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Time to Say Goodbye Part two

There are two other barristers I can think of who died young (early 40s), neither of whom I knew well but each of whom I would bump into from time to time. Once they had died, various snippets of information about their lives ended up being revealed in the tributes to them. One was very keen on chess, the other frequently rode horses with his wife (one each in case that is confusing). I suspect that if you were to do a survey you would probably find just about every type of hobby imaginable represented at the Bar. This was brought home to me many years ago, when I was led on a case by a particular barrister who was an extremely nice man. When we had early morning consultations, it had to be fitted around his morning practice session of French horn. (In case you have visions of huge numbers of upset people complaining about the noise, he had some clever system whereby you played the horn into a machine which monitored the quality etc output without releasing the sound. Before you ask, I don't have a clue how it worked.).

One thing you sometimes find out about more elderly barristers and judges when they pass on (not so much these days, due to the passage of time) are details about their war records which remained wholly unsuspected. Many of you will know of Jeremy Clarkson of Top Gear. He did a series while back about holders of the Victoria Cross. One of the things which led him to do that was the fact that his father-in-law had held the Victoria Cross. Astonishingly, he and his wife apparently only found out about this after her father had died. He never mentioned it. The only lawyer I know of who received the Victoria Cross was the judge Sir Tasker Watkins, a judge I never appeared in front of. He had been a High Court Judge and then a Lord Justice of appeal. On 16 August 1944 during Normandy battles post D-Day, he won the Victoria Cross, and his citation for the award reads as follows: "Lieutenant Watkins' company came under murderous machine-gun fire while advancing through corn fields set with booby traps. The only officer left, Lieutenant Watkins led a bayonet charge with his 30 remaining men against 50 enemy infantry, practically wiping them out. Finally, at dusk, separated from the rest of the battalion, he ordered his men to scatter and after he had personally charged and silenced an enemy machine-gun post, he brought them back to safety. His superb leadership not only saved his men, but decisively influenced the course of the battle.". I once read a comment from a barrister who had had a particularly difficult hearing in front of Sir Tasker Watkins who said that whilst challenging his submissions the judge had a gleam in his eye which must be not unlike the one he had when he charged the machine-gun and single-handedly killed a large number of German soldiers.

Although not decorated at that level, there was one successful barrister and QC who was probably in his heyday round about the time I started in practice. He was very successful, very pleasant, and very funny. I was astonished to find that he was also highly decorated from his time during World War II. Perhaps it should have been no great surprise. Another very successful QC years later, when he was being interviewed having been listed as Times Lawyer of the Week, was asked for influences upon his advocacy. He named this particular barrister for his court performances as demonstrating "courage under fire", which perhaps is all of the piece with his war record. However he always did it without making a big fuss about it. I thought about this particular barrister, with medals but who made no fuss, when seeing the shameful episode played out in the news recently of that individual who masqueraded in Remembrance Day parades as being highly decorated when he wasn't at all and had bought the medals.

Michael J. Booth QC