On August 18, 1/5th Battalion of The Welch Regiment was ordered to seize a series of local objectives along the railway at Bafour, near Falaise. It was still an hour until dusk as they crossed the start line, and German Spandau machineguns, sited beyond the standing corn, were soon inflicting casualties. The advance was held up when a German 88mm gun engaged the infantry’s supporting tank squadron.
As the only unwounded officer left in his company, Lieutenant Watkins took command and, with only short-range fire support, led charges on two of the enemy posts in succession, personally killing the occupants with short bursts of his Sten sub-machine-gun. On reaching the second objective, he found a German soldier manning an antitank gun but his Sten jammed when he tried to shoot him. Swiftly throwing the weapon in the man’s face, he drew his revolver and killed him before he could recover from the shock.
Having captured his objective, Watkins found he had only 30 men with him when the enemy counter-attacked with a scratch force of 50 infantry. He directed the fire of his men against the enemy and, as soon as they faltered, led a bayonet charge from which only a handful of the enemy escaped. Unknown to him, because the company radio had been damaged during the action, the battalion was at that moment ordered to withdraw.
Initially, Watkins prepared to hold his hard-won position but, as darkness fell, it became clear that his remnant of the company were alone and in danger of being surrounded. He therefore decided to rejoin his battalion by passing round the enemy’s flank. But while making their way back through the cornfields he and his men were challenged by an enemy post a few yards distant.
Shouting to his men to scatter, he charged the post alone with a Bren light machinegun and killed the occupants. He then led his remaining soldiers back to battalion headquarters. The following day the enemy pulled his tanks out of the Falaise pocket, leaving only infantry to cover their withdrawal.
Watkins was confirmed in command of his company and promoted captain. On September 22 he was appointed acting major. Perhaps not surprisingly in view of his aggressive attitude, he was wounded in action in the Netherlands on October 27 and evacuated to England. He received the Victoria Cross from King George VI on March 8, 1945, and was released from active military service on May 28 the following year."
"To THE MEMORY OFMY SON,WILLIAM GUTHRIE SALMOND,A CAPTAIN IN THE NEW ZEALAND ARMY,WHO IN FRANCE ON THE 1OTH DAY OF JULY, 1918,GAVE UP HIS LIFE IN THE TWENTY-SIXTH YEAR OF HIS AGE."