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60778: Notebook of Clifford Powell, on his deathbed

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posted on 2024-02-21, 10:50 authored by Great War Archive Project Team

Extracts from a notebook written in a number of people's handwriting which records the last thoughts of Arthur Clifford 'Cliff' Powell, eldest son of W.J. and Clara Powell, and older brother of Walter Powell. Their brother Percy had died of his wounds in 1917.

Cliff Powell was dying of TB contracted whilst serving in the trenches in the First World War. According to Walter Powell's notes Cliff had "served over 3 years at Ypres" in three regiments Herefords, Monmouth's, Somerset Light Infantry, "In 5 Battalions. Terrible Losses". Photographs of Cliff are also in this collection.

Entries in the notebook appear to have been made by Cliff in pencil, and sometimes these have been written over in ink (probably for clarity) in either his father or his mother's hand. They sometimes appear to be Cliff trying to communicate with a visitor. Poems and verse are included - possibly written by Cliff - he was a talented artist, painting birds in particular which were published in a number of books. Sometimes the entries appear to be thoughts recorded on paper as reminders for what to be done about the dispersal of his property or his wishes for readings etc. At the end the entries are written by people recording what Cliff has said or done in his delirium or in moments of calm/clarity.

It makes for some uplifting and some distressing reading. Some extracts include:

26 June 1921 I have always seen enough of God in nature to believe in Him. There are a great many more things in life to rejoice over than to mope about.

1 August 1921 At Alpine Bridge [a picturesque foot bridge over the River Ithon in Radnorshire]

At Alpine Bridge
deep dark valleys
had not been that
way before - lost
awoke ['on' DELETED] over the hills -
Where am I?
What day is it?
What time is it?
What has happened?

2 August 1921 I know the TB has got down to my stomach. It will soon carry me home - the Doctors are helpless.
6 August 1921 To Aunty: I hope I shall keep smiling to the end. I shall try.
7 August 1921 To self: Will power has a great deal to do with it. I hope you won't hear me squeal. I shall try to smile to the end.
9 August 1921 Tell her ['Blanche' is mentioned elsewhere on that page] that I am getting weaker... only a matter of time
13 August 1921 His [Cliff's] birthday. Many gifts of flowers. This is my last Birthday. I am just glad I reached it. I want to go now, quietly. When Dad said to me a week last Friday lets see is your Birthday tomorrow, I said no a week tomorrow but I meant to reach it if I could, I don't know just why but I have startedmy 27th year.
14 August 1921 ...I have found more evidence of God's love and wisdom in Nature and the world, than I ever saw in any Church, And I saw more religion - well practical Christianity "over there", than I have ever seen anywhere else... now I just want to go quietly. I have no fear at all. (Aunty - Some people pass away in their sleep. Ah! I should like that)... The problem of pain: we think we should be better without pain, but how do we know its purpose, it is all around us. We are in the world, but we know little about it. ...I wish my old medals would come tomorrow. I should like to see them. (Wal should get his too) - All my Army papers and addresses are in my drawer now - Mother's seeing to all my letters - I have asked her.
20 August 1921 Good old Somerset Light Infantry, they had a torn flag and now my flag is torn too. It is now in my gums where teeth had been extracted. it is in my whole body, got it everywhere now... I have felt very bright today. I woke up bright at 9 o'clock, and was fully awake for my shave. Saw Emlyn, Agnes and Percy Bufton.
21 August 1921 Miss Thomas Neath called 10.30am. To Mother - You want some help to go to bed - I think.
20 August 1921 The great thing in life is not so much to win the game as to play a bad hand well.
21 August 1921 Evening delirium. Very weak. Can't I have a drink - no I can't have a drink - but - ? but - but - ? Wait a minute - Oh dear dear - , No I can't have a drink - because - because - ? That's it - ...He looked up at me and smiled as he always did. Passed away 4.20 a.m. Weds 24 August 1921.

"Success is of far less consequence than fortitude".

Even when the opposing team had piled up a heap of goals, they - played as hard as if success were only just round the corner.

Uphill - Christina Rossetti - poem is copied out in full.

Part of a collection relating to Walter H. Powell, Llandrindod Wells, (private / driver M2-267205 Mechanised Transport Army Service Corps). Born 1898, Walter tried to join up under-age on a number of occasions, finally succeeding in 1916. He served many months - (more than 2 years?) - in different army units in Britain, before going over to France. He served as a despatch rider for an anti-aircraft battery in 1918-1919. Walter was gassed "suffering the effects all his life". He was a founder member of Toc-H in Llandrindod, and a keen footballer - he died in 1994 aged 96. However Walter's older brothers (Cliff and Percy Powell) and his uncle (Humphrey Powell) died of wounds sustained during the war.



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Powell, Clifford


June - August 1921

Date Created

01/06/1921 | 01/01/1920

Temporal Coverage

31/08/1921 | 31/12/1920








1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22

Number of Pages



Richard Marshall | Alun Edwards | Bryan and Liz Edwards

Submission Event

Powys Archives Submission Day


The Great War Archive, University of Oxford / Primary Contributor


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