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George Potter

Posted by SCe Comments Off on George Potter

george potter 2George Potter was one of Piha’s characters of which the community has always had not a few.

George Edward Potter was born to Florence Minnie and Frank Potter on 6 March 1915 at Kekerangu which is on the South Island coast near Kaikoura. His father was a labourer and when the family moved north to Braigh, Waipu, in the 1920s, George also found work as a labourer. After the war, George worked as a chemical worker and lived in South Auckland. In 1946, he bought a section at 34 Te Ahuahu Road for £50 and built his own house. According to the Piha News, George was something of a rough diamond who chose an open air lifestyle, working as a road surfaceman for the WCC.

He like pig hunting for which purpose he kept dogs, and he also fished, played bowls and enjoyed a drink and smoke at the RSA.

Rodger Curtice remembers giving George a carpet. When he visited, he found George had gutted a pig on the carpet and there was blood everywhere.

George was an artillery man in WW2, had served in Crete and seen the inside of Stalag VIIIB German prison camp,  escaped and been recaptured and suffered punishment which left him with stiff joints and crippled fingers for the rest of his life. When a reporter from the Western Leader visited him in 1995, he was shown the marks where the Gestapo pushed knives into the joints of George’s fingers.

“It makes it difficult to roll myself a cigarette these days,” complained George. “On a bad day it can take up to half-an-hour.”

9780755316267This reporter fond Potter reluctant to talk about his exploits, and he rarely talked about them to his mates at Piha, but they appeared in a best selling novel, Boldness Be My Friend, by British author Richard Pape. Pape’s gripping story was based on exploits he shared with Potter as POWs in 1943. To effect an escape, Pape and a Polish soldier swapped identities with Potter and another Kiwi, Winston Yeatman, in order to be in an outdoor work gang from which they would escape.

Soon after, Potter, who was pretending to be the Pole, found he was due to be transferred to a Slav concentration camp. So Potter changed his identity to Richard Pape. When the ruse was discovered and also that the real Pape and the Polish soldier had escaped, Potter was handed to the Gestapo.

george potter 2Earlier adventures involving George included helping the King of Greece escape from the German invasion of Crete in a fishing boat in 1940. Of the 700 Kiwi soldiers on Crete at that time, only 300 got off alive. For helping the King, George received a special plaque.

George never married but lived quietly at Piha with staunch friends. He helped the fire brigade and became part of Neighbourhood Watch. He was accorded Life Membership of the RSA.

George died of emphysema on 2 September 1998 at his Te Ahuahu Road house, aged 83.

George Potter on the left at the Bowler, Rosalie Pringle and G Collins with the ladies pairs cup

George Potter on the left at the Bowler, Rosalie Pringle and G Collins with the ladies pairs cup

Categories: Who they were

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