Captain John Wilson, “Jake” Powell

Captain Powell was the A-Squadron 2nd in Command (2ic) and was the first to launch from LCT 390 in the centre of the Squadron formation. He later remembered being “sick as a dog” on the trip over however the anticipation of finally engaging the enemy and the concentration required to manoeuvre his fragile vehicle to shore, proved to be a remarkable restorative, and he later recalled feeling like a “Million dollars” on the trip in. Although it was originally intended to land in the centre of the defensive zone, the heavy wind and tide forced the squadron steadily Eastwards towards the defences near the harbour mouth. Again, due to the conditions the carefully rehearsed plan of attack which had all vehicles landing simultaneously was also somewhat awry.

Captain John Powell

As already noted, A-Squadron landed several minutes behind the infantry, and as the Squadron Headquarters tanks of Captain Powell and Corporal Beverly dropped their screens, they found themselves alone on the beach, slightly ahead of the rest of the Squadron. To their front at the base of the dunes was the infantry of the Royal Winnipeg Rifles. Manoeuvring forward through the beach obstacles Captain Powell’s tank was hit by a high explosive round which did no appreciable damage to the vehicle but shrapnel did wound his hand. Joining the infantry at the base of the dunes he left his tank to receive a briefing from the Company Commander. Back in his vehicle he began to cruise up and down the beach engaging enemy positions with both his main (75mm) gun, and his Coax machine gun, at the same time as he directed the fire of other tanks now arriving on the beach. In what might be considered a case of foreshadowing, his gunner eliminated an old 75mm field gun with a round through the barrel. There is no way to know if this was the particular gun that scored the first hit on his tank. Seeing what looked like a route through the dunes, Captain Powell ordered his driver to advance. As the tank crested the dune, there was a terrific clang as a 50mm anti-tank round went through the barrel of his main gun and gouged into the armour on the turret. Having located the enemy’s position in the open ground to his left, Powell continued to advance with nothing more than his Coax Machine gun. His tank received a second glancing blow from the 50mm gun before he was able to manoeuvre around it and take out the crew from the rear. Captain Powell then returned to the beach and exchanged vehicles with Corporal Beverly, and when the beach was clear continued inland in close support of the infantry, until, later that afternoon his vehicle was rendered immobile by a broken track. Undeterred and determined to stay in the fight, he and his crew repaired the track and rejoined the Squadron as soon as possible.

Captain Powell’s determination, aggressive courage, and skill, was an example to all ranks that day, and resulted in his first of two decorations for bravery in the face of the enemy (The Military Cross).

Attached is a link to a post war interview conducted with Captain Powell in the collection of the Imperial War Museum.

https://www.iwm.org.uk/embed/?id=80033418&media_id=516734


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