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Alumni remembered on D-Day’s 80th anniversary

As world leaders, Second World War veterans and well-wishers mark 80 years since the Normandy Landings, Trinity College remembers those who fought and died on 6 June 1944 and in the subsequent campaign to liberate the peoples of Western Europe from the tyranny of Nazi Germany.

Thousands of British, Canadian, American and other Allied soldiers came ashore on five Normandy beaches that morning, in a land, air and sea operation that remains the largest of its kind in history. Two million more men would follow in subsequent months, with inevitable casualties and deaths. Many of the fallen lie, not far from the battlefields, in cemeteries across Northern France.

Mrs Ann Lindsay with The Reverend Dr Michael Banner, Dean of Chapel.

Ann Lindsay is the daughter of John Henry Courthope Powell, a Major in the Royal Armoured Corps, and one of the 384 members of Trinity killed during the Second World War, including in the Normandy campaigns.

Mrs Lindsay, who was born only 10 days before her father’s death and celebrates her 80th Birthday this year, visited Trinity this week for the first time to see where her father and grandfather studied, rowed and enjoyed College life. Those were perhaps halcyon days in different eras for father and son, who barely knew each other in a tragic shared history.

They would both join the Army, fighting and dying in the two world wars respectively: Richard Henry Powell in the trenches on the frontline, on 9 May 1915; and his son, John Henry Powell, in the campaign following the Normandy Landings, on 19 July 1944.

Father and son were both aged 31 when they died, and neither got to see their children growing up.

Mrs Lindsay takes up the story:

‘My sister Elizabeth was born in 1942 and my father left my mother now pregnant with me in April 1944 in the top-secret preparations for D-Day.  I don’t think they were even allowed to write letters to their families in order to preserve total secrecy. I was born on 9 July 1944 and my father died on 19 July 1944.

Understandably my mother was almost unable to talk about him because it upset her so much – even towards the end of her life. I do remember being frequently told as a child that I was very like my father.

From a Powell perspective Trinity was the only place you would consider for your university education. My grandfather had two brothers who preceded him there and also two cousins; the latter two rowed with distinction at Cambridge as they were both Captain of Boats at Eton in their day, as was my father, who rowed in the victorious Cambridge crew of the 1935 Boat Race.

My youngest son Andrew Lindsay also rowed, for Oxford, followed by an Olympic Gold Medal in the British eight at Sydney in 2000.

I know nothing about my father’s time at Trinity other than he studied History and was very preoccupied with rowing and, as I have learnt from the archivist, was Secretary and Captain of the Third Trinity Boat Club, as well as rowing for Cambridge.

After university he joined Ind Coope and Allsopp Ltd, the brewing concern, and worked for them until being called up for the War. He had always been a very keen Territorial soldier and I have a report from an officer’s review board rating him as an excellent leader and all-rounder.

My father served with The Fife and Forfar Yeomanry, a tank regiment so he was not among the first ashore in Normandy. The British got bottled up in Caen by the Germans and it was in the breakout from Caen that he was killed as part of Operation Goodwood.

He was commanding a squadron of tanks when his tank broke down and he was obliged to swap tanks in order to continue in his duty. I believe he got caught while outside his tank.

My grandfather served with the Royal Sussex Regiment and was killed on 15 May 1915 at Aubers Ridge near Ypres. This meant that my father never knew his father any more than I knew mine!

My mother was a Scot and after my father’s death remained there, where I was brought up. I married a soldier and have had a peripatetic life but always based in Scotland. I have a daughter and three sons all of whom have the same large forehead which I am told I inherited from my father!

My trip south at this time is all connected with my 80th birthday which inevitably coincides with the D-Day commemorations. I am SO GLAD that I finally got to Trinity because worshipping in the Chapel where my father had so often done the same was extremely emotional and special for me.’

The west wall of the Antechapel is dedicated to the huge memorial of members of College who died in the Second World War.

Members of the College who died in the two world wars are commemorated in the Chapel, with individual information available on the Chapel website. The memorial to the 384 men who lost their lives in the Second World War is on the west wall of the Antechapel, behind the statue of Newton. Each person’s name was engraved by David Kindersley in 1951.

Richard Henry Powell 1884 – 1915

Born March 15 1884 in London. Son of Henry Pryor and Helena Powell of The Rectory, Penvorth, Sussex. School: Haileybury. Admitted as pensioner at Trinity June 25 1902; BA 1905. Married to Barbara Frances Courthope of 17 Tite Street, Chelsea, London. On the editorial staff of The Times. 2nd Lieut., Royal Sussex Regiment, ‘C’ Company 5th Battalion. Killed in action at Richebourg l’Avoué May 9 1915. Commemorated at Le Touret Memorial, France. UWL, FWR, CWGC

John Henry Courthope Powell 1913 – 1944

Born March 3 1913 at 17 Tite Street, London SW. Son of Richard Henry Powell. School: Eton. Admitted as Pensioner at Trinity Oct 1 1932; BA 1935. Married to Helen Clare Spencer-Nairn of Fife. Major, Royal Armoured Corps, ‘A’ Squadron, 2nd Fife and Forfar Yeomanry. Died July 19 1944. Buried in Banneville-la-Campagne War Cemetery, Calvados, France. FWR, CWGC

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