Museum of the Manchester Regiment
The Men Behind the Medals

Norman Dunkerley

Norman Dunkerley : Photograph of Norman in Tameside Local Studies and Archives Centre.  Reference: MR4/17/305

Photograph of Norman in Tameside Local Studies and Archives Centre. Reference: MR4/17/305

Norman Dunkerley : (L to R) Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire  (Civil Division); 1914-15 Star; British War Medal; Allied Victory Medal; 1939-45 Defence Medal

(L to R) Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (Civil Division); 1914-15 Star; British War Medal; Allied Victory Medal; 1939-45 Defence Medal

Norman was born on the 12th August 1895 in Saddleworth, then in West Yorkshire, but in 2012 part of Oldham. His father was called Daniel and his mother was Kate. He had an older brother named Thomas Ward and 2 younger brothers called Edward Selwyn and Walter. By 1911 the family had lost one other child. Kate's brother in law was Sir Lazarus Fletcher, a Fellow of the Royal Society, and Director of the Natural History Museum between 1909 and 1919.

Thomas worked as a foreman at Asa Lee's tin plate workshop. In 1901 the family lived at 10 Whitecroft Street in Oldham, and by 1911 they had moved to 42 Stoneleigh Street in the town. By then Norman had begun to work as a clerk for a railway company. Later he worked as a clerk for Oldham Education Office.

Norman was a keen sportsman, which may have been why he chose to join the 10th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment on the 29th May 1913. This was a Territorial Force unit based in Oldham. Norman would train to be a soldier in the evening and at weekends, whilst keeping his civilian job. He was given the service number 1523 by the battalion.

The First World War broke out in August 1914 and the 10th Battalion was called into service. They left the UK for Egypt on the 10th September. Given his civilian profession it is perhaps not surprising that Norman was given the job of 'assistant company accountant'. He dealt with correspondence and pay administration for his Company. He was a member of G Company on mobilisation, but when the 10th Battalion was reorganized from 8 Companies into 4 during the voyage to Egypt he moved to D Company.

We know from his many letters home that Norman found the people and sights of Egypt fascinating. He was glad to see more of the world than 'damp, dreary Oldham'. He was even able to visit Cairo and see 'some fine mummies' in its museums.

Norman remained in Egypt until the 5th May 1915 when he took part in the landings in Gallipoli. He was a member of 1 Section in 13 Platoon of D Company at this time.

After serving in the trenches during May Norman and the 10th Battalion took part in the attack on the village of Krithia on the 4th June. This had been intended to be captured during late April when the first Allied troops landed, but the Turks had been able to hold them off. Norman and the 10th Battalion advanced further than most British units, but this meant when the Turks counter attacked they were cut off and forced to withdraw.

During this action Norman was wounded. He described it as 'a slight graze on my left leg below the knee', but it was serious enough to require evacuation from Gallipoli to St George's Military Hospital in Malta. By mid-August he had still not recovered, so Norman was returned to the UK. He arrived at the King George V Military Hospital in Stamford Street, London on around the 16th August. He would be treated there and at The Orchard Hospital in Dartford, Kent until around early November.

Norman returned to Oldham on a sick furlough. It expired on the 30th November and he was ordered to report to the 3/10th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment in Southport, Lancashire. This was the Reserve unit of the Oldham Territorials, used to train new recruits and hold soldiers such as Norman until they were ready to return to the front.

We don't know what Norman did during 1916. We believe that he returned to Oldham and worked at the Drill Hall there, although we don't know what jobs he had. Eventually he was assigned to the 2/8th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment during January 1917. They were based in Colchester, Essex and training to go to France. Norman's 2/8th Battalion service number was 7606, but when soldiers in the Territorial Force were given new service numbers during March it became 303435.

The 2/8th Battalion moved to France during March, and we believe that Norman went with them. During his time there he was often attached to units of the Royal Engineers. He served with the 432nd Field Company during March and the 430th Field Company in late June.

During July Norman was serving in the Ypres sector in Belgium when he was wounded again. His heels were badly bruised when he 'was buried', possibly by a shell, and he had to walk back to Ypres on his toes. He was sent to Broadwater Hospital in Ipswich to have them treated. We know he was there on the 31st July.

By this time Norman was 'absolutely fed up with a Tommie's life'. He had made an application to be commissioned as an officer. In support of this his uncle Lazarus wrote a recommendation, and Norman asked one of his former Officers to help him as well. Ultimately his efforts were unsuccessful and he returned to France to join the 2/8th Battalion. He was with them on the 5th August, which we know because on that day he reported sick to the 2/1st East Lancashire Field Ambulance suffering from impetigo.

Norman fought in the Passchendaele Offensive that took place around Ypres during that autumn. By the 29th September Norman was having trouble with his eyes; he had needed to bathe them in tonic water that morning. On the 8th October he was wounded again, this time by a German shell, and returned to the UK for treatment. He spent the rest of the year in the UK.

We don't know what Norman did during the early months of 1918. He was a member of the 8th (Reserve) Battalion, based in Filey, North Yorkshire. His application for a commission was rejected during this time, due to 'a new order that a man must hold the rank of Corporal to be eligible for commissioned service'. Since Norman 'never desired to be an NCO' he decided not to apply to become one 'just to try my luck again'.

At this time Norman was relieved to learn that 'he would not be sent abroad again just yet'. This was because of a recommendation from his eye specialist, and the fact that he had earned a month's leave after 5 years service. From this we can estimate that he wrote this letter in around May or June 1918.

Norman had made another attempt to avoid returning to the trenches at around this time: he had applied to become a pilot in the new Royal Air Force. On the 30th June he began this process when he received a telegram ordering him to report to an RAF Depot in Hampstead, London on the 2nd July.

The medical standards required to fly were strict, but on the 5th July Norman passed his assessment and was found fit to train as either a Pilot or an Observer. He was sent to the Number 1 School of Aeronautics at Coley Park near Reading, where he received his technical training. Norman passed examinations at the end of his Cadet training and his time at Number 1 School of Aeronautics, but due to the end of the war in November 1918 he was returned to the Manchester Regiment before he could complete Armament School. He left the RAF on or around the 28th December and rejoined the 8th (Reserve) Battalion in Filey.

On the 22nd January 1919 Norman was transferred from the 8th (Reserve) Battalion to the Number 1 Dispersal Centre at Heaton Park, Manchester. He was demobilised from there on the 18th February.

After the war Norman married Nancy Thompson in Oldham between April and June 1920. The couple moved to Wimbledon where Norman found work in the Treasurer's Department of the local council. He also took night classes to train as a municipal accountant. After a time in Haydock, Lancashire they moved to Whitby in North Yorkshire where Norman became Treasurer to Whitby Urban District Council in August 1929.

Norman qualified as a Fellow of the Institute of Municipal Treasurers and Accountants (FIMTA), as a Fellow of the Incorporated Association of Rating and Valuation Officers (FRVA) and as an Associate of the Society of Accountants and Auditors (ASAA). He worked as Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer for the District Council until his retirement in September 1960.

During the Second World War Norman played a number of key roles in Whitby. He helped arrange evacuations, organise drives to sell War Savings and acted as a blood donor. He was also involved with the 'Wings for Victory' fund that collected money and scrap metal to help make aircraft for the RAF. He worked with Mary Churchill, daughter of the Prime Minister in this fund. Remaining in the UK didn't keep Norman safe though, he was injured by a German bomb that fell on the District Council offices. For his war service Norman was appointed a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE).

Nancy and Norman had one daughter, Rosemary. Norman was a keen golfer and an Honorary Member of Whitby Golf Club. He and Nancy continued to live in Whitby at 31 Mulgrave Road until his death on the 16th February 1972. He was 76 years old.

Norman's funeral took place on the 21st at St Hilda's Church in the town. Although it was a cold and wet day a great many people attended to pay their respects. He was then cremated at Woodlands Crematorium in Scarborough. By this time Rosemary had married and had 2 children. She lived in Peterborough and worked as a schoolteacher. Nancy died in this city between January and March 1977, aged 81.

Norman's medals were donated to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment in July 2001.

Museum of the Manchester Regiment
c/o Portland Basin Museum
Portland Place
Heritage Wharf
Ashton-under-Lyne
OL7 0QA

Telephone: 0161 343 2878
Email: Portland.Basin@tameside.gov.uk
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Trustees of the Manchester Regiment Museum & Archive and Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council