G’day sis! Adopted brother jets in from Australia to meet the Norfolk relatives he never knew he had

Christopher Powles and his half sister Val Latimer have met up for the first time. Photo: Bill Smith Christopher Powles and his half sister Val Latimer have met up for the first time. Photo: Bill Smith

Thursday, July 24, 2014
8:59 AM

A brother meets his sister for the first time, after he was adopted at birth in 1945 and later moved to Australia.

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Christopher Powles and his half sister Val Latimer have met up for the first time. Photo: Bill SmithChristopher Powles and his half sister Val Latimer have met up for the first time. Photo: Bill Smith

Val Latimer, of Bullace Road, Costessey, thought she was the eldest of seven siblings until she began delving into her ancestry.

The 65-year-old discovered she had an elder brother, called Christopher, and was desperate to learn more about him.

He had been adopted at birth as their mother Margaret was just 16-years-old when she had him at the end of the Second World War, and his absent father was believed to be a Canadian serviceman.

Mrs Latimer never asked her mother about her long lost brother, as she thought it would be too personal a subject and her mother never talked about it.

Margaret Powles, Christopher Powles and Val Latimer's mother. Photo: Bill SmithMargaret Powles, Christopher Powles and Val Latimer's mother. Photo: Bill Smith

Margaret Powles died on January 17, 2012.

Two years later - almost to the day - the family made a breakthrough, when Christopher made contact through an ancestry website.

His adopted name was Battley, but he discovered that his birth name was Powles through research.

Mr Battley lives in Maitland, around 100 miles north of Sydney, Australia, and worked as a carer for children in crisis before he retired.

He had been desperate to find out if he had a family, and the first Norfolk profile he emailed on an ancestry website turned out to be his niece.

She phoned him up and said the family were keen to meet him.

“I sat down and thought ‘you’ve got to be joking’,” said Mr Battley, 68. “The odds of that happening - I just sat there bewildered, and then I found out how big the family was.

“I thought ‘I’ve got to go and see them’ and I bought the plane tickets.”

He touched down in England on Monday, and Mrs Latimer and family met him off the train at Norwich station - wielding a giant Australian flag.

It was a powerful moment, but they said they managed not to cry.

Asked what their first words to each other were in person, Mr Battley smiled: “I think it was ‘let’s find a pub’.

“We don’t have Guinness over there, and the first thing I ordered was that on tap.”

They have spent the week getting to know each other, and Mrs Latimer has been introducing her brother to the family - of which there are more than 100 across the country, including Cromer and other Norfolk towns.

He will stay in England for three weeks and has been touring Norfolk - with family planning to take him on steam trains, to the Broads, on a Norwich ghost walk, to see the cathedral and to Blickling proms.

“It’s great being here - an uncanny feeling,” said Mr Battley “The most uncanny feeling was finding out my name.”

He said he had been nervous about getting in touch with his family, as his adopted sister had tracked down her mother and found she did not want to talk to her.

But when he found his family had been looking for him too, he was over the moon.

He admitted he had not married as he was cynical about the idea of family, because he felt he had none of his own.

“The initial feelings of finding a family, a real family, you can’t imagine,” he said. “It’s exciting, I think.

“With me, things take a while to sink in.”

Val quipped “we’ve noticed”, and Christopher shot back “it runs in the family!”

The family agreed he has the Powles sense of humour, and they have noticed familiar mannerisms.

Mrs Latimer and the family said they are already planning a big holiday down under, and have vowed to stay close as a family.

Have you made contact with a long lost relative? Email samuel.russell@archant.co.uk

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