Norman, Henry Nigel St Valery
The son of the Right Honourable Sir Henry Norman PC., JP 1st Baronet Honeyhanger. His mother, Lady Norman, was Menie Muriel Norman and the daughter of James Muir Dowie.
He entered Mr Broomfield’s house in September 1910.
He served in the First World War, joined the Royal Garrison Artillery and attending Woolwich, and then in 1917 transferred to the Royal Engineers (Signals) and was mentioned in despatches. In 1919 he went up to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he took a degree in Mechanical Science and captained the University fencing team in 1921 and 1922. In 1922 he went to work for the engineering department of the Metropolitan Railway and stayed with them until 1928. On 4th February 1926 he married Patricia Moyra Annesley, daughter of Lieutenant Colonel James Annesley.
In 1926 he bought a private aeroplane and also began work as an aeronautical consultant, as a partner with Norman and Dawburn. From 1929 until 1935 he was director and chairman of Aerofilms Ltd. In 1928, with Frederick Muntz, he became the co-founder and chairman of Airwork Ltd. This, originally a side-line, rapidly became his main interest, seeing the construction and development of Heston airport and taking him all over the empire, particularly to Cairo, but also to North America and India.
In The Times, a correspondent wrote as follows: “There were few countries in the world he had not flown over in his own aeroplane. The writer flew thousands of miles with him during the last few years, and his knowledge of the history of many of the airfields on which one landed was almost uncanny. More often than not he had had a hand in their original lay-out. This wide knowledge of flying and the engineering training and ability that went with it were brought to bear on the many problems connected with the carriage of troops by air.”
A member of the Auxiliary Air Force, also from 1926, in 601 (County of London) Squadron, he became a Squadron Leader as early as November 1931. He rose to be 601’s commanding officer in 1935, but left the following year.
On the outbreak of war, he served as a Wing-Commander (March 1940) in France and England in 1939-1940, and was then transferred to oversee technical aspects of the creation of airborne forces at Ringway in Manchester. He was OC 110 Wing at Ringway and in July 1941 OC Central Landing Establishment.
In January 1942 he became a Group-Captain and was appointed the first commander of 38 Wing, which had been established in January. 38 Wing (later 38 Group) had been formed to support glider-borne and parachute operations, especially for ‘special forces’ and the SOE. He was responsible for the air side of the first parachute operation against Italy, for the Bruneval operation, and his were the plans for the airborne invasion of Sicily. His Senior Meteorological Officer was a fellow Wykehamist, Squadron Leader Campbell Crichton-Miller (I1929-1934), who was killed in action flying with 295 Squadron of 38 Wing on February 19th 1943.
When 38 Wing became 38 Group Norman was promoted to Air Commodore. His death, at the age of forty-five, came in a flying accident on take-off from RAF St. Eval, Cornwall, en route to North Africa to help with the assault on Sicily. At 0950 on May 19th 1943, Lockheed Hudson IIIa FH168 took off from RAF St. Eval after a refuelling stop; its home base was RAF Netheravon. It suffered fuel starvation to the port engine and crashed in a field at Crugoes Farm, Blackcross, St. Columb Major. The aircraft caught fire and was completely destroyed.
He was awarded the CBE in the Birthday Honours List of 1943, and left three sons, the eldest, Mark Annesley Norman in ‘A’ (1940-1944). His family home was Clifferdine House, Rendcomb, Gloucestershire, and he is buried in Clifferdine Wood, Rendcomb.
- Surname: Norman
- Forenames or initials: Sir Henry Nigel St. Valery
- House: A
- Years in School: 1910-1915
- Rank: Air Commordore
- Regiment: RAF
- Date of Birth: 21st May 1897
- Date of Death: 19th May 1943
- How Died: Killed in an Accident
- Location in War Cloister: Inner D1
- Decoration: CBE
- Burial Site: Clifferdine Wood, Rendcomb, Gloucestershire