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Coldstreamers Remembered

Norman Measey was born on 11th November 1919, where he lived with his Father Thomas, and Mother Minnie Lavinia, in Sparkbrook, Birmingham. He did have a younger brother Michael, who died in infancy. His Father served in the Light Infantry, during the 1st World War, but I have no record of his service. He spent his entire school years at Springfield Road School, in Sparkhill, a school I also attended as primary school scholar. Norman left school at 15 and became a butcher’s boy. He enjoyed the work but always wanted to join the Army. His mother and father in the meantime had made plans to move to Henley in Arden, where they took over the Three Tuns, public house. Norman joined the Coldstream Guards in May 1936 where he went to the Guards Depot at Caterham. On passing out he went to the 3rd Battalion and before the war he went to the Holy Land, Palestine, Egypt and Syria. On their return to England he was stationed at Wellington and Chelsea Barracks performing public duties.

When the war started the Battalion went to North Africa, with the 8th Army (Desert Rats). On the 6th June 1942 he was captured after a hard fought battle at the Battle of the Knightsbridge Box, where he was an Anti-tank Platoon Sergeant. This was part of Rommel’s advance on the Allied Forces. Although he was captured by the Germans, he was soon to be handed over to the Italians. After spending a few months in a camp in Egypt they were shipped to Italy and he spent quite a long time still under the Italians in a place called Bari. Life was hard as they had very little to live on, conditions were very harsh. I remember him telling me that at one stage all they had to eat were tinned sliced cling peaches. The saving grace that Red Cross and personal parcels were getting through from the UK. The Italians left the war in late 1943 and all allied prisoners were taken on by the Germans. Conditions were no different and they remained in very harsh surroundings. Because of the advance of the allied forces they were moved north into Germany and he spent his time in many different POW camps on the journey north. In 1944 he finished up at a POW Camp which was situated very close to Fallingbostel in Northern Germany. It was also very close to the concentration camp at Bergen-Belsen.

On 21st April 1945 the Allied Troops reached Fallingbostel and Belsen and he was released and repatriated back to England. He went to the Guards Depot in Caterham where he was medically examined, de-briefed and then went on leave to his parents and his wife’s to be home where they were living in Sparkhill, Birmingham. During this leave he married Edna nee Blackwell and went to live in their own house, again in Sparkhill. Norman and Edna had two children, a son Christopher, Michael, David, born 1946 and a daughter, Susan, Christine, born 1948. On his return to the 3rd Battalion, who were then stationed at Wellington Barracks, he was a Full Sergeant and was soon to be promoted to CQMS of No 1 Company. He performed public Duties and took part in the 1946 Kings’ Birthday Parade. In 1947 after attaining the rank of CSM of a Rifle Company, he applied to leave the Regiment and applied to go to OCTU to become an officer. He was accepted and was posted to the 1st Battalion the Royal Warwickshire Regiment as a young Lieutenant. In 1948 after spending a short time as Adjutant at Warwick Castle, he was appointed ADC to Major General Sir Guy Salisbury-Jones and was posted to Singapore where Sir Guy was commanding.

In 1949 he left the Army. On leaving the Army he was employed as the Assistant Personnel Manager at Canning’s an engineer company based in central Birmingham. He worked there for over 10 years and thoroughly enjoyed his time in the job.

He was a very adventurous man and tired of the 9 to 5 routine and decided to leave and be become a trade plate driver, delivering new cars, vans and lorries all over the country. One day in the 70’s he was making his way to Paddington Station on the top deck of a London bus and he met one of his old comrades, from his old Platoon, who he had not seen since the Battle at the Knightsbridge Box. His name was Ron (Dodger) Green and although he was a broad Yorkshireman, Ron was now living in West Norwood in South London. They remained very close friends for many years. Dad then had a number of jobs. He was the Gardener/Handyman for Tim Sainsbury, the Member of Parliament for Hove, but had a very big house and grounds in Berkshire very close to Newbury. Because of ill health he left the job. In 1975 after his health had improved a little he went to work, again as a Gardener/Handyman for Lord Kimberley on his estate situated very close to Cirencester. In his spare time he loved fishing, stamp collecting, horse racing and writing. Again because of ill health, he retired and went to live in Dogridge in Purton, Wilts. At this stage Norman had stomach cancer and was also suffering from stomach ulcer. Having said that. In 1979, he was able to make the journey to Fallingbostel, the place where he was repatriated back in 1945 and where his son Chris, as a Sergeant was stationed with the 1st Battalion. A few months after his return to the UK, he passed away on the 11th November 1979.

He was always a very proud Guardsman and the Coldstream Guards, were talked about a lot more that the Royal Warwickshire Regiment. He was the Secretary of the Birmingham Branch, The Coldstream Guards Association for more than 15 years. As a son, I always looked up my father with great esteem. My ambition from a very early age was to join the Coldstream Guards, something I knew my Dad was very proud of. He was my best friend through childhood and we were very close. He was a hard disciplinarian, but I believe that was because of his upbringing and his Military career. I miss him every day of my life and would do anything to just have one more hour with him. I know many of his friends who have survived him and I have never heard a bad word said against him. Throughout his career Norman wrote very precise and concise diaries. It is a pity that they are not in my possession at present. I have already done a lot of work on them to secure the memories of my Father for future generations.

By Chris MD Measey