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The final Act of Remembrance was held not in France but in Flanders and was for William J Powley the brother of Herbert. The Act of Remembrance began by the reading of an eulogy by David Burchell.
“We are here today to honour the memory of William James Powley of the 1st Battalion The Queen’s (Royal West Surrey) Regiment. Born in 1892, William, one of four sons, was the elder brother of Herbert Powley who was also killed in the Great War and whose memory we honoured yesterday. The Powley’s came from our village, Narborough in Norfolk, and were two of the fifty-two Narborough men who served in the Great War. Eleven of those fifty-two, like William and Herbert, failed to return home.
We know little of William’s life but do know that he married Ellen Rallinson on 14th October 1916 – they had no children. William was wounded in a gas attack on 7th November 1918, and died of his wounds the next day, November 8th 1918 – only three days before the Armistice and four days before his 26th birthday – he had been in France for only three weeks. William, like so many of his generation, gave his life as a common soldier, remembered by few but honoured by many.
May the memory of this ordinary man from an ordinary country village continue to be preserved by the generations to come.”
Bill Seager then read the poem “In Flanders Fields”. This was followed by the laying of a poppy cross by Roger Sheldrake and again, a family wreath by Tony French. David Turner then read the poem “For the Fallen” The Act of Remembrance was completed by a two-minute silence and the reading of the British Legion Exultation.
Before the eulogy for William, David Burchell read the following piece which is recorded here as a very suitable finale for an unforgettable weekend.
“This ceremony is the last of four we have attended over the past three days to honour two airmen of the Great War who flew from our aerodrome, and later lost their lives on the Western Front; and also to honour two soldiers from the one family in our village, who both also made the ultimate sacrifice.
It has been an emotional weekend, but one thing I think that has impressed us all is the hard work and dedication that has gone into maintaining the cemeteries: no matter how small or remote, such as the first we visited at Courcelles-le-Comte, or how imposing, such as the Canadian Memorial on Vimy Ridge.
Yesterday, we were privileged to welcome Tony, John and Peter to help us honour the memory of Herbert Powley, one of two members of Tony’s family who fell in the later stages of the war. We feel honoured that Tony, John and Peter are able to join us again today and we hope that we have done full justice to the memory of the two members of Tony’s family who fell in the ‘Great War for Civilization”.
The Act of Remembrance about to take place was timed to coincide with a service of remembrance being held at the village church in Narborough, Norfolk. Gathered for this service in Narborough were not only family members of the group but also members of Tony’s family.
The Act of Remembrance in France began by the reading of an eulogy by David Turner.
“Herbert James Powley, of 7th Bn. Border Regiment, was killed on 29th April 1918. One of four sons, he said “goodbye” to his family in the Norfolk village of Narborough, to join the army soon after the conflict started, and it is known that he served with the Royal Army Medical Corps for some of his time abroad.
Herbert returned home on leave in November 1916, and in a letter to his sister Evelyn a year later, he wrote “It’s just about 12 months since I was home last, but it won’t be another 12 before I’m home again.” Sadly, he never returned to Glebe Farm.
His regiment was caught up in the final German offensive in March 1918, when the static trench battlefront was broken, and the Allied line breached and pushed back some 40 miles.
At this point the war could have been lost – Haig’s order of the 12th April was – “There is no other course open to us but to fight it out. Every position must be held to the last man.” The day Herbert died is considered one of the turning points, when the line was successfully held and the German attack repelled. Today we remember a 20 year old boy, laid to rest before us, and it is gratifying to think that he is also being remembered this morning in his home village – at the Service of Remembrance in Narborough”.
Roger Sheldrake then read piece from the poem “Forgotten Dead, I Salute You”. This was followed by the laying of a poppy cross by Bill Seager and a family wreath by Tony French. David Burchell then read three pieces one of which is recorded below.
Here dead we lie because we did not choose
To live and shame the land from which we sprung.
Life, to be sure, is nothing much to lose;
But young men think it is, and we were young.
A E Housman
The Act of Remembrance was completed by a two-minute silence and the reading of the British Legion Exultatio
Part of the address given by the Reverend Stuart Nairn at All Saints Church, Narborough on Remembrance Sunday, 12th November 2000.
“As we make this remembrance in this year – we do so aware that members of this village have gone out this year to the battlefields of France and Belgium to lay wreaths on graves of those who either served with the RFC based in this village, or as they did at the very hour that we read those names from the war memorial, to lay wreaths on those graves of men for whom these villages were their place of birth and upbringing.
The focus of our remembering on this day is the image of the poppy – the names carved in stone and the war memorials across the world that record the cost of war – whether it be the two World Wars or those conflicts that have happened since and continue to happen to this day – of which some of you will have more vivid memories of those latter conflicts depending on your age. It is indeed good to read of the decision to remember those who fell in later conflicts on a National Memorial to reflect that of the Cenotaph. For we come to remember family, brothers, sister, husbands, wives, children – for each of them has a history behind them.
For those who are laying those wreaths on the battlefields today – one of the powerful images will be those serried ranks of Commonwealth War Graves Headstones – stretching as far as the eye can scan. In itself these stone memorials can be a dead object – an inanimate piece of stone – with a name that is carved upon it. A name as with those on the war memorial that it is difficult for the young at least but not for all to put a face or a family to – that is an inevitability of the passage of time.
The important thing to remember is that quotation I began with:- ‘And no-one ends, just a name on a stone’ (Mary Hathaway).
The meaning of that statement is to be found in that passage from 1 Peter 2 – “come to Him who is the Living Stone”. If we see death as the end then there is a real danger that the name on the stone does become simply that. But the Christian faith says a resounding No – this is not sufficient. We believe that life goes on beyond death. That with God, death is not faced alone and thus no-one ends just a name on a stone. As veterans grow fewer – “the direct inheritance” – that personal connection with the First World War in particular is disappearing – the same will be true in time of the Second World War. Yet it is important to remember these events for they speak of what man at his cruellest is capable of and they remind us of the awful cost of failing to resolve our differences peacefully”.
On a sunny but cold morning on the 11th November four members of the Narborough Airfield Research Group journeyed to the small British military cemetery, at Achiet-Le-Grand, a short distance from Arras in France. On arrival the group silently sought out the grave of Major Robert Egerton, an individual the four members wished to honour. At 10.50 am, in the peace of the French countryside, an Act of Remembrance was carried out. The form of this remembrance is recorded below – the ceremony began with a eulogy read by Roger Sheldrake.
“Today is the 11th day of the 11th month of the year 2000 and in a few minutes it will be 11am – it is at this time 82 years ago the killing of the Great War stopped – for millions it was too late. This weekend we intend to honour just a few of these men but in doing so we will be remembering them all. We have come here today from Narborough in Norfolk to remember a very special person – a brave soldier, an audacious airman and a courageous leader. This special person, who lies before us now is Major Robert Egerton. “Bob” Egerton as he was known then was the first Commanding Officer of 59 Squadron – a squadron which was formed in our village 84 years ago. We have long wanted to visit and pay our respects to this man, one who was not only brave, audacious and courageous but one who set an exemplary example to his fellow officers and men – an example which is as true today as it was then. Although only in his early twenties, and with much to live for, he sacrificed his life for what he and many of his generation believed in. After serving in the trenches and being Mentioned in Despatches twice and awarded the Military Cross he joined the RFC only to suffer a serious mid-air collision. A few months later he was back in the air again only to lose his life over France on December 23rd 1917 at the young age of 25. One can only repeat the question asked during our July celebrations – “What would he have achieved had he been spared?”
The motto of 59 Squadron “Ab Uno Disce Omnes – from one learn all” – is so appropriate when remembering men like Bob Egerton – maybe it was written with him in mind – who knows? It is however a fitting motto and tribute to one very brave young officer whom we remember today with great pride, respect and gratitude.”
“Lest we forget”
Following this eulogy the poem “An airman foresees his death” was read by Bill Seager. David Turner then stepped forward and laid a cross of red and white carnations with a single red rose, on the grave of Bob Egerton. The cross was the same wreath that had been laid on the grave of Lt Donnell earlier in the year at Narborough. Two other wreaths were laid, one on behalf of the Egerton family and the Oratory School Reading, and one on behalf of his regiment, the Royal Irish Fusiliers.
David Burchell continued the Act of Remembrance by reading the following:-
“From 1902 to 1911 Bob Egerton attended the Oratory School, the school founded in Birmingham by Cardinal Newman. In an address to the boys of the Oratory School in 1879, Cardinal Newman said “When I look to those who have gone forward in the career of life and see how many instances one has to look upon, the way they have turned out, their excellence and the way in which they fulfilled the duties of their station…I have great confidence that you will answer all expectation that we have formed of you…” Bob Egerton did just that; Cardinal Newman would have been proud of him.
I will now read Cardinal Newman’s prayer:
May he support us all the day long,
Till the shades lengthen,
And the evening comes,
And the busy world is hushed,
And the fever of life is over,
And our work is done.
Then in his mercy he give us a safe lodging,
And a holy rest and peace at last.”
There followed a two-minute silence and the reading of the British Legion Exultation. As the proceedings drew to a close the sound of a village clock striking eleven drifted across the cemetery followed by the sound of a bugle playing the Last Post – this interruption could not have been more poignant – the Act of Remembrance was complete.
The Act of Remembrance began by the reading of an eulogy by Bill Seager.
“We are here today to honour the memory of Captain Frederick Despard Pemberton, a flying officer of number 59 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps, who carried out his flying training for war at Narborough in Norfolk. That Captain Pemberton existed at all comes to us via the brief official details gleaned of his service career, hidden away in our national archive. A few photographs survive taken at the time, over eighty years ago now, by another, more fortunate squadron member. We knew he was a native of Canada, born in Victoria, British Colombia, and that he must have considered it his duty, like many of his countrymen, to travel halfway across the world to fight in the Great War for Civilization – as it later became known. To his parents, the tragedy of his death must have been particularly hard to bear, since it followed the death of Warren, his younger brother and a pilot of 40 Squadron RFC, who had been killed just over a year before whilst flying a training aircraft in England. In a photograph taken at Narborough, we see a man standing in front of what is obviously his pride and joy, a large Mercedes automobile. Pictures taken later show him lavishing care and attention on the same vehicle. There is another photograph of him in a group of squadron personnel, smiling and posing for the camera in swimming costume. His personal details are written in his own hand in the squadron record book. There is a cryptic note concerning his lack of leave since joining 59 Squadron. A man of private means then, physically active and with a typical serviceman’s sense of humour. It does not seem much of a legacy to leave to posterity. It could hardly be otherwise at 22 years of age. But he has left us much more. For it is due to men such as Frederick Despard Pemberton, that we are able to enjoy freedom to live our lives as we see fit, free from tyranny and aggression. We shall remember him, and we now leave a token of our remembrance of his supreme sacrifice in our name.”
David Turner then read the poem “RAF – The Ancestors”. This was followed by the laying of a Royal Flying Corps wreath by David Burchell and the reading of an inscription from the grave of T D H Alderton buried at Narborough. The Act of Remembrance was completed by a two-minute silence and the reading of the British Legion Exultation.
“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.”
The gathering together of past members of 59 Squadron
On a dull and occasionally wet Sunday, the members of the Narborough Airfield Research Group (NARG) eagerly assembled at the Narborough Community Centre to welcome past members of 59 Squadron and their wives to the weekend’s activities. Their wait was not long as first to arrive was David Haller who brought with him not only a special surprise but a lovely print of Wes Loney’s picture ofhis Liberator sinking U-boat 470. Gradually the guests assembled and the room was filled with the chattering voices of ex-servicemen who in some cases had not met for over fifty-seven years. When everyone had settled down a warm welcome was extended to the group by David Turner the Chairman of the Narborough Local History Society.
However, before refreshments were served a special unveiling took place. Reg Geary and Ron Godfrey, the only two ground-crew present were invited to step forward to unveil the mystery object brought by David Haller and covered with a Union Flag. To the delight of all present the famous 59 Squadron symbol, a memento of Capt Carberry’s exploits in 1917 and the insignia displayed on the Squadron badge, was slowly revealed to an excited and appreciative audience – “The Wheel” was back with “59”. For the rest of the weekend this precious wheel was the focal point of all the events.
Illustrated talk on the history of 59 Squadron.
After the excitement of the unveiling and at the end of lunch the assembled group sat down to listen to and in many cases to contribute to the telling of the story of 59 Squadron from its inception in 1916 to its final disbandment in 1961. The illustrated talk which lasted for about an hour and a half was based on the research carried out by the NARG on the activities of the Squadron in the First World War, whilst the history of 59 from 1937 to 1961 was based on a series of slides taken from a 59 Squadron photograph album which had recently been discovered and kindly lent to the group. Graphic detail was added to the talk by Bill Sills who described the sinking of U470, whilst Tom Cottew added considerable humour to the talk by recounting the story of the crash of his Liberator on the runway at Ballykelly in 1944. Further incidents were recounted by John Moles, Reg and Ron. Not to be outdone, the post-war crews led by Peter Masterman and ably abetted by John “Harry” Scarff and David Haller added their reminiscences and described the halcyon days of flying the Canberra to exotic locations like Idris and Cyprus!
The laying of a wreath on the grave of 2nd Lt A P Donnell
When the talk was over, the group moved off from the Community Centre back into the heart of the village to All Saints Church to lay a wreath on the grave of Arthur Patrick Donnell. The wreath was laid by Wg Cdr John Harrison a serving officer at RAF Marham whose grandfather flew from RFC Narborough in the Great War. The beautiful cross was laid in memory of not only Lt Donnell but for all those who died whilst serving with 59 and on behalf of all past members of 59 Squadron, the men and women of RAF Marham and the people of Narborough. Lt Donnell was one of the first casualties of 59 Squadron and is the only one to be buried in Narborough churchyard. Killed in 1916 he was the third son of the Revd C E H Donnell of Stamfordham. At his funeral the chief mourners were the deceased’s mother and father and his youngest brother, Midshipman R H Donnell RN. Of the Revd Donnell’s other two sons, one had been killed whilst serving with the Army and the other lay wounded in a London hospital.
Once this poignant ceremony was over the group was encouraged to view an exhibition of Squadron photographs and memorabilia assembled by the NARG in the adjacent Church Centre. The exhibition traced the history of the Squadron and highlighted a number of important events in the life of59. One such event was an account of the gallant but short life of the first permanent Commanding Officer of 59, Major “Bob” Egerton. More of this brave young man was to be heard later in the weekend’s events.
Squadron reunion at the Ship Inn
After an interval where the members of the NARG took a welcome break, those visitors staying in the village met at “The Ship”, an old wartime ‘watering hole’ and over dinner numerous stories and reminiscences were recounted. As the day drew to a close everyone gradually retired to their bedrooms to await the coming of a new day.
Monday 17th July 2000, Service of Celebration at All Saints Church, Narborough
Monday dawned bright for the first time for many days. Members of the NARG were seen scurrying around carrying out last minute tasks such as positioning the “wheel” in the Church and allocating seats for their special guests. As 11 o’clock approached the beautiful Church of All Saints, decorated with a myriad of floral displays, began to fill until there was hardly a seat to be found anywhere. The Service of Celebration began with the parading of the standard of 1220 (March) Squadron Air Training Corps and after a welcome by the Reverend Stuart Nairn the narration prepared by the NARG was read out by David Burchell. This narration, the poems and the pieces which formed the service are included in their entirety in a special 32 page booklet prepared by NARG to commemorate the event.
Two of the poems read at the Service are reproduced below.
RAF – The Ancestors – by C D Lewis read by John Conning
Inventive men, haunted by imagesOf Flight, they worked in power and stress to learn
The swallow’s long endurance, the pacific Gliding gulls, the plover’s looping turn.
Audacious men, they clothed their vibrant vision with wood and linen,
Flew it in the teeth Of gravity, and like enchanters held A fragile art between themselves and Death.
Air-worthy men, sons of the element that speaks in light and lifts the venturer high,
They traced a buoyant span from shore to shore or fell like sunbursts from the embattled sky.
Their spirits rose in fine pitch off the field Of earth, taking a steep way to the stars
History flew beside them, and bright fame Arches her wings above their cloudy wars.
The Submarine Hunters – by F Scott Wills, read by David Turner
No whale may blow, without our shrieking wings
Shall cleave the peace and drive her to the deep
The goose turns swiftly from his arrow course
The basking shark is troubled in his sleep
While fingers numberless of dying wind
Indolent, heedless, trailing on the swell
Draw subtle, mystic lines into the haze
Tell of the ancient silence we dispel
No ship divides this never-ending sea
Which holds our eager eyes, as on a book
Of empty wordless volumes, page on page
Hour upon hour, bewitched, we sit- and look
Seeking the submarine, and seeing fish
Swooping incredulous on porpoise play
Looking for oil where beds of waving weed
Break the vast monotone of ocean grey
Until, in reverie of search, our souls
Swim with the seagull-shrouded herring shoals.
F Scott Wills, a young pilot wrote this poem after his first operation flight in the Bay of Biscay in 1941
Visit to RAF Marham
Once the emotionally charged service was over the veterans of 59 moved across to Church Farm to enjoy some light refreshments before embarking on the final event of the weekend – a visit to RAF Marham. Not before however, many more photographs were taken!
The visit to RAF Marham was a fitting climax to the events of the weekend. Taken by bus to the historic main briefing room on the camp the group were privileged to have the acting Station Commander Wg Cdr D Diamond (OC Ops) give a talk on the history of the airfield and update on the role of the station and the squadrons currently serving there. This was followed by a further talk by the acting OC 39 Squadron, Sqn Ldr M Lence who outlined the activities of 39 as a photo-reconnaissance squadron and the many tasks the squadron performed both for the military and the civilian authorities. Once the briefing was over the group were escorted to view a PR9 Canberra situated on one of the aircraft pans. There followed enthusiastic discussion particularly by those of 59 who flew a similar variant to the Marham Canberras before the Squadron disbanded in 1961. After being shown many technical innovations on the aircraft the group moved into No.4 hangar to view a Tornado which four squadrons are scheduled to fly from Marham in the near future.
And so a remarkable weekend came to a conclusion, and it only remained for promises to keep in touch to be made and farewells to be said. Regrettably many 59 Squadron members were unable to attend the events of July 16th and 17th and it is for them that the booklet has been especially prepared. It is hoped that some of the excitement, sadness, nostalgia and remembrance that was so apparent during the 16thand 17th can be transposed to those absent comrades so that they too can enjoy the events of this memorable weekend.
The Narborough Airfield Research Group would like to express its thanks to all those who helped make the weekend so special, but more particularly it would like to close with a tribute to all those of 59, past and present, who served their Squadron with such distinction. It is they who have ensured that the Squadron will never be forgotten.
Past members of 59 Squadron ‘On Parade’ during July 16th & 17th, 2000
Tom Cottew Peter Masterman
Reg Geary John Moles
Ron Godfrey John “Harry” Scarff
David Haller Bill Sills
John Knight Jimmy Winstanley
EIGHTY years on, a memorial plaque dedicated to the men and women who served at Narborough Aerodrome during the First World War has been unveiled. Sunday’s ceremony at the recently-restored churchyard wall marked the culmination of Narborough Local History Society’s efforts to have the memory of the airfield permanently recorded in the village. Fittingly, a Tiger Moth biplane, symbolising aircraft of that era and piloted by Mr H. Labouchere, circled over All Saints’ Church in an aerial salute to conclude the ceremony. Group Captain Malcolm Prissick, commanding officer of RAF Marham, unveiled the plaque, watched by a large group of villagers and visitors to the church’s flower festival. In his address, he spoke of Narborough being an important airfield which was operational before Marham, and therefore “a forebear of the major base which exists at the top of the hill.” Close ties had existed between RAF Marham and the Narborough community ever since, and he felt privileged to unveil the plaque, he said.
Information Board at Narborough Church
Extract from theLynn News and Advertiser – 29th November 1996……….
A PLAQUE recalling the short but proud history of RAF Narborough – once the largest all-aircraft aerodrome in Britain – has been unveiled in the village. The information board, with white lettering on a blue backdrop, is mounted on the Church Centre wall next to the war graves in All Saints’ churchyard of those who died while serving at the airfield. It was donated by Narborough Local History Society and unveiled by Miss Greta Towler, a long-serving member, following the Remembrance Day service at All Saints’ church. Chairman Mr David Turner said the society was “extremely proud” to have provided a memorial to those who served the country from Narborough Aerodrome between 1915 and 1919. Local vicar, the Rev Stuart Nairn, closed the ceremony with a prayer of dedication.