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War hero Norman Jackson

War hero Norman Jackson

Norman Jackson

The Norman Jackson Children’s Centre on Windmill Road is a valued local resource that is used by hundreds of local families.

However not many people know about the man behind the name. Norman Jackson was a Hampton Hill resident and hero who earned a Victoria Cross for bravery in the Second World War.

While the bombs rained down at home, Norman had joined the RAF and was serving as an engineer on board a Lancaster bomber. He was on his 31st mission, bombing a ball-bearing factory in Germany, when the plane was attacked by a German night fighter. The Lancaster’s fuel tank caught fire and Norman, already wounded from shell splinters, strapped on a parachute, took a fire extinguisher and climbed out onto the wing of the plane as it was flying at 200 miles per hour.

Norman grabbed onto part of the wing with one hand while fighting flames with the other. He burned his hands, face and clothes, and when the German fighter plane returned, it sent a burst of gunfire that sent two bullets into his leg and swept him off the wing.

He fell 20,000 feet (6,100 m), but his smouldering and holed parachute worked well enough to save his life, although he suffered a broken leg as he landed, and his right eye was badly burned.

Norman managed to crawl to a nearby German village the next morning where he was caught and paraded through the streets.

He spent 10 months recovering in hospital before being sent to a German prisoner of war camp. He made two escape attempts, the second time he succeeded in penetrating the German lines, and met the Americans near Munich.

The citation for his VC pointed out that, even had he been able to extinguish the fire, there was not much chance of him making it back to the cockpit.

“It was my job as flight engineer to get the rest of the crew out of trouble,” recalled Norman. “I was the most experienced member of the crew, and they all looked to me to do something.”

After the war Norman worked as a travelling salesman for Haig whisky. He overcame the handicap of badly scarred hands, and with the help of a friend built a house for himself and his family, a wife and six children, in Burton’s Road, Hampton Hill. Norman died in March 1994, almost exactly 50 years after his exploits.

Hampton Hill resident, Kenneth Wood, recalls visiting Norman at his home to repair a clock. He remembers him as “a quiet, reserved man”, giving away nothing that revealed what a hero he had been.