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Les Norman

December 26th 1925 - June 17th 2009

    When my father passed away recently, I was asked by my mother and two sister's if I would read a short piece about my father at his funeral service, which with the help of my mother to fill in some additional detail I was able to do.

It was nice to be able to reflect back on my fathers life, and with the help of old photos from the family album (some of which we used for a slide show afterwards) it was an opportunity to remember some of the stories I remember him telling me as a child.
I thought it would be nice to put some of these pictures onto a webpage so those friends and family who were not able to attend on the day could look at a small selection of them 'online'.
For my regular readers who happen to be looking in though, please feel free to look through as well. Although there are a lot of family shots, I have tried to include one or two shots of motorcycles as well!

Father in RAF as a driver

My dad in the RAF in India, approx 1945.
Obviously not married then!


My fathers first job at 14 was as an apprentice at a foundary in the late 1930's, however like many men of his age, with the Second World War in full throws, when he was old enough he joined up in the RAF in 1943. Trained as a driver, he drove a variety of vehicles, but as a kid I always remember being impressed that he had driven one of the big Queen Mary plane transporters, which I had seen as an Airfix kit!
In 1944 at the age of 19 my father was sent to Burma. He occasionally talked about driving up mountain roads so narrow that at some times of day the trucks had to go up while at other time they were allowed to go down, as there was not enough room for both at the same time. He also said that if a truck broke down, they were pushed over the side, so as not to stop progress.


Holiday Web Site Work

Looking very young and pensive, dad was a Sergeant by the time this photo was taken

Rather than returning to England though, my father was then sent to India, where he served until 1946, at this time India was fighting for its independence and I remember my father telling me about the riots that took place and how poor all the people looked.

Dad on Indian

The earliest photo we have of my dad on a motorcycle, although I got the impression he wasent a motorcycle enthusiast until he bought his own bike after the war.
I think the bike is a WD Indian or H-D

He was also to spend some time doing bomb dump duty, driving unused bombs to a clearing where they could be blown up safely. A story I always remembered was when once he drove a lorry up to the entrance where there would be either a red or green flag, which was controlled by a young lieutenant. Seeing the flag was green he drove in, only for the world to erupt around him. He told me wistfully that not knowing what else to do, he dived underneath the lorry, even though it was full of detonators and was probably the worst thing he could have hidden under! It turned out the apologetic officer had forgotten to change the flag    

Dad sat on a Bomb Dump

Dad sat on a bomb stock pile. Probably around late 1945 when he was helping to get rid of them by blowing them up!


Dad fishing

My father was always a very keen fisherman (another hobby he passed on to me) and I think this probably also started when he was in Burma


Dad sat on a Bomb Dump

Where's the throttle?! For a period my dad looked after the station commanders horse, which must have been different to some of the other vehicles he was more used to!


One of the photos I remember best as a child, a line of Mosquito fighter bombers at rest somewhere in Burma. Dad was a keen photographer and I imagine this was too pretty a site not to take a photo of

Eventually India gained independence and my father returned to England. My grandparents at this time were based at at North Creak near Walsingham, Norfolk, where my gradnfather was in the military police. This was July 1947. Dad was sent to Marham a well known RAF heavy bomber base near Kings Lynn. For my father this started a lifetime love for the countrside of Norfolk.

My father left the RAF shortly afterwards and was taken on by the owner of a little engineering company in Walsingham, which specialised in agricultural machinery and well boring. The owner’s son had been killed in the war and had left a motorbike behind. Eventually the owner sold this bike to my father and it was this that started his long association with motorcycles. Dad told me that on one occasion he managed to get lost on the airfield they lived on late at night, as the bike did not have any lights. Eventually he decided it best to stop and go to sleep on the airfield for the night, not knowing that my grandmother spent half the night out looking for him, scared silly he had killed himself!

Although my father did not have a photo of this bike, I am pretty sure it was a TT Rudge. My father told me it was a fantastic machine and in pretty much racing trim with a Brooklands can. I also seem to remember him telling me it had a bronze head. In later years when we looked at Rudge's he would always go misty eyed for this bike! All the way through the 1950's into the 1980's my father owned and rode a variety of bikes, many of which I remember him talking about. Some of these I have shown in the photos below.

After the war my father went back into engineering, and this was his chosen profession for the next 40 years, working first in Laurence and Scotts in Norwich, before moving to Leicester where my mother was university, and where he worked first for British United Shoe machinery, before moving to Midland Dyamo, from which he retired in the 1980's.

I have included a cross section of photos below that show my father from the late 1940's onward, which reflect his interest in both engineering and bikes:


Taken from the cover of 1957 Machinery magazine, my father operating a vertical milling machine, while at Laurence and Scotts at Norwich


Great Yarmouth 1948

My father(2nd from left) with a group of workmates at Gt Yarmouth in1948 - demob suit makes him look a bit like a 1930's gangster!


Dad on Inter

Dad on his Cammy Norton in about 1956-7.
One of his very favourite bikes

Dad on Interr 2
Nice period shot of my dad on the move on the Norton(not sure who took the photo). I think the engine was later put ina different plunger frame after he was involved in an accident on it with my mother on the back

Working on bike

Working on his Norton in the 1950's in a friends garden. Note the tax disc on the BSA in the foreground

    My fathers interest in bikes
Like many fathers and sons, it was his interest in bikes that resulted in my own involvement with them. I grew up with bikes around me and I have included here a few photographs of my father with his bikes. Not suprisingly, my interest in the Norton and Vincent marques stem from my father, and always having them in our garage as I grew up!
My father and mother, Jean, were married in 1959 and moved to Oadby, just outside Leicester in 1965. It would have been their 50th Wedding Anniversary this December. With my two sisters this was where I grew up and remember happy times sharing many of my fathers hobbies and interests, including of course the bikes, all things mechanical and fishing.
Below are selection of family photographs with my father, many that reflect those interests.

Me on Comet

Ah, I recognise that little urchin!
From the late 1950's my dad owned Vincents. First this Comet (which we still have) and then a Rapide, which went shortly before this photo was taken. I remember going on the back of it with my dad as a boy when helmets were not required - a different world to today


Vincent and Kids

My sister (Veronica) and I posing with dad on the then family transport - Vincent Comet with Blacknell Bullet sidecar.
This looks to be on holiday in Bacton (Norfolk), and from the age of my sister and I, I guess it would be 1962!


With Racing Plunger

Moving on to early 1980's, here my father is helping me load my first racing bike, a plunger pushrod Norton. My dad came with me to some of my early race meetings

Dad at BU

Dad worked at the British United Shoe factory in Leicester for 18 years, where he worked in their 'Heavy' machinery section. This photo was taken in the early 1970's.


Dad fishing

Along with engineering and bikes, the other passion that my father passed on to me was fishing. This photo was taken in the mid 1980's when along with a friend of my father, we were in a boat on a Pike fishing match on Rutland Water


Mum and Dad afloat

A photo that always makes me smile.
My father taking my mum out for a trip on the Norfolk Broads in our dinghy in the late 1970's.
From the body language I think my mum might be giving him some useful tips about his rowing, and he is responding with his normal down to earth reply about mums back seat driving . . .


Family photo

Christmas shot of our family - my mum and dad with my two sisters - Veronica (with hubbie Simon in background) on left and Rachel on right. My wife Sandy next to mum.
4 of their 6 granchildren are also in the shot, Fay, Abigail, Anna and Alicia.
Rachel's older daughter Emma and our Stephanie must have been taking the photo with Rachels hubbie Malcom


Family Shot

Taken in about 1990, this family photo was taken when my late uncle Don (2nd from right) and aunt Cis (2nd from left, front) came over from Australia. Also in the photo are my mum and dad and aunt Jill (far right) and uncle David (2nd left).
Aunt Cis is still living in Australia and is now 98 (hi aunt Cis if you are reading this!)
My wife Sandy and I were not married at the time, which is probably why we are holding hands . . .


Mum and Dad with Jill and David

Another shot of my mum and dad with my aunt Jill and uncle David. They often holiday'd with each other and this is a really nice shot of them out on the town together -
probably just before they went out clubbing . . .


dad with Burma star

My dad did not really talk much about his time in the RAF, but in later years he much enjoyed the comradeship of being part of the Burma Star Association, which my mother and many of the other wife's were also involved with. Here he is with some of his mates at what I think was a Rememberance Day event.
Surviving members of the Burma Star Association walked in front of my fathers coffin at the funeral procession bearing their Standard, which was very moving

Dad with Kart

Taken about 8 years ago, dad is not looking too chuffed here, at being dragged along to a karting session at Whilton mills with me!
My kart was a TKM 100cc two stroke (kinda like a TZ Yamaha in bike terms), top speed about 75mph and not much slower round corners!

Dad with Abigail
Dad with Steph
            And finally, two shots of my father with our daughters. The photo on the left is with Abigail, my older daughter who is now 14 and the photo on the right is my mum and dad with our younger daugther Stephanie who is now 12  

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