Harry Stanyer Powell was born in Smethwick, Staffordshire, on 12th March 1893 the only son of Harry Powell, a grocer and provision merchant, and his wife Edith Jane Powell [née Hewlett]. His sister Edith Mary was born five years later.
Harry was educated at King Edward’s School, Birmingham and Wellington College1 before taking up a place at Birmingham University where he studied Dentistry, undertaking a two year apprenticeship with JR Knott in Moseley concluding in 1911.
Not long after the outbreak of the war Harry signed his attestation papers in Birmingham and joined 14th (Service) Battalion (1st Birmingham), The Royal Warwickshire Regiment; one of the Birmingham ‘Pals’ Battalions as Private 294 Harry S. Powell.
In January 1915 whilst still based in Birmingham Harry was promoted to Lance-Corporal and then to Corporal on 8th May. For some reason unbeknown, the rank did not sit comfortably with him and so he resigned his stripes on 1st July 1915.
However, by 26 July 1915 his commission had come through. He was gazetted as a Second-Lieutenant in 3/6th Battalion, The Royal Warwickshire Regiment, one of the Regiment’s Territorial Force home-based units with a further advancement to temporary First-Lieutenant in December.
With the change in status of the 3/6th to a reserve unit in April 1916 Harry needed to obtain a posting to an active service battalion if he was to stand any chance of action. He accomplished this with little difficulty with a posting to the 1/6th Battalion, The Royal Warwickshire Regiment on 2nd July 1916 with his arrival in Le Havre. He then took a small party of 14 other ranks, as part of the new draft of soldiers, to the Battalion base at COUIN, a small farming village located 16 miles south-west of ARRAS by the banks of the Authie river.
On 25th July 1916 whilst in the reserve trenches between AVELVY and OVILLERS Harry was slightly wounded by enemy action but remained at his post.
A year later in July 1917 Harry was confirmed in the rank of First-Lieutenant and then on 6th September 1917 promoted to acting Captain [gazetted on 6th November].
The ‘Battle of Broodseinde’ began on 4th October 1917 near YPRES at the eastern end of the Gheluvelt plateau and was regarded as the most successful Allied attack of the ‘Battle of Passchendaele’. Using what were termed "bite-and-hold" tactics; i.e. objectives limited to what could be held against any German counter-attack; the British totally devastated the enemy defences, which prompted a crisis among the German general staff and a severe loss of morale amongst the soldiers themselves.
Harry was i/c ‘C’ Company and placed himself in the thick of the action. The attack commenced at 5.30am with all objectives taken with the exception of VACHER FARM and BURNS HOUSES with an estimated 350 PoW’s taken; 10 Machine Guns and 2 Anti-tank guns were also taken out of enemy control.
His actions during the opening phase of the battle resulted in the award of the Military Cross [MC] with the following citation:
‘For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty.
His company being enfiladed by the enemy, he led a party and captured the position under heavy machine-gun fire.
He then re-organised his company and continued the original advance.’
Unfortunately during this action Captain Harry Stanyer Powell, MC, i/c ‘C’ Company, 1/6th Battalion, The Royal Warwickshire Regiment, was gravely wounded and was stretchered back to No.47 Casualty Clearing Station [CCS] at Lozinghem. The following day, Friday 5th October 1917, he succumbed to his injuries at the age of 24. Also in No.47 CCS was fellow OW Stanley Dyson, and he too died that day. Due to the nature and seriousness of their wounds it is unlikely that each knew the other was there.
The action that resulted in the award of Harry’s MC claimed the loss of a further 5 officers killed, 1 officer reported missing and 5 officers wounded; 28 other ranks were killed, with 32 missing and 132 wounded.
Together with Stanley Dyson and Frank Lloyd he lies in Dozinghem Military Cemetery, Poperinge, West-Vlaanderen in Belgium. Harry Powell is further commemorated on the Albrighton War Memorial in Shropshire.
The Royal Warwickshire Regiment is perpetuated today in the 2nd Battalion, Royal Regiment of Fusiliers
In March 2012 the 3-medal set of Captain Harry Stanyer Powell, M.C. was put up for auction by his family and reached a sale price of £1300.