Next Memory

Background notes by David Parkes


In 1947, at the age of 28, Howard Powell joined the Birmingham Municipal Bank; he retired at age 65 in June 1983, having attained the Senior Management position of District Manager. Howard had always enjoyed writing, and during his career with the Bank was able to pursue this interest by becoming Editor of the in-house magazine (CONTACT) and the local Trade Union branchís magazine (The Guildsman). In 1972, Howard produced a history of the Bankís Staff Association that was included in a special edition of CONTACT that celebrated the Associationís Silver Jubilee.


Shortly after commencing his retirement, Howard began Ďwriting about my life, and my thoughts about the events of my lifeí Ė these writings were subsequently published as a book entitled One Manís Journey. In sections of that book, Howard describes his experiences during the Second World War (much of it spent as a Prisoner of War) and during his 36-year career with the Bank. An extract from One Manís Journey is reproduced below.

One Manís Journey

by Howard W Powell


It is strange how people can be thrown together and I always considered it to be a most unlikely trio when I was placed to work at a branch of the Bank that needed a staff of three only. The manager had been a conscientious objector throughout the war and, whilst respecting his right to his philosophy, I could never accept it because I had always the thought of a couple of German soldiers with rifles coming to my front door, going through it and ill-treating my loved ones. To be fair and by unspoken agreement we never discussed the subject because we both realised there was no common ground. I know that, had we not stood firm and fought, this country would have been quickly in the hands of the Germans who, I am well aware, would have so subjugated and slaughtered the population that ďBritishĒ would have disappeared with ďJewishĒ and most of the young people living here today would have never been born.


The trio at the branch was completed by a charming gentleman who had spent four years in various prison camps under the control of the Japanese; we talked together quite a lot and we agreed that, out of it all, and over the years, we may have been given insight into human behaviour that was fortunately denied most people; we agreed it would do no good simply to relate experiences and hope to help anyone but, if we did ever have the opportunity to benefit anyone in any way by offering deeper understanding because of our experiences, then this would be a time to reap some benefit from what we had undergone, if we were never able to do so, then it would be even more important for us to find some personal spiritual gain, otherwise those years in our lives would have been wasted. It is not possible to put your mind into someone elseís and make them share your memory if what you are describing is beyond their experience or knowledge or understanding, and it wouldnít help anyone if you could. It can be a comfort, when life puts pressures on you, to be able to call upon someone who has been through the valley and knows how to offer help, this help is not ďOh, yes, dear, I know what itís likeĒ because that only means ďI think I would react in so and so manner if this thing ever happened to meĒ or ďIf I had more or less the same hand of cards that you now hold, the cards in the other three hands would be distributed in a completely different way, so I can only tell you what card I would play and hope itís the right one in your case,Ē but itís surely better to be able to call upon someone who can say ďI had nothing and I smiled, letís see what you have.Ē 


The following two extracts from Howardís book recall his experiences in the Second World War and memories from his career in the Bank:


One Manís Journey: 1939 to 1947 Ė the bookís Appendix: a contribution by Howard to a 2001 project entitled Birmingham Lives. This section of Howard's book describes his experiences during World War II, and leading up to the date he joined the Bank


One Manís Journey: 1947 to 1983 Ė Chapter 15. This section of Howard's book recounts memories of his time at the BMB.