John Anquetil Norman

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John Anquetil Norman, who was known as Bill, entered Victoria College at the age of ten in 1919, two years after his father was killed, leaving in 1927 to go to the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich. He was commissioned into the Royal Artillery in 1929.

He served in India, where he built up a reputation as a horseman. Polo and pigsticking were among his sports and he took great pride in leading the 15th Field Brigade team, which won the Muttra Hoghunters Cup in 1936.

He then returned to be with a battery at St John’s Wood before the war, supervising the dispersal of its horses as the Royal Horse Artillery prepared for more serious work across the Channel. He spent the first part of the war with the 5th Royal Horse Artillery, first as a battery commander at Dunkirk, then as its second-in-command in the Western desert.

Desert Rats

Together they fought with the 7th Armoured Division, the Desert Rats, at El Alamein, and then crossed the Mediterranean to Sicily and Italy. There he was promoted to temporary Lt-Colonel and given command first of 111 Field Regiment, then of the 3rd Royal Horse Artillery. He won a DSO at Salerno and was later mentioned in dispatches.

In France once more on D-Day he drove ashore at Arromanches in a jeep and, after leading 3rd Royal Horse Artillery through Normandy, was presented with the Croix de Guerre by General de Gaulle.

After the war he was in charge of the RHA’s newly formed Riding Troop and in 1947 King George VI lunched at the St John’s Wood barracks when Bill suggested that the Troop became known as the King’s Troop, the King having asked that the Troop bear his name. The King had been instrumental in establishing the unit as a permanent saluting battery for state occasions in 1946.

After leaving the King’s Troop in 1949, Bill was given command of 63 Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment at Shoeburyness for two years before taking over the 1st Royal Horse Artillery at Munster, apparently the most coveted command for a gunner.

He was promoted to Brigadier in 1955, returning as Commander Royal Artillery in the 56 Armoured Division, only to take early retirement in 1959 after only one tour. His retirement from the Army saw him raising money for the Sail Training Association, and briefly marketing for a company in Greenwich. In 1964 he left for the south of France where as a passionate yachtsman he sailed in the Mediterranean until his death.

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