Date added: 8 Apr 2010
Leonard Maurice Potter DFM 1922-2010
Dad was born in Leyton, West Ham, in 1922, the second of three boys. Eric the eldest brother and Ernie the youngest. They grew up in Ilford, living at 192 Hampton Road in a terraced house in a row of many such terraced houses.
For a lad who did not himself pass his school certificate and had to leave school at the age of 14 it is good to think that he saw both his sons go on to higher education and his grand children also all do very well for themselves.
When the war came, Dad volunteered to join the RAF when he was only 19 years old. Between 1941 and 1944 he saw action in the Middle East and over France and Germany. He served principally in 40 Squadron, flying Wellington bombers, and in 640 Squadron, flying Halifax bombers. His main job was as wireless operator and gunner. During his war service he saw many flying hours and was considered lucky company by other air crew who were keen to fly with him for this reason. As with many things, Dad rarely spoke about his war time experiences but we know he was rightly proud of his time in the RAF. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal in 1944, for displaying great courage and devotion to duty.
Dad met Win during his second tour of duty and I am sure my Dad’s skill on the dance floor must have helped in the romance. Mum and Dad were married on 9 January 1944 at the Parish Church in Ilford and set up home in Chadwell Heath. After the war, Dad worked in the City of London and soon found a position at Kleinwort’s Merchant Bank as a bank clerk. Mum and Dad moved to Hullbridge in Essex and I was born there in 1950. In 1954, we moved to Gant’s Hill and Chris was born there in 1956. The choice of Gant’s Hill had two big advantages for Mum and Dad, firstly, it was located on the Central Line of the Underground and provided a direct link to the City of London for Dad’s work and, secondly, it brought them closer to three of Mum’s sisters – Jean, Ethel and Con. This extended family network was very important to us and was especially good fun at Christmas time.
In 1968, the opportunity came for Dad to relocate to work at the bank’s Newbury office and so the family moved west to benefit from the beautiful market town and the lovely surroundings of the Berkshire / Hampshire countryside. New friends were made here and before long Mum and Dad were moving into a brand new house and taking on the challenge of planting a large new garden. There were several exciting holidays during those years, amongst them a visit to Canada, to see brother Ernie and his family who had emigrated there in the 1950’s, and a holiday in Malta, to see where Dad had been stationed during the early part of 1942. When retirement finally came, Mum and Dad took up indoor bowls and this brought a new collection of friends. I know it was a great pleasure for Dad to have Chris and his family living close by in Thatcham.
Mum and Dad moved to Cambourne in 2006 when it was decided that they needed more support as it had become clear that living in a house was too much for them to cope with. It was good to have them living close by.
It is very difficult to think of Mum without Dad or Dad without Mum. Win and Len were inseparable and I know that Dad would almost always like to ask Mum’s opinion before answering a question. They were a great partnership and it was wonderful to be able to celebrate their 80th birthdays in 2002 and their 60th wedding anniversary in 2004.
Dad was a quiet and unassuming man who once fought bravely for his country. He was a loyal and loving husband and immensely proud of his children, grand children and great grand children. He worked hard at the office and at home, although I think he found the changing world around him to be quite a challenge. In recent years his health was not so good but he rarely complained. His abiding concerns were: ‘How is the family? How is work?’
Dad’s life was defined by his time in the RAF, by his marriage and by his family. He was not always politically correct in what he said but then I guess he had earned the right to speak his mind. He had a firm handshake and a winning smile, he was brilliant at draughts and could quickly add up a column of figures without making a mistake. He was quiet and unassuming and I agree with the nurses and the care attendants who saw him over the last few months and who all said that he was ‘a lovely man’.
29 January 2010