duty while Sergeant Sargent displayed courage and resource in difficult circumstances.

This award began as a recommendation for a Victoria Cross, as found in AIR 2/8858 drafted by W/C L.V.E. Atkinson, Commanding Officer, No. 82 Squadron, 3rd July, 1941.

1. On 22nd June, six aircraft of 82 Squadron attacked a convoy off Lampedusa. The first section was under the leadership of Squadron Leader Harrison Broadley, the second under Flight Lieutenant Watkins. In spite of heavy e.a. fire, both section leaders pressed home their attack and severely damaged a six thousand ten merchant vessel. The leader of the first section had his engines disabled and landed in the sea near the convoy.

2. Flight Lieutenant Watkins, flying Blenheim Z 9545, was badly hit in the legs and buttock during the run on the target. In spite of his wounds, he pressed home his attack, mast high, and scored hits on the target. Immediately after the attack, fighters appeared and engaged his aircraft. Flight Lieutenant Watkins took avoiding action and his rear gunner beat off the attacks.

3. During the return to base, Flight Lieutenant Watkins began to drop into a stupor. The Observer, Sergeant Sargent, pulled him out of his seat, took over the controls and flew and navigated the aircraft back to Malta, a distance of 90 miles over the sea. The Observer endeavoured to call the Air Gunner forward to render first-aid to the pilot, but intercommunication and wireless had been hit by enemy action.

4. During the flight to Malta, Flight Lieutenant Watkins had momentary periods of consciousness and asked his observer if he was receiving homing bearings from Malta. The observer re-assured him on this point and set his mind at rest.

5. When informed he was over Malta, Flight Lieutenant Watkins insisted on landing his aircraft although he was in intense pain and very weak from loss of blood. By a supreme effort, he gained his seat with the help of his observer and made a landing without damaging the aircraft.

6. The medical report on Flight Lieutenant Watkins shows that he was badly hit in the buttock and that a cannon shell had hit both his legs causing in one leg a compound fracture and a serious loss of muscles in the calf. In fact, it was doubtful at the time with so little remaining of the calf whether the foot should be amputated. His foot may now be saved.

7. For courage and determination to carry through an operation in spite of his wounds and for a firm purpose to safeguard his crew and his aircraft, whatever the cost to himself, Flight Lieutenant Watkins’ behaviour is deserving of the highest praise.

Covering remarks of Air Officer Commanding:

For devotion to duty, a cool courage, and sheer determination to save his crew and his aircraft, the behaviour of Flight Lieutenant Watkins is in the highest traditions of the Service. His action is a pre-eminent deed of valour and is deserving of the highest praise. (Signed by Air Vice Marshal, Air Officer Commanding, RAF Mediterranean, 3rd July 1941.

Remarks of Air Officer Commanding

I support this recommendation on the grounds that this officer displayed courage, determination and devotion to duty which could not be surpassed. After receiving a serious wound in the leg (and in the buttock) he still went on to complete his duty under heavy fire against which he had almost no protection. Indeed, I am told by Air Vice Marshal H. P. L loyd that Flight Lieutenant Watkins’ foot was hanging by shreds of muscle and raw flesh”. To continue the attack in these circumstances with such success and to have thereafter engaged his aircraft with enemy fighters and to have recovered consciousness sufficiently to be again placed in the pilot’s seat to have landed his aircraft displays very clearly all facets of high courage and devotion to duty which merits the Victoria Cross. I am happy to recommend him for the decoration. (Signed by D.P. Atkinson, Air Officer Commanding, No.2 Group, Royal Air Force).

9th February 2022, 02:45

I feel the following should be appended to the awards of Watkins and Sargent:


CHANDLER, Eric Francis. 755026 Flight Sergeant, No.82 Sqn.
L.G. 11/3/42. Sorties 36, Flying hours 134.05. W.Op/Air Gnr. AIR2/9262.

In the course of two operational tours, this N.C.O. has completed 36 sorties by day night. His day sorties include several low flying attacks on shipping during the Summer of 1941 and the attack on Cologne power station on 12th August, 1941. On two occasions, his pilot has been wounded in attacks on enemy shipping. On the first, his pilot Flt. Lt. Watkins, and Observer being awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and Distinguished Flying Medal respectively for their gallantry in pressing home their attack in spite of the pilot's wounds. Throughout, he has shown commendable determination and keenness as an Air Gunner and he is recommended for an award of the Distinguished Flying Medal.
20 January, 1942.

Remarks by A.O.C.

Strongly recommended. His ability and determination as an Air Gunner contributed largely to the safe return of his crew on more than one occasion.

The Distinguished Flying Medal Register Vol.I, A-J/Tavender/Savannah, 2000, p.334.


9th February 2022, 12:27
Thanks, Col. The other obvious connection is between the Watkins and Harrison-Broadley awards.