Harold William Powter


This page is dedicated in honour of F/Sgt Harold William Powter

Harold William Powter

As with so many of the airmen who were Jim Ives’ contemporaries Harold Powter’s luck eventually ran out.  Having completed a tour of operations with the 625 Squadron crew of Canadian pilot P/O Reginald Price DFC, Harold Powter did not lose his life over enemy territory, but tragically, during relaxation time not far from his London home.  It seems that Harold was attending a party which received a bomb strike, likely to have been a V1 ‘flying-bomb’.   Had his body been found flung over another casualty having been trying to shelter them from the blast?  The location of the party venue is not known as there were a number of V1 strikes on the capital that day, causing upwards of sixty casualties in south London alone.

Harold died on 8th July 1944 and was subsequently interred in Edmonton Cemetery sec. W grave 13.  His name appeared in the casualty lists published in ‘The Aeroplane’ magazine of  October 27th 1944 as having ‘died of wounds or injuries received on active service’ –

Harold William Powter was born in the third quarter of 1924 to Herbert William and Violet Beatrice Powter his birth being registered in Edmonton, North London.  Harold was the eldest of four children, his younger siblings were Donald, born in 1928, Betty, 1933 and the youngest, Molly in 1939.

A photograph from a magazine depicting a muster of air-gunners u/t with a caption written by his sister Betty – ‘my brother’s picture’ features Harold (probably fifth from left, fourth row from front) and Charles E Springall (third from left, second row) later well-known as Charlie Drake.  Another photograph held by the family shows a relaxed Sergeant Powter (left) with three colleagues, possibly taken just after graduating – are the other three gentlemen also in the magazine cutting photo?

(second left – back row, extreme left, others – possibly either side of Harold, fourth row?)



Having completed gunnery training Sergeant Powter advanced through OTU and 1667 Conversion Unit

(RAF Lindholme) in August 1943, becoming a member of Sgt Reginald Price’s crew along the way.  On 15th October 1943 Sgt Price’s crew arrived ta their first operational posting, brand newly formed 625 Squadron stationed at RAF Kelstern on top of the Lincoln Wolds.

Price’s crew were:-

pilot    F/Sgt R W D Price RCAF

flight engineer  Sgt L A Knowles

navigator  F/Sgt D H Ball RAAF

bomb-aimer  F/Sgt J Conley RAAF

wireless operator/ air gunner Sgt J H G Harris

mid-upper gunner Sgt H W Powter

rear gunner  Sgt F Sutton


(Dudley Ball, Les Knowles, Reg Price, Jack Conley, Frank Sutton (Jim Harris and Harry Powter absent!)

The crew would stay together over the next seven months to complete their tour of operations in May 1944 on their return from the Lyons raid on the first of the month.

The crew’s devotion to duty was recognised in the award of the Distinguished Flying Cross to their skipper.  The citation for Reginald Price’s DFC and supporting comments by Officers up the chain of command can in all fairness be applied to his crew as well:-

‘This Canadian Pilot Officer has completed 31 sorties comprising 213 operational flying hours as captain of a Lancaster aircraft. He and his crew have attacked many major targets including Leipzig, Stettin, Schweinfurt, Stuttgart, Frankfurt, Essen and many others including no less than eight sorties over Berlin.

Throughout a most arduous tour of operations this officer has displayed fine qualities of airmanship as was clearly demonstrated one night in November when, shortly after take off with a full bomb load and at a height of only 300 feet, both port and starboard inner engines failed, one engine catching fire.

Pilot Officer Price in a cool and skilful manner, feathered the propellers of these engines, extinguished the fire and, maintaining height with great difficulty, proceeded out to sea where, after jettisoning equipment and incendiary bombs, he was at last able to reach sufficient height to drop his high explosive bombs with safety. Pilot Officer Price then returned to base and made a successful landing without damage to his aircraft or injury to his crew.

This officer has carried out his tour of operations displaying quiet persistence and a cool, determined endeavour over a long period, sometimes under most trying circumstances, and for the success he has achieved I consider he fully deserves an award of the Distinguished Flying Cross.’

The Officer Commanding, RAF Station Kelstern, added on 14 May 1944:

‘After a number of set backs at the beginning of his tour, this officer has proved to be a most reliable aircraft captain. Under a quiet manner he has displayed fine qualities of determination and is strongly recommended for an award of the Distinguished Flying Cross’.

Harold flew the 20th October sortie with Jim Ives’ crew, filling in at the last minute for the absent F/Sgt Allan.  The sortie was abandoned and so did not count as a full operation.

The Price crew’s operational record is as follows:-

20 Oct 43 Leipzig  15 Mar 44 Stuttgart

22 Oct 43 Kassel   18 Mar 44 Frankfurt

18 Nov 43 Berlin   22 Mar 44 Frankfurt

22 Nov 43 Berlin   24 Mar 44 Berlin

26 Nov 43 Berlin   26 Mar 44 Essen

1 Jan 44 Berlin   30 Mar 44 Nuremburg

2 Jan 44 Berlin   10 Apr 44 Aulnoye

5 Jan 44 Stettin   11 Apr 44 Aachen

14 Jan 44 Brunswick  20 Apr 44 Cologne

20 Jan 44 Berlin   22 Apr 44 Dusseldorf

27 Jan 44 Berlin   24 Apr 44 Karlsruhe

19 Feb 44 Leipzig  26 Apr 44 Essen

20 Feb 44 Stuttgart  27 Apr 44 Friedrichshaven

24 Feb 44 Schweinfurt  30 Apr 44 Maintenon

25 Feb 44 Augsburg  1 May 44 Lyons

1 Mar 44 Stuttgart

Similarly to the Ives crew Sgt Price had a difficult start to operations:-

3rd November – Lancaster W4883 Target Dusseldorf – ‘Aircraft ‘J’.  Up 17.25  dn 18.40hrs.  ‘Task abandoned.  Both (?) engines cut just after take-off.  Course set out to sea but difficult to maintain height.  Incendiaries and guns jettisoned to enable sufficient height to be gained to jettison 4,000lb bomb.  Landed at base at 18.40.’

This had been a ‘dicey-do’  Without sufficient height to jettison their 4,000lb ‘cookie’ blast bomb the aircraft would have been in danger from the detonation as the bomb hit the water.  To land with a ‘cookie’ on board would have been a risk without two engines – it is not clear which two of the four had cut but ‘both’ suggests both on one wing or the other – any slight landing mishap could have brought disaster.

26th November Lancaster W4993 Target Berlin. Up 17.20  dn  00.50hrs  ‘Target bombed at 21.19 hours from a height of 21,000 feet.  Aircraft coned.  Four thousand lb bomb jettisoned as electrical discharge and manual release failed over target.  Floor cut away to remove bomb.

2nd January 1944 Lancaster JB122 Target Berlin.  Up 23.35  dn  08.45 hrs. ‘Target bombed at 02.54 hours from a height of 20,000 feet.  Wanganui flares were put down regularly and in fair concentration.  Mid-upper turret hit by heavy flak.

Harold Powter, the midupper gunner obviously had a very close shave – flak shells burst to create flying shrapnel splinters – damage to the turret would have meant shrapnel striking a matter of inches from Harold’s head!

28th January 1944 Lancaster ME594 Target Berlin.  Up 00.04 dn  03.44hrs. ‘Task abandoned at 01.45 The port outer engine became u/s and could not climb more than 16,000 feet.  Bombs jettisoned safe in the Sea.’

30th January 1944 Lancaster ND407 Target Berlin.  Up 17.13 dn  19.45hrs. ‘Task abandoned owing to 6lbs boost surge on all four engines in “S” gears.  Methods were resorted to with a view to rectifying this surge, but with no success.’

From January 1944 to the end of March German defenders gained the upper hand against the RAF bombers, culminating in the loss of over ninety aircraft in the ill-fated raid on Nuremburg.  Harold’s crew operated safely through this most dangerous period.


At the end of their operational tour the crew were posted as follows:-

F/Sgt Harold Powter and P/O Francis Sutton to 30OTU w.e.f. 20th May 1944

F/Sgt J H G Harris to 1667CU w.e.f. 20th May 1944

Sgt LA Knowles to 1662CU w.e.f. 20th May 1944

P/O J Conley to 1662CU w.e.f. 22nd May 1944

P/O D E Ball to 1662CU w.e.f. 22nd May 1944

P/O R W D Price to 82OTU w.e.f. 20th May 1944

Over the duration of Harold’s tour, between mid-October 1943 and 1st May 1944, 625 Squadron lost 24 crews in action

It is thought that nineteen year-old F/Sgt Harold Powter had been back in London on leave when the house at which he was attending a stag party was bombed.  

Further research has uncovered the details of the tragic story of Harold’s death, I am indebted to Leslie Cole and Stephanie Cole, and thanks also to Joe for the press cuttings which provided the clues to what happened and where and gave more pointers to Harold’s life before the RAF.  The scant details in the Powter family lore were not at all far from what actually happened – there had been a pre-wedding get together and the venue had been hit by a bomb.  Pilot Reg Price’s recollection of what happened to Harold was pretty much spot on – Harold had been visiting his girl-friend when the house was destroyed by a bomb, killing the occupants:-

By the 8th July 1944 Adolf Hitler’s vengeance weapon the V-1 flying bomb had been operational against the south-east of England for three weeks.  The first ‘Doodle-bug’ strike on London had been on 13th June killing eight people in Grove Road, Mile End.  The weapon was completely indiscriminate and was aimed generally ‘at’ London. The campaign continued until October 1944 during which time over 9,500 V-1s were launched towards London and the South-east of England.  During the most intensive period of the attacks over 100 ‘buzz-bombs’ were being sent across the channel a day.   The pilot-less ‘buzz-bombs’ had a rudimentary navigation system which sent them in the general direction of the intended target area.  The flying-bomb’s range was determined by its fuel load, when the V-1’s pulse-jet motor cut, it fell from the sky and a tonne of explosives detonated on impact.

The Price crew’s first operational sortie as a crew had been against Kassel on 22nd October 1943.  One of the major targets here was Gerhard Fieseler Werke a major aircraft producer with three factories in Kassel.  Fieseler produced Fw190 aircraft and were heavily involved in the development of the V1 ‘retaliation weapon’.  Less than nine months later Harold Powter would be killed in a V-1 strike.

‘Surviving a Direct Hit from a V1 ‘Doodlebug’ – an account posted on BBC’s ‘Peoples’ War’ collection by Robert Dickinson concerning a V1 explosion on the day before Harold’s recorded date of death (8th July) hints at the location of the incident in which Harry Powter lost his life.  The Dickinsons lived in Carpenter Gardens, Winchmore Hill, Enfield, North London:-

During the day of the 6th July, 1944 it had been raining all day long, and the Dickinson’s Anderson shelter was flooded, consequently the following night saw the two Dickinson brothers sleeping under a big oak table in the front room of their home at 34 Carpenter Gardens.

That night a V1 flying-bomb, losing height even though its engine had not cut-out, was heading towards the Dickinson house –  it struck the chimney and exploded in their front garden.  Eight houses were practically demolished by the flying-bomb – the two blocks of four houses opposite each other in Carpenter Gardens.  Most of the blast was directed towards numbers 32-38 where 12 people were killed and others seriously injured.  

Michael recollects that – ‘The dead included the fiancé of a girl opposite, who was in the Royal Air Force but was staying overnight with her parents.’

‘Fire was raging everywhere as gas mains exploded, and we could hear the incessant screams of very badly injured friends and neighbours’.

The Dickinsons were able to escape to their garden as the rear wall of their house had collapsed and was ‘completely open to the heavens’.  

The Dickinson brothers fortunately only sustained minor injuries, their mother had a bad injury to her leg which warranted admission to hospital (their father was away on Army service).  Before leaving for hospital however, Mrs Dickinson went back into the house to retrieve the bag of family photos she had left inside.  Minutes after coming back outside the house collapsed completely.

The fire and ARP rescue services were soon at the scene and the boys were taken to a local church which had been requisitioned as a rest centre for those made homeless – where they stayed for a week while arrangements were made for the family’s evacuation to Norfolk.

Harold Powter was indeed a victim of the V1 ‘flying-bomb’ strike at Carpenter Gardens, Winchmore Hill.

On Friday July 7th Harold was enjoying a 48hr pass from his posting as an instructor at 27OTU, visiting family and friends in the Enfield area.  That evening he was due to go and see his girlfriend Doreen at her parents’ home at 32 Carpenter Gardens, Winchmore Hill.   Doreen’s family were preparing for the forthcoming wedding of her brother Leslie and his fiancée Lily arranged for later in July.  Doreen had just taken delivery of her bridesmaid’s dress and was looking forward to showing it off to the family and  Harold.  Also in the house were father and mother – William and Kathleen, grandmother Emma (Kathleen’s mother) and Doreen’s brother Philip – Leslie was away, serving with the RAF and eldest brother Denis was also away on military service.  Harold and Doreen were planning to marry but had not yet officially become engaged.

Harold had not initially intended to stay the night at number 32 but as Leslie was not at home, his bed was available and so Harold decided to stop over.

The V1 bomb exploded in the front garden of 32 Carpenter Gardens at around 11pm.  William Cole, Doreen’s father, was at the front door of the house, possibly trying to watch the progress of the ‘buzz-bomb’.  Kathleen, William’s wife was on the staircase, Doreen and her grandmother, Emma Irish, were in bed in the back bedroom and Doreen’s brother Philip and Harold were in the front bedroom.

When the ‘Doodlebug’ exploded, Doreen, her grandmother and her father were killed outright.  Philip and Harold were blown through the roof, both sustaining serious injuries. Kathleen survived without serious injury.

Next door in number 34, husband and wife Henry and Jane Chamberlain were killed and their daughter lost both legs, their other daughter was away serving in the ATS.

At 36 Carpenter Gardens John Pretlove, 52, and his son Ronald, 16, were killed, as were Edith Pretlove, 26, wife of RN Stoker Reginald H Pretlove and their two-year-old daughter Jean, who were believed to be visiting the house.  Stoker 1st Class Reginald Harold Pretlove is commemorated on the Chatham Naval Memorial and also died this day, it is presumed that he too was killed by the Carpenter Gardens explosion.

Following the blast, Harold Powter and Philip Cole were taken to hospital where Harold died later, but thankfully Philip survived (although with long term consequences).   As his older brother Denis was serving abroad, Leslie was given compassionate leave and sent home to deal with the aftermath of the bombing, deaths and loss of home.  He visited Philip and Harold in hospital and subsequently went to Harry’s funeral on 14th July.

What a terribly sad and tragic event this was. The V-1 could have struck anywhere in the South-east of England, Harold had not intended to stay overnight at Doreen’s house, the evening should have been a happy occasion with the Cole family looking forward to Leslie’s wedding.  The wedding did go ahead, but must have been a bitter-sweet occasion without the bride-groom’s father, grandmother and sister. Not only had Violet Powter lost her eldest son, and future (probably) daughter-in-law, but also old neighbours. Before Violet and Having endured the real and ever-present worry about Harold’s safety during the months he was flying operations, the shock of losing him when he was ‘safe’ at home must have been devastating.

Harold’s death and funeral were reported by the local newspaper, revealing more about Harold’s life before the RAF.  It is apparent that the local press were constrained as to how much they could say about the circumstances of Harold’s death.  That a serving RAF airman had been killed by one of Hitler’s revenge weapons could have potential for a German propaganda coup if the story was somehow picked up by the enemy – so the Enfield Gazette & Observer could only refer to Harold’s death as being ‘by enemy action in the London area’.  A vague reference, similar to the generic heading under which F/Sgt Powter was listed in  ‘The Aeroplane’ magazine of  October 27th 1944 – as having ‘died of wounds or injuries received on active service’.

Harold had been an old boy of Chesterfield Road and George Spicer Schools in Enfield.  He went on to work in ‘a government factory’ – the Royal Small Arms Factory at Enfield.  It appears that Harold was associated with the ‘stocking’ department – nothing to do with nylons or the stores – but refers to the stock of a gun – the part of a firearm which allows it to be held or rested against the shoulder in order to fire it.  

Present at the funeral service were  members of Harold’s crew – P/O Price and ‘F/O Dudley’ – the latter was in all likelihood actually F/O Dudley Ball  – Dudley Ball was elevated from P/O to F/O

status in mid-June 1944.  Did the Gazette & Observer reporter ask his name – to receive the reply ‘Dudley’?

While working at RSAF Harold also fulfilled responsibilities in support of the war effort and his local community – as a part-time ARP Warden attached to Warden Post F47.

There were almost 1.5 million ARP wardens in Britain during the war, almost all unpaid part-time volunteers who also held day-time jobs.   A radio broadcast following a Parliamentary discussion concerning a Warden Service in March 1936 called for volunteers for ‘this very important part of the work of Home Defence’.

In the run-up to war the Wardens established contact with their local residents and advised them on precautions against air raids and gas attacks.  At war they became the eyes and ears of the whole ARP organisation,

patrolling from their local Wardens’ Post to report damage caused by air raids to a control centre from which specialist services – Fire, Rescue and First Aid Parties were mobilised to help.

The Warden Service in London was controlled by the London Boroughs (outside London wardens came under the auspices of the Police).   Each London Borough was headed by a Chief Warden who was responsible to the Head of ARP in his area for all aspects of the Warden Service.  Below the Chief warden extended a hierarchy of district and post wardens.  The trained warden was allocated to his Wardens’ Post run by a Post Warden (Senior Warden, as they were known outside London).  A number of posts – usually between three and twelve – formed a Group under a Head Warden with larger towns divided into Divisions with a Divisional Warden.  In the case of area ‘F’ the hierarchy was: Mr Miles – Chief Warden, Mr Peskett – deputy Warden,  Mr Gosling – District Warden F District and Mr Money – Post Warden post F47.  

Most wardens were unpaid volunteers although a small number were paid full-timers.  During  training ARP wardens were required to attend  lectures in subjects as diverse as anti-gas precautions, first aid, message writing, incendiary bomb control, basic fire-fighting and dealing with unexploded bombs.  On completion of their training, wardens received a government issue silver badge to show their proficiency and status.  Training came from various sources – established organisations – St John’s Ambulance, Red Cross, Police and Fire Brigades and local specialists trained at Home Office Schools in subjects such as anti-gas precautions.

Air Raid wardens had the task of patrolling the streets during the black-out to ensure that no light was visible.  As with Warden Hodges in TV’s ‘Dads Army’ series  – on noticing a chink of light, a shouted warning alerted the errant occupant.  A persistent offender could be reported to the police. Wardens also patrolled the streets during air raids on the look-out for incendiary bombs, other duties included helping to police areas suffering bomb damage, taking control of an emergency situation until official rescue services arrived and assisting bombed-out householders.  Initially, wardens were expected to be on duty three nights a week, but expectations were increased as the bombings grew worse.

It was reported that Harold had been a member of 36 ATC when it was still ADCC (Air Defence Cadet Corps) which was set up in 1938 by Air Commodore Sir John Chamier with the intention of training young men in various ‘aviation-related skills’ .

By 1941 the ADCC had proved so popular that it was granted the Royal Warrant and became the Air Training Corps with a function of giving part-time air training to teenagers and young men who might later join the Royal Air Force.

The Gazette also reported that while in the services Harold had gained a good reputation as a footballer and cricketer and that he was known to his friends as ‘Harry’.  There had been a funeral tribute from Area F Sports Section and one from ‘The Boys’, RSAF, it was stated too that ‘Judging by the large following Harold was obviously well-liked and very popular among his friends and will be sadly missed’.

Reference was also made to neighbours and friends from Tottenhall Road.  The family of Emma Irish was well acquainted with Harold’s mother’s family – the Smiths – they had been neighbours in Tottenhall Road, Wood Green from 1918 until 1937 or thereabouts.  When Herbert Powter and Violet Smith were first married they lived with Violet’s parents at 21 Greenbrae, Tottenhall Road, where Harold spent his first months – William and Kathleen Cole and Emma Irish were then living at number 23.  

It was indeed a cruel irony that Harold died as a result of bombing, especially having completed his tour of operations.  Doubly tragic as he and his crew-mates would have considered themselves to have been lucky individuals in a lucky crew.

Unfortunately ‘there is no armour against fate’ and Harold was in the wrong place at the wrong time.