Old soldier, 95, was a veteran of Dunkirk and the D-Day landings

Oxford Mail: Bernard Powell Bernard Powell

A DUNKIRK and D-Day veteran has died, aged 95.

John Powell later worked in farming and as a storekeeper.

The grandfather-of-two was among the men of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) sent to France in 1940.

He was part of the evacuation from Dunkirk during the same year and also participated in the Normandy Landings in 1944.

Bernard John Powell was born on August 3, 1918, at his family home in High Street, South Moreton, near Didcot.

He was the seventh child of blacksmith Harry Powell and his wife, Kate (née Mace) who had four boys and four girls.

Between the ages of five and 14, he was a pupil of South Moreton School before starting work at the Saunderville estate.

In 1936 he became a blacksmith’s apprentice at Wilder’s Foundry, in Wallingford, but was laid off and never finished his apprenticeship.

He joined the Army in 1939 and did infantry training at Reading as part of the Royal Berkshire Regiment Second Battalion.

He was sent to France in 1940 with the BEF and was part of the Allies’ withdrawal from Dunkirk that same year.

Mr Powell would later recall arriving on a beach full of exhausted or dying men, some who had drowned trying to wade out to boats off the coast, being sporadically strafed with gunfire by German planes.

He volunteered to be a stretcher-bearer and after three days got aboard a ship.

His battalion was later sent to Ulster for intensive training before being stationed in the south of England, and embarking for Normandy the night before D-Day.

On June 6, 1944, the landing craft Mr Powell was on was blown off-course, causing his unit to land at Bernières-sur-Mer, codenamed “Juno Beach”, with a Canadian regiment.

He fought in the battle for Caen in 1944 but during a later attack by German snipers at Mont Pincon, most of his platoon were killed by ‘friendly’ mortar fire after they were mistaken for Germans.

Mr Powell survived and carried a badly injured comrade to safety.

He later guarded prisoners of war before joining the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers as a driver. He also repaired military vehicles and machinery and became a regimental barber.

After the war he returned to South Moreton and took a job working for farmers Bill and Tom Hedges.

It was during this time that he met his future wife, land girl Marion Gladwin, from Bradfield, Berkshire.

The van she drove to drop girls at the farm had a puncture and Mr Powell changed the wheel for her.

They married in St Luke’s Church, Reading, in 1950. Daughter Judy was born in 1953 followed by Susan in 1956.

Mr Powell delivered poultry in the late 1950s before taking a job with Thames Valley Eggs at its head office in Didcot.

Another job was as a turbine engineer at Didcot Power Station.

In 1971 he became a storekeeper for Southern Gas at its Cowley depot. He retired in 1983.

His hobbies included growing vegetables and playing for Didcot Bowls Club.

In 2004, he visited Normandy for the 60th anniversary of D-Day and was presented with a badge by the Mayor of Bernières-sur-Mer at a formal ceremony.

He enjoyed spending time with his two grandchildren, Holly and Tom, children of daughter, Susan, who lives in Rugby.

Mr Powell died peacefully in the John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, on February 20.

His wife died in 2008, but he is survived by his sister Lilian, who turned 100 in 2013, his two daughters and two grandchildren.

A private funeral will be held today at St John the Baptist, South Moreton.

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