Lieutenant Cyril Norman‘s Field Message Book offers a fascinating glimpse into the working life of an officer on the Western Front. His entries begin in August 1916 and end in February 1917 with the majority dated between January 22nd and 25th. Stuffed into the notebook are several “Messages and Signals” forms, progress reports and letters. I’ve included a gallery below containing a selection of pages from the notebook.
Cyril Norman was born on March 6, 1891 in Staleybridge near Manchester, one of four brothers, all of whom served in the First World War. Cyril served as a Lieutenant for several years in the Staleybridge Territorials and was with the 1/6th Cheshire Regiment when hostilities broke out in 1914. The battalion disembarked in France on Nov. 10 and was attached to several Divisions before becoming part of the 118th Infantry brigade (39th Division) on Feb. 29th, 1916. The first few entries in Cyril’s notebook would suggest that he temporarily served as a Staff Captain for the 116th Brigade.
In January 1917 Cyril was back with the 1/6th Cheshire Regiment and signing his notebook entries “CNorman, Lieut, OC ‘A’ Coy”. “A” Company was busy repairing trenches and dugouts in the Ypres Saliant and Cyril’s entries contain a lot of detail on the work they carried out.
His entries end on February 10th, 1917 but subsequent research revealed that Captain Cyril Norman was awarded a Military Cross on June 4th, 1917 (a correction appeared in the July 17th issue of the London Gazette). A brief article appeared in the July 27th issue of the Manchester Evening News. I’ve yet to find a description of how Cyril earned his award but I’m hopeful I will learn more once the 1/6th Cheshire Regiment war diary for this period appears online.
By January 1918 Captain Norman was attached to the Heavy Artillery section of the Australia Corps, where I believe he remained until the end of the war. He returned to Staleybridge in early 1919 and married Lydia Joan Birdwood. In May of the following year they, along with Cyril’s younger Daniel and his wife, emigrated to Canada aboard the White Star Liner “Baltic”. These former soldier / accountants were intent on a new life as fruit and poultry farmers on British Columbia’s Vancouver Island. Cyril Norman remained on the island all his life, dying in Comox on August 15, 1975.
Categories: Cyril Norman, Researching, Soldier-related Posts
The original gazette entry (where his name ws given wrongly) for his MC was the list for the King’s Birthday Honours, so it’s probable it was awarded for continuous good work, rather than a single act of gallantry. That being so, even the war diary may not be particularly revealing. Brigade and Division may reveal more (Corps and Army too, though those have not yet been digitised)
Thanks very much David, this makes a lot of sense. Had it been a single act of gallantry I would have thought it would have been mentioned in the article that appeared in the Manchester Evening News. I will be keeping my eyes peeled for the 39th Division and 116th & 118th war diaries. Thanks again.
I think this is a great piece of history. Is the field message book on display ? I would be Cyril Normans great grandson.
Thanks for your comment. The field message book is not on display so I included scans of a few of the more interesting pages. If I get a chance I might be able to add some more.
Is your family still on the island?
Thanks Steve, I will keep checking. My Grandfather is in Qualicum B.C. My father and I are in Ottawa