Telegram Chiseldon 10.50 AM
“Coming on leave to-day or to-morrow. George.”
Telegram Chiseldon 1.49 PM
“Peter and I home to dinner to-night. George.”
This is the last communication. Apart from two brief periods of leave George had been apart from Marion for four years six months and 12 days. In that time George had written more than 500 letters to Marion. She kept all the letters and transcribed them into handwritten notebooks. The letters were subsequently typed up by Goerge’s nephew Nigel Power.
Edward George Hugh Power OBE
A personal reflection by Chris Hart, one of George’s Grandchildren
After the end of the Great War, the 2nd Battalion Gloucestershire Regiment were posted to India. My mother, Isobel was born at Ahmednagar on 8thApril 1920. She and Marion returned to England within a year, where two years later my aunt Rosamund was born. George must have given up his commission in the army at this time.
On their return they lived with Marion’s parents at Collingham Gardens London SW5. From there George unsuccessfully attempted to salvage the West Country family business importing grain which had been damaged by the war and the Postwar Depression.
Around 1923-4 the family moved to Broad Farm at Rollesby in Norfolk. Marion’s father, Sir Ion Hamilton Benn, a successful businessman, MP, and war veteran, had bought Rollesby Hall and the estate that went with it for the shooting rights. George assisted his brother-in-law, Ion with running the estate. We believe Ion may have been gassed in the war; certainly his health was not good, and his father outlived him.
In 1926 George and Marion moved to Filby House where they lived for the rest of their lives. Filby House was still on the estate in the adjoining village to Rollesby; a large house with an Italianate south-facing elevation overlooking a formal garden with further orchards and a vegetable garden. In the fifties my grandparents employed a housekeeper, cook and several live-in servants. George ran a market garden with a team of gardeners producing flowers for local markets and was involved in local projects such as the village playing field, and served as a church-warden. Marion, very much her father’s daughter, was involved in church and political work both locally and in London. Later she served on the General Synod of the Church of England. Their life was that of the country gentry.
George with daughter Isobel in the garden of Filby House
George and Ion were friends at Rugby and it was as a result of holiday visits on the Benn’s yacht that George and Marion had met. It was therefore not surprising that sailing would be part of family life in Norfolk. George and Marion bought a houseboat on Wroxham Broad, and he raced a Yare and Bure One Design (White Boat) No 35 “Essex Skipper”. Isobel and Rosamund were also keen sailors and shared a Norfolk 14′ One Design dinghy No 51 “Grebe”. In the post WWII years George became a flag officer and continued into extreme old age to perform his duty as a timer in the crows nest. I remember picking him up one Saturday after they had 300 starters over the course of a day’s racing. I said, “You must be tired!” and he replied, “Never admit you’re tired Boy, that’s the first thing they taught us at Sandhurst”. [The Editor also grew up sailing on Wroxham Broad and well remembers “Uncle George’s” beady eye overseeing proceedings].
“On the Bridge” at Norfolk Broads Yacht Club
George received the OBE for his services to the Civil Defence of Norfolk. We are not sure of his exact role. We were brought up believing he led it, but I rather think he was responsible at a high level for organising defences and recording enemy hostilities of which there were many as quite a few enemy aircraft were shot down and the area was seen as a likely area for foreign agents to land. My family still have some of his weekly reports from this period.
George’s second daughter Rosamund met Tony Herrold, a NZ navigator on a Lancaster, on his demob weekend at the end of WWII. Tony proposed to her and she agreed to marry him. This caused quite a stir at Filby and required the Power tribe’s support. So when Tony’s transport berthed in Aden the humble Kiwi flight lieutenant was summoned to attend an interview with George’s brother Admiral Sir Arthur Power (at that time Commander in Chief of the East Indies Fleet). He appears to have passed muster and Rosamund followed him out a month or two later to become a fruit farmer and to start a family.
In the post war years George and Marion enjoyed a comfortable and busy life. Marion flew to New Zealand to visit the family and in 1953 the New Zealanders made a visit back to the UK. By all accounts George was horrified that Roz had in only a few years taken on an extreme form of Kiwi accent. He never returned the visit. In fact while Marion continued to travel extensively he rarely left Norfolk. My mother recalled on one occasion the family tried to encourage him to take a holiday and go somewhere, with the result he got in his car and drove to Lands End and back! That was typical of his sense of humour. George loved his garden. In his prime he grew superb chrysanthemums, while in old age he used it to offer sanctuary to pheasants, which he fed in order to encourage them away from his nephew’s shoots at Rollesby! In his last years, by now increasingly immobile he said to me, “I’ve become an ancient monument, people come from miles around to look at me”.
My Kiwi cousin Jo recalls in the 60s the magnificent cut flowers awaiting collection in glass jars in the orangery at Filby. These jars were the remnants of a huge battery system to store electricity made by a generator before mains supply became available. As children we would visit regularly, and I too loved the garden and the time spent with the gardeners listening to their stories. They provided a perspective on my grandparent’s life and I was accepted as a child like one of their own. Following the progress of a vegetable from the garden to the kitchen and on to the dining room brought me in contact with the social structure of a large house at every level. Frank, the Head Gardener, told me that every week throughout the year he was required to produce a sufficient variety for two vegetables to be served each day without a repeat. I think he was allowed to repeat some salads in summer.
Here is another anecdote from his last years. George had the elegant dining room, with floor to ceiling sash windows, converted into two bedrooms so he could care for Marion on the ground floor in her final years. After she died he continued to sleep there, but one night was disturbed by an intruder, who unknown to him had opened one of the windows. He awoke to find the man looking down at him in bed. Somehow in his nineties he had the power to demand “What the hell are you doing here?!” and to get up, take the man by the arm, lead him round the house putting his finger prints on every door handle trying to see which one he might have come through, until they reached the back door, where he kicked him out, before ringing the police, who quickly picked him up.
George died peacefully on Christmas Eve 1981. George was a soldier to the end but a gentle man too. Although of the officer class, I don’t believe he was a born leader, certainly my Granny wore the trousers in that household.
George and Marion had: Two children Isobel and Rosamund, Five grandchildren, Ten great grandchildren and to date Ten or more great great grandchildren.
Remarkably all four brothers came through the Great War unscathed.
Sir Arthur John Power GCB, GBE, CVO
At the end of the Great War Arthur remained in the Royal Navy taking up various positions including Executive Officer on HMS Hood. He was appointed a Commander of the Royal Victorian Order in 1936 and in 1937 took command of the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal.
At the outbreak of World War II Arthur was appointed Assistant Chief of the Naval Staff and promoted to Rear Admiral. In 1941 he took command of the 15th Cruiser Squadron of the Mediterranean Fleet with his flag aboard HMS Cleopatra. In 1943 he was appointed Flag Officer in charge of Malta and played a leading role in the planning of the invasion of Sicily. He was subsequently promoted to Vice Admiral and led the planning of the invasion of Italy. He commanded the naval forces at the landing of V Corps at Taranto. Following the landings, he became head of the Allied military mission to the Italian Government and was briefly Commander of the 1st Battle Squadron and second in command of the Mediterranean Fleet.
Arthur then transferred to the Eastern Fleet and went on to take command of the renamed East Indies Fleet. After conducting actions against Japanese forces in Borneo and Malaya he had the honour of commanding HMS Cleopatra as the first ship to enter Singapore harbour prior to attending the surrender of Japanese forces.
At the conclusion of World War II Arthur was appointed Second Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Personnel with the task of running down manpower. Subsequent posts included Command of the Mediterranean Fleet, Commander-in-Chief Portsmouth and First and Principal ADC to King George VI. He attended both the funeral of the King and the coronation of Elizabeth II.
Arthur retired from the Navy in 1952 and became Deputy Lieutenant of Southampton. He died in the Royal Naval Hospital Haslar on 28th January 1960.
Arthur married Amy Bingham in 1918 and they had three sons John, Arthur (Mac) and Michael, nine Grandchildren, 16 Great Grandchildren and a number of Great Great Grandchildren.
Herbert Raphe Power CBE
A personal reflection by Frances Andrews, one of Peter’s Grandchildren
After the First World War, Peter (christened Herbert Raphe and known to all but close family as Raphe) started work for the family grain business, spending several periods from 1922 in New York, based at Power, Son & Co, 202 Produce Exchange. In 1920 he married Evelyn Rebecca de la Mare, who he had known long before the war and who had herself served as a FANY, driving ambulances in France. In the 1920s they had four children, Nancy Elizabeth (known as Lizzie, born 1921), twins Nigel and Dick (born 1925) and Susan, born in 1929 just before the Wall Street Crash. The financial crisis hit the Power business hard and Raphe and his brother Frank lost a great deal of money. So he spent the early 1930s energetically trying various business plans, including working as a Frigidaire salesman, running a restaurant in Oxford Street and finally – the one that would stick – a market garden in Warningcamp near Arundel, reputedly sending melons to Covent Garden Market on the train. He had been able to buy a large piece of land at Warningcamp, including Sefton Place, which was eventually sold to the Youth Hostel Association. The family lived in The Cottage behind Sefton Place until the 1960s when Evelyn and Raphe moved into Arundel, to a Town house in Tarrant Street.
In the mid 1930s Raphe had joined up again and spent the Second World War with the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel in various locations, including Gibraltar 1941-1943, and Guernsey 1945-6. In Gibraltar he commanded (and played squash with) Anthony Quayle, later a successful actor, and they met again backstage in Worthing in 1981, much to the delight of both men. In May 1945 Raphe was present at the conference on HMS Bulldog, preparatory to the surrender of the German command on Guernsey, and was much celebrated as the first allied soldier to land on the island at the liberation. He remained on Guernsey until March 1946 and in the Birthday Honours that year was made CBE for service as Government Secretary, Guernsey. After the war he served in Allied occupied Germany, working in Herford for the BMPO (British Mandatory Procurement Office) from 1947 until 1954, when he finally came back to England, having spent most of two decades abroad.
Raphe spent his retirement in Arundel, running the market garden at Warningcamp and, at first, a few properties as tenancies. He was not a natural businessman and several tenants were able to acquire the properties cheaply at the end of their leases, leaving his finances somewhat straitened. His beloved Evelyn died in 1967. In his old age Raphe took great pleasure in introducing his grandchildren to market gardening, in what by the 1970s were rather romantically dilapidated glass houses in Warningcamp, driving out there in his Fiat 500 or old Wolseley cars and on to Littlehampton or Rustington to sell cut flowers (especially pittosporum, eucalyptus, gypsophila, and pinks) or money-maker tomatoes. Eventually he took to growing epic quantities of courgette (aka marrows) and rhubarb, pushing the seeds straight into annually delivered mounds of manure once he could no longer spread it on the beds.
With garden produce
He became a well-known figure in Arundel, known to all as ‘the Colonel’, and often seen wearing his heavy gardening trousers and duffle coat as he walked down to the National Westminster Bank to take a look at the (other) newspapers, having first read The Times at home. His love of opera, acquired in Munich before the first war stayed with him all his life. He was also an avid reader of poetry, biography and modern science and took an almost anthropological interest in contemporary world politics. He developed a wide circle of friends; his son Nigel bought the house next door and Susan and some of his grandchildren lived down the street, so he was not often alone. Indeed he loved to provoke the younger generation with wild assertions and see how well they could argue against him, though it wasn’t always clear that he was joking! He died in 1983 in Arundel Cottage Hospital, after two years semi-paralysed by a stroke, and is buried with Evelyn at Lyminster parish church, where his son Nigel and daughter Susan have recently joined them, Lizzie and Dick having died elsewhere.
Peter and Evelyn had four children Nancy, Nigel, Dick and Susan, nine grandchildren and a number of great and great great grandchildren.
Frank Trevor Power MBE
At the outbreak of the Great War Frank was commissioned into the 9th (Service) Battalion of the York and Lancaster Regiment. He was promoted to Captain and made Officer Commanding B Company. The Battalion arrived in France in August 1915 as part of 23rd Division but were soon moved to 8th Division. They rejoined the 23rd Division in July 1916 and took part in the Somme offensive. Following the untimely death of father Edward John Power in September 1916 Frank was granted leave to return to England to deal with the turbulence in the family firm of Power Brothers. This included a journey by sea to New York. The firm was apparently liquidated in 1917. Frank returned to the Regiment in February 1917 but returned to England in April and remained in Fleet in a training role through until the end of the War. Frank was awarded an MBE for wartime service in 1919.
At the end of the War Frank, Raphe (Peter) and George resurrected the Company and kept it trading through into the 1920’s but the postwar Depression resulted in its demise with significant loss of money, in particular for Frank and Raphe. By all accounts Frank continued to work at Baltic Exchange through until the outbreak of World War II.
At this point he re-enlisted and took up command of 20th Battalion (Old and Bold Reserve) Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment. Although initially kept as a Home Defence battalion they were subsequently moved to North Africa in a reserve capacity guarding lines of communication and rear depots. While there Frank was taken ill reportedly with a stomach ulcer and was evacuated back to England where he underwent surgery from which he never fully recovered. At the end of the War he continued to work for the War Department but died on Christmas Day 1947 at the age of 55 years with his Death Certificate stating he died of Carcinoma of Stomach. He was buried in a Commonwealth War Grave in Hatfield.
By all accounts Frank was an accomplished pianist and was at one point romantically linked with a member of the Steinway family and had a Grand Piano made personally for him. The romance didn’t last however. He subsequently married Margaret Alison Thorburn in 1922. She was a daughter of Sir William Thorburn, an eminent pioneer of neurosurgery and surgery of the spine based for the larger part of his career at the Manchester Royal Infirmary.
Wedding day 22nd October 1922
The couple moved to Ashbury, a comfortable residence in Hatfield from where Frank travelled to the Baltic Exchange in London. He enjoyed country pursuits of shooting and fishing. His salmon rods and 16 bore shotgun are still in the family with the shotgun periodically taking down the odd pheasant in Norfolk. The couple had five children: Alec, Margaret, Ann, John and Robert, eleven Grandchildren, twenty Great-grandchildren and a number of Great-great-grandchildren.
For those of you who have stuck with GWL for the last four and a half years I do hope you have found them enjoyable, humorous, moving and informative in equal measure. This project would not have been possible without the help of Chris and Mick Hart in giving permission to publish George’s letters so carefully hand transcribed by Marion and subsequently typed up by Raphe’s son Nigel. Thanks also to Chris again and Frances Andrews with their help with postscripts for George and Raphe. For Frank’s postscript my thanks to Margaret Runcie, his last surviving daughter, my brother Tim Power and cousin David Power.
Grateful thanks also to the following sources:
History of the Great War – Principal Events, 1914-1918, HMSO 1922, Republished Naval & Military Press
Official History of the Great War – Military Operations Macedonia Volumes 1 & 2 Compiled by Captain Cyril Falls, Naval & Military Press in association with the Imperial War Museum
The Gloucestershire Regiment in the War 1914-1918, Everard Wyrall, Methuen & Co Ltd, 1932 Republished by Naval & Military Press
The Gloucestershire Regiment War Narratives 1914-1915, Captain R.M. Grazebrook, Naval & Military Press
Under the Devil’s Eye – The British Military Experience in Macedonia 1915-1918, Alan Wakefield & Simon Moody, 2011, Pen & Sword Military
The Battle Book of Ypres, A Reference to Military Operations in the Ypres Salient 1914-1918, Beatrix Brice, 1927 John Murray Publishers Ltd, Republished by Pen & Sword Books Ltd
Internet sources too numerous to mention apart from the wonderful Wikipedia.
2nd July 2019