Stirring send-off for RAF hero "Snogger" Watkins

By Gareth Dennison | 04/10/2019

Stirring send-off for RAF hero 'Snogger' Watkins

RAF HERO John “Snogger” Watkins made his final flight - with the Dam Busters March closing his funeral service. 

Scores of mourners gathered at Rotherham Crematorium on Monday to pay their respects to the 95-year-old.

After leaving school, Mr Watkins (below) worked at the Advertiser as a runner but soon realised it would not be his long-term career.

He joined gents’ outfitters Waddingtons and found he was well-suited to retail, spending the rest of his career in the industry. 

When the Second World War intervened, he was too young to enlist. 

Instead, he became one of the first cadets in the air training corps.

In the early days of the war, he was regularly on firewatch duty, monitoring the skies above Rotherham and Sheffield for bombing raids. 

In 1942, Mr Watkins joined the RAF. 

He trained as a wireless operator/air gunner, served on Catalina and Sunderland flying boats around the world and was grounded in hospital with a bout of boils the day the rest of his crew were killed in a crash. 

Rev Karen Skidmore told the service: “John was definitely a character. He had cherished memories and tough memories.

“He was very proud to have served his country. 

“He felt lucky to have returned after losing so many of his friends and crew members.”

Mr Watkins, of Stag, earned the nickname Snogger for his penchant for introducing himself to women with a peck on the cheek. 

He remained involved in the community until earlier this summer and died peacefully on September 10.

Rev Skidmore added: “John has, until recently, been an active member of the RAF Association. 

“He could regularly be found featured in the Rotherham Advertiser and on Radio Sheffield, Look North and Calendar telling of his exploits.”

Music chosen by Mr Watkins for the funeral also included Guide Me O Thou Great Redeemer and Grimethorpe Colliery Band’s rendition of The Lord Is My Shepherd. 

A collection was made for Rotherham Hospice.

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