Norman was only 18 years old when he became gun sergeant, with his own gun and gun crew.
He was two years too young to go overseas so was posted to Borden as a drill instructor. He fought in Lilles and Ypres before landing in Newport in Belgium. In 1941 he was shipped out the Middle East, beginning a period of fighting all over the world. He remembers battles in Iraq, Suez, Egypt, Libya and the Western Deserts.
It was during one of these battles, in the Sahara, that Norman lost his sight, when Nazis attacked with trench mortars. He remembers:
"I was directing a gun teller, when I got one piece of metal in each eye at the same time. That spun me round, and something big hit me in the back. When I dropped, I got some more bits and pieces in my right thigh. I heard a sergeant saying: ‘He’s had it’, and in the best army language I could muster, I told him I hadn’t."
After initial training at the Blind Veterans UK (then known as St Dunstan’s) centre in Cape Town, he returned to England in 1943 to finish his training at St Dunstan’s wartime centre, Church Stretton. From there, he moved to the RNIB physiotherapy school in London.
Norman married his childhood sweetheart and from the training we provided, he became a professional physiotherapist. He ran the physiotherapy department at Grimsby Hospital for 30 years, and built up the department from two to eight qualified physiotherapists.
"With their physiotherapists, St Dunstan’s didn’t just say – you’re trained, right that’s it, you’re on your way. They would organise two courses a year for you to attend, to keep you up to date with all the new equipment and techniques that were going on."
Norman has a rich history with several sports teams at our charity, going to West Berlin in 1974 and 1978 to participate in international skiing. He has also implemented several archery events at our charity and even won the archery for the blind contest at the British Sports Association for the Disabled National Games at Stoke Mandeville in 1976.
Norman now lives at our training and rehabilitation centre in Brighton and has done for the last 17 years. Norman is the longest serving beneficiary of the charity alive today and one of the longest of all time. He has been supported by us for 75 years.
"It makes me feel very old! But I am proud because St Dunstan’s has been a hugely important part of my life."