Herbert William Powley AM

b. 02/12/1900 Eastleigh, Hampshire.  d. 24/05/1941 Battle of Denmark Strait. 

DATE OF AM ACTION: 22/04/1917 Poole, Dorset.

Herbert was born on 2nd December 1900 in Eastleigh, Hampshire, the son of William Charles and Bessie Powley (nee Phippen). His father worked on the railways as a coach finisher. Tragically his father died when Herbert was just four, and soon afterwards, he and two sisters moved with their mother to Exeter, where they attended Hele’s Grammar School.

Herbert signed up for the Royal Navy on his 18th birthday, soon after the end of the First World War. He was a Boy Artificer. His first assignment was on HMS Indus. Soon after his 25th birthday he was seconded to the Royal Australian Navy serving on a number of ships including HMAS Cerberus. In 1927 whilst in Australia he married Marion Broadhead, a worsted mender, who had travelled from Leeds, Yorkshire to visit her sister, Alice. Herbert was good friends with a fellow secondee, Herbert Broadhead, Marion’s brother. From 1934 to 1939 Herbert was based in Malta and served on HMS Hood. The family moved back to England in 1939, and settled in Headingley, Leeds. The outbreak of World War II meant that Herbert did not have to retire at the mandatory age of 40. He was lost at sea when the HMS Hood was sunk by the Bismarck during the Battle of Denmark Strait.



On the 22nd April, 1917, a violent explosion occurred on board H.M. Motor Launch 431 while she was lying alongside the jetty at the Base. The after part of the vessel was wrecked, and it at once became known that Sub-Lieutenant Charles W. Nash, R.N.V.R., was buried beneath the wreckage. Chief Motor Mechanic Pooley and Deckhand Powley, who were on board their own vessel lying at the jetty some fifty yards astern, immediately hurried to the motor launch, which was by that time burning fiercely. The flames were every instant drawing nearer to the spot where Sub-Lieutenant Nash lay buried, and it was clear that there was imminent danger of the after petrol tanks exploding at any moment. Regardless of the fact that this would mean certain death to them, Powley and Pooley jumped on board the vessel and succeeded in extricating Sub-Lieutenant Nash from beneath the wreckage and carrying him to the jetty. As they were leaving the boat’ the whole of the after part burst into flames, and, in all probability, had they been delayed for another thirty seconds all three would have perished. Deckhand Powley, who led the way on board the burning motor launch, had subsequently to be sent to hospital suffering from the effects of fumes.