14.07.1944 No 403 Squadron Spitfire IX W/O 1. William C. Powers
Operation: Armed Recce
Date: 14th July 1944 (Friday)
Unit: No. 403 Squadron
Type: Spitfire IX
Base: RAF Bazenville, Normandy
Location: Flers, France
Pilot: W/O I. William Charles Powers R/71499 RCAF Age 23. Injured
REASON FOR LOSS:
The story of the loss of this pilot started with research by the webmaster on a RNZAF pilot 20 year old, P/O. Graeme Holt Fenton NZ/401378. He married a young lady, Joan Molly (née Epps) from the Isle of Sheppey in Kent. A member of the WAAF at 18, tasked with developing combat films for the RAF. She met and married Graeme who was based at the same airfield, but sadly he was killed during an exercise on Tuesday the 10th March 1942.
Flying Spitfire Vb BL785 with 54 Squadron (11 Group) out of RAF Castletown and carrying out mock low level attacks with one other on army vehicles and gun positions. The Spitfire came in too low and struck one of the vehicles, killing the pilot along with two Army occupants. Thought to be 23 year old, Sgt. Sgt. Samuel Arnold 855796 and 22 year old, Gnr. George McKenzie 937373 both serving with the Royal Artillery.
Joan had a son by Graeme (also given the same name) and struggled with the loss of her husband. She already knew William, who was a close friend of Graeme - they served together and it seems inseparable. They became involved and later married in May 1943. They had a son, Gary.
Then, just over a year later he was also killed. Flying over Flers in Spitfire MK881 when his aircraft was hit by anti-aircraft fire. It seems that he survived the shooting down, badly injured and taken PoW but had to be treated for his injuries in a Luftwaffe hospital. Sadly he died on Thursday the 20th July 1944.
Desperate and suffering the loss of two husbands and with two children to bring up, she was then approached by the father of her first husband, Mr. Basil Charles Fenton and his wife, Annie, offering to help her settle in New Zealand. Escaping from the Blitz, ruins left in England and the food shortages and with two boys to bring up she left for New Zealand.
That is where the story ends - we have asked our friends in New Zealand to assist expand on this story - less than a day later they did. Medals Reunited New Zealand sent further great information on P/O. Fenton and his wife.
New Zealand - such a very small country but contributed such a huge amount!
W/O I. William Charles Powers. St. Charles De Percy War Cemetery. Grave VIII.B.10. Son of William Lafontaine Powers and Jeannie Powers (née Wharry) and husband of Joan Molly Powers. Father to Gary. Brandon, Manitoba, Canada.
Powers Island in Snyder Lake was named after W/O I. William Charles Powers in 1995
Others mentioned in this page of remembrance:
P/O. Graeme Holt Fenton. Olrig New Cemetery. Sec. A. Grave 106. Born on the 15th November 1921 in Takapuna, North Shore, Auckland, the son of Basil Charles (1892-1966) and Annie Heywood Fenton (née White 1896-1991), of Mangere East, Auckland, New Zealand. Educated at the Sacred Heart College and joined the Air Force on the outbreak of war. Also husband of Joan Molly (Parents Richard and Rose Epps - née Burch) and father to Graeme. A total of 408 flying hours logged.
Graeme Avenue in Mangere East is named after him as that is where the land that his father once owned prior to development. It appears that Joan Molly Epps died in Vietnam on the 24th July 2014.
Sgt. Samuel Arnold. Elton Churchyard (All Saints), Lancashire. Sec. C. Grave 186. Son of Samuel and Janet Arnold, of Elton, Bury, England.
Gnr. George McKenzie. Glasgow Cemetery (Lambhill). Sec. Q. Grave 356. Son of Thomas and Annie McKenzie, of Possilpark, Glasgow, Scotland.
Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this pilot with thanks to the research by Errol Martyn and his publications: “For Your Tomorrow Vols. 1-3”, Auckland War Memorial Museum, Weekly News of New Zealand, also many thanks to Paul McMillan on the RAF Commands Forum for other army casualty details. Also a great many thanks to Ian Martyn at Medals Reunited New Zealand for his research. Other sources as quoted below: