Frederic Whinchcombe (Dick) Powell

Frederic Whinchcombe Powell Born: 12 November 1915, Barrackpore, West Bengal, India
Parents: Frederick Randolph Powell and Frances Mary Josephine Powell (nee Russsell)
Married: Phyllis Alma Hancock, 3 June 1943, Port Elizabeth, Cape Province, South Africa
Children: Elizabeth Anne Powell (now Mitchell), 25 September 1944, Port Elizabeth, South Africa
                  Frederic John Winchcombe Powell, 19 March 1946, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa
                  Jennifer Margaret Powell (now Kennedy), 13 January 1948, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa
                  Marilyn Louise Powell (now Hillyard), 6 May 1950, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa
Died: 11 October 1974, Pietermaritzburg, Natal, South Africa
Buried: Mountain Rise Cemetery, Pietermaritzburg, Natal, South Africa

F. Whinchcombe Powell (1915-1974) was born in Barrackpore, India, of British parentage, and was educated at Eastbourne College in England. He was commissioned in the Royal Air Force before WWII, and after the Battle of Britain he was seconded to the South African Air Force. In South Africa he met and married Alma Hancock, who served as an NCO in the SA Air Force (SAWAAF). After the war, he returned to the UK to be demobilised and was given a ticket to travel to Canada. Fortunately for his family, he returned to South Africa to his wife and elder daughter, and his son who had been born while he was away. A short period working for an engineering company on the Witwatersrand was followed by a move to Pietermaritzburg, where he worked in the aluminium industry until he retired.

When he married his wife, he found himself to be suddenly part of an immensely large and close family, which was scattered throughout Southern Africa and beyond. The Hancock family was descended from British Settlers who had arrived in the Cape Colony in 1820, and their history intrigued F.W. Powell. In order to preserve the story of this Settler family, he embarked upon a long and fascinating journey of research and discovery, which culminated in the writing of his book, Hancock's Drift. Hancock's Drift was originally published in 1958 and mainly distributed among Hancock descendants. Subsequent editions were updated and published at regular intervals by the author, until his death in 1974. His work has been acknowledged by many historians to be an important addition to Africana.

Hancock's Drift

"After the Napoleonic Wars, conditions in England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland were almost unbearable for millions of citizens. Work was scarce, crime was rife, cities were polluted, and infant mortality rates were high. In 1820, about 3000 men, women, and children left the British Isles and sailed to the Cape Colony at the southern tip of Africa. These 1820 British Settlers set out with high hopes of creating a better life for themselves and their children. What lay ahead of them was beyond their wildest imaginings, and only their strong faith in their God and themselves, their hard work, fighting spirit and ingenuity, would ensure their survival. Many fell along the way, defeated by extremes of weather and climate, harsh treatment from their remote government and attacks by warring tribes. Those who won through, adapted and survived, were those who saw the promise of this new land fulfilled, and their faith vindicated. This is the story of one of those families, of James and Ann Hancock and their children, of their trials, hopes, sorrows and joy. Hancock's Drift is an historical novel, based on information researched and gathered from many books and documents, some unseen before, as well as interviews with descendants of the Hancock and Hulley familes, some of whom were separated by just one generation from the original Settlers."

Proceeds from the sale of this book go to a charity run by members of the Church of Saint Thomas in Calcutta, India, which is the church in which the author's parents were married. (Incidentally, it's also the church where Mother Theresa's body lay in state before her funeral.) The money helps abandoned street children and old people, and provides food, clothing, medical treatment, and educational assistance to the desperately needy.

The unusual spelling of Whinchcombe (instead of the more common Winchcombe) resulted from the mis-spelling in the register by the priest when the baptismal certificate was issued. (At that time, in India, birth certificates weren't issued to Europeans.)
Copyright © 2011-2021, Rodney Jones,, Johannesburg, South Africa (Last updated on 20 February 2021)