Reflections on a great uncle

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Reflections on a great uncle


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Berty Potier


A Potier family story by Gordon Kennedy


Lest We Forget

Herbert Winter Potier (1895-1918)

This is devoted to Great Uncle Herbert (Uncle Berty) and is dedicated to a man I never knew but who has had a profound impact on my life.

Uncle Berty was born at St Brelade in 1895. He died fighting on the Somme in World War 1 on Sunday 11 August 1918.

Family history

My interest in our family history started many, many years ago. I suppose it originated from very early family talk about an uncle who went to war but who never returned. Not much was said about him and, I suppose, being an inquisitive sort of person by nature, I wanted to know more about him but did not realise it at the time.

About 15 or more years ago I decided to find out more about Herbert Winter Potier and so my quest began. With the help of my sister, who is a mine of information about our family, I set out to discover what happened to him and eventually found him. He is buried in a cemetery in northern France on the battlefield where he lost his life.

I visited his grave in 2007. It was and always will be one of the most profound and moving experiences of my life. I cannot describe the emotion and the tears of that day as I knelt by his grave. I felt connected to him there and then, even though I never knew him. Uncle Berty was not the only Potier family member to see WW1 service. The following is a list of all of those who served.

Potier war service

All these Potiers are the Descendants of Pierre Potier

  • Herbert Winter Potier (1897-1918) son of John Alexander Potier and Esther Elizabeth, Private, Dorset Regiment, killed in action
  • Samuel Potier (1887- ) (St B) Son of John Alexander and Esther Elizabeth, Sapper, Canadian Royal Engineers
  • Alfred John Potier (1892- ) (St B) son of Alfred John and Henrietta Susan, nee Ollivier, 2nd Lieutenant RAF, served as Potter, later emigrated to Canada
  • Reginald Francis Potier (1898-1963) (St B) son of Alfred John and Henrietta Susan, exRMIJ, Gunner, RFA
  • Philip John Potier (1886- ) (St S) son of Francis Charles and Sophia , Gunner, Royal Horse Artillery, wounded twice.
  • William Charles Edward Potier (1884- ) (St S) son of Francis Charles and Sophia , ex-RMIJ, Sapper RE

Burial

Herbert is buried in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) New British Cemetery, at Bouchoir, Departement de la Somme, Picardie, France.

The village of Bouchoir passed into German hands on 27 March 1918 but was recovered by the 8th Canadian Infantry Brigade on 9 August 1918. The New British Cemetery was made after the Armistice, when graves were brought there from several small Commonwealth cemeteries and from the battlefields around Bouchoir and south of the village. Almost all date from March, April or August 1918 The cemetery now contains 763 burials and commemorations of the First World War. 231 of the burials are unidentified but there are special memorials to five casualties known or believed to be buried among them.

Another special memorial commemorates an airman buried in Laboissiere German Cemetery whose grave could not be found.

This dedication to Uncle Berty focuses on his WW1 service and unfortunate death. Not much else is known about him.He was mentioned in conversation from time to time, but for the most part he was simply ‘the one who went to war and never returned’. With hindsight, I guess that was his siblings’ way of dealing with the grief. However, I do believe they did not appear to know anything about where he was buried, only that it was in France.

I am sure that Samuel, Charles and Ada, plus our grandmother, knew about the dedications and memorials to him and the other Jersey boys who died. They are commemorated on Rolls of Honour in the island. There is one held by Jersey Archive, plus numerous others within the parishes of Jersey. The States Of Jersey issued a Roll Of Honour.

On his gravestone is an inscription which reads: ‘Beyond The Dawn Is Everlasting Day’. This was requested by his sister Ada (Aunt Ada who brought up my sister and I). This reinforces my earlier statement, about my belief that he was not talked about much because of their grief in the loss of their ‘little brother’.

RIP

When I set out some 15 years ago to find out more about this great-uncle of mine, little did I know the profound emotional effect it would have on me. I never knew him; he died 26 years before I was born. Yet, through my quest to know more I have somehow found myself being, I don’t know, drawn spiritually close to him you might say. I still remember the tears on the day I found his grave. RIP

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