Friday, 4 June 2010

Searching for 'Teddy' Norris

Searching for Teddy Norris

As told through the words of
Bernard Osborn
Jack Pickles
Norman Walton

B.O. -Well not at that time it was more afterwards
I think later on when we were back home we would say,
‘Do you remember old Teddy, he was always Teddy?’
It’s your Dad but to me and to his pals he was always Teddy.
In fact it wasn’t his name, was it?
A.N. - It was Dennis, Edward was the middle name.


Which name would you answer to now?
Which of these names is you in this picture?
This picture of you gazing
Into the flames of a fire
Sometime in the 1950s.
What are you thinking of here?
Where have you gone in this picture?
And where did you go that night in September, 1944?
We all looked for you, groping in the dark
Following that line of white tape
And the trail of your blood
Down to the river bank.
We looked for you but in the confusion and turmoil
We lost you among the many casualties.
I can hardly imagine the experiences you had
As you, looking youthful and smiling in
Your pilot’s uniform, could have had no idea
Just what was waiting for you in Arnhem

B.O. - It was quite a time in history, if you like to put it that way,
A.N. - Of course,
B.O. - And yet it only lasted from June to September
And such a lot..,’ ‘But a defining moment.’ ‘..went on.’

They taught you to fly in an old Tiger Moth
And later, a horsa glider.
And from your peers you learnt
What camaraderie meant
These comrades who are more than just
A few names written on an old, Dutch bank note.

Bernard Osborn
Jack Pickles
Norman Walton
Sam Wellard

Their names still resonate and after more than 60 years
They speak to me and through their words they reveal
Something of the person you were in your youth
When you were less than half the age that I am now.
But that night, in the dark, we all lost sight of you.

B.O. - No, I first met Teddy some weeks before when I had finished my training and he, either he was needing another co-pilot to go with him. First and second pilots, basically, but we became friends, to each other, friends and co-pilots. And so I met him first of all at Brize Norton not all that long just a few weeks before D-Day, this is probably why I am more attached to Teddy than the average two chaps might have been because he was the older, the senior man and he brought me along quite well. Anyway, we were at Manston when we took off on Sunday September 17th for Arnhem

That Sunday morning you took off from RAF Manston, a member of ‘B’ Squadron one of 56 heavy gliders each laden with troops, jeeps and artillery

A.N. So you and Teddy, you landed. Where were Jack Pickles and Norman Walton at this point?
B.O. Where would they be?
A.N. –Yes
B.O.- I couldn’t tell you exactly because we had all gone our way from now onwards we were in small numbers
A.N. Were they a part of your numbers?
B.O. Oh yes, the same numbered flight, nineteen flight.

Jack Pickles - ‘It was a terrible night, very dark,
And raining heavily.
The area was dominated by the Germans,
And we were under shell fire.
And intermittent machine-gun fire.
After some casualties we reached the river,
But before we could get across
We were quite heavily mortared.

B.O. We had to go from where we were, which was in Oosterbeek down to the river bank where hopefully we would be picked up by some little boats that had come along so far, and that happened in due course. We all had our jobs allocated to us. Teddy was one of those who was standing by the white tape that sees people down to the river. I was put in charge of half a dozen Poles, we didn’t understand each other in the least bit but we followed each other and we got across the river alright.

A.N So, at what point was Dad injured?
B.O. Dad was injured in, as we were coming down chaps were filing down past him to go to the river.
A.N. -I see

J.P. Quite a lot of our men swam across
Despite the strong current. I did not go that way
Because my pal, Staff-Sergt. Norris, was wounded
And I stayed with him until we could be taken across
In an assault boat, when I helped him to a medical dressing
Station about a mile away.’

B.O.- That was the last time I saw Teddy. Quite a momentous four months

And that was the last occasion
That any of your friends
Were to see you.
The last known detail of your whereabouts

One morning in late 1944
Grandfather unfolded the local paper
And found this article on the front page.

In walked the Sergt. From Arnhem
They were still talking about the epic of Arnhem
In the “local” on Friday night when in walked
Sergeant Norman Walton, wearing the wings
Of a glider pilot. There was a short silence.
Drinks were forgotten. His tunic was stained,
His haversack in tatters. He came straight
From the ‘Patch of hell’, that was Arnhem.

Concluding his account of the battle he went on,
‘One of the queerest incidents that happened
During our fight was when Staff-Sergt Ted Norris
Bought a German limousine for 15 cigarettes.
The car, unfortunately, was mortared the next day.’

He added that although you were wounded
You got back safely.
It was the first news Grandfather had had
That you were still alive
And after numerous enquiries
Learnt that you had been hospitalized
And were convalescing here, in Scotland.
Six months later you returned home.
By which time the world had moved on
And contact with your old friends, lost.
‘I had a good war.’ I remember you saying
By that you meant you had survived.

* * * * * *

17th February 2005
Letter to Martin Norris, older son of Ted

Dear Martin
Pleased to receive your letter. Yes, I am the ‘Jack’ Pickles
Mentioned in the cutting. Delighted to learn your
Father has survived to old age, like me at 84.
Give him my best wishes.
My recollections of that dark, wet night
When we withdrew from our slit trenches
On the perimeter about the Hartenstein Hotel
Are still vivid. It was a planned withdrawal,
Moving silently in single file around the perimeter
Before striking out through wooded country for the river.
We were heavily laden with arms
And rucksacks and followed a white tape
Laid on the ground.
Nearing the river, we left the wood
And began crossing open water meadows
Much small arms fire, tracers, but the single mortar round
That dropped on the column took us by surprise.
Teddy went down, several of us clustered around him,
Someone applied a shell dressing to his wound
To staunch the bleeding.
My co-pilot, Sam Wellard, and I improvised a litter
From rifle straps and together we three staggered
To the river bank. Flimsy folding boats
Manned by paddling Royal Engineers
Arrived at intervals and the boarding orders in all this confusion
Was that wounded had priority.
When a boat beached nearby
Sam and I struggled to lift Teddy over the gunnels.
Sam hung back, crossing later.
Crossing was hazardous,
The river was racked by machine gun fire,
Water slopped into the overloaded boat.
Reaching the bank we scrambled ashore
And staggered a few yards (and) started
Walking up rising ground the several hundred yards
To farm out-building being used as a Forward Aid Post.
Here I delivered Teddy to the care of the R.A.M.C.
Ensuring that they knew who he was
And the location of his wounds.
At no time do I recall any complaints from Teddy
Yet he must have been in great pain and fearful.

7th April 2005
Letter to Martin Norris from Norman Walton, South Africa

Dear Martin,
Your letter of 4th march arrived… Let me say how pleased I was to have your letter. Jack Pickles had already written advising of your approach….Yes, I remember your father well and am pleased to know he is alive and well – in spite of the smoking! Please give him my regards. We shared some incredible times in the regiment and of course our Arnhem experiences will always live in our memory. But we were the lucky ones, we survived!

9 December 2005,
Letter to David Brook, the editor of The Eagle, from Bernard Osborn, Bromley, Kent

Dear David,
I was very interested to read the obituary written by Norman Walton. I was sorry to learn that Jack Pickles had died during the year. Delighted to know that Norman, Sam and John are well.
The other person mentioned in Norman’s letter was Teddy Norris. I was Teddy’s co-pilot on D-Day and at Arnhem.
He was (is?) a great chap. Most capable
And at Arnhem we were never more than a few yards apart
Until the evacuation over the river on the night of 25th/26th September. Teddy stood by the white tape guiding people down to the river.

23rd January 2006,
Letter to David Brook from Teddy Norris, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk

Dear David,
I am the Ted Norris mentioned by Norman Walton.
I am quite sure if it had not been for Jack and Sam
Getting me across the river, it is doubtful
I would have survived since I spent 6 months in hospital
Thanks to them and hospital staff in the UK I am still here.
January 2006,
Letter to Teddy Norris from Bernard Osborn, Bromley, Kent

Dear Teddy,
Today I received a letter from David Brook giving me your address. I had written to David after reading Norman’s letter in the Dec(ember) 2005 edition of the Eagle, in which your name was mentioned. In my letter I had stated that I was your second pilot on D-Day and Arnhem, and that I had endeavored to contact you.

A.N. - But you had tried to find Teddy
B.O.- Oh yes, nobody seemed to know. It was only when the 50th anniversary came up ( in 1994) that I really thought much about it again and also renewed my efforts to see if I could find anything about Teddy
A.N. - So when you found him 60 odd years later what did you think?
B.O. - Oh, I thought it was wonderful really. We had a lovely chat for about half an hour on the phone, and of course had we known that he wasn’t going to live much longer I’m sure we would have made earlier date to meet.

May I remind you of a little incident at Oosterbeek in 44? I’ve earned more than one meal on recounting this tale! …We were huddled in our two man slit trench. We were being heavily mortared. Suddenly there was a clanking and squeaking of tank tracks and nearby too! You perked up instantly and said “A tank, come on lets get it!”

B.O. - … He said, ‘It’s a tank alright,’ he said, ‘let’s go and get it.’ So, I said, ‘What?’ He repeated his question. I said, ‘Teddy, haven’t we got enough trouble here without going and chasing a blooming great big tank with just rifles in our hands?’ ‘Please yourself.’ he said, somewhat irritated. So, I thought, well, that’ll be the last I’ll see of Teddy I’m quite sure.
A.N. - So he went off in pursuit.
B.O. – He didn’t get anyone else interested, not unreasonably. Anyway about half an hour later he came slumping in sat down in the slit trench. ‘Well’, I said? ‘It had gone by the time I got there.’ he said, most irritably.
It was a blessing wasn’t it. You’ve had him another 60 years, after that, didn’t you? You certainly wouldn’t have done , What chance has one little lad with a rifle have against a tank
A.N. - How did he mean to capture the tank? How did he think he might succeed?
B.O. - Well, one way is, of course, if a tank commander commands his tank properly he really has to have his head out of the turret and I expect he thought that if he got the tank commander he might have thrown things into disarray and the chaps in the tank wondering what they would do next

31st March 2006,
Letter to David Brook from Bernard Osborn, Bromley, Kent

The Finding of Teddy Norris

Having found Teddy Norris after all these years it is very sad to report that his son has told me of his death in hospital. Our reunion was not to be but he was able to see the April, Eagle, article on our locating each other before he died.

Although my brother, Martin, managed to track down and make contact with Dad’s comrades after an absence of more than 60 years we, unfortunately, never did quite manage to reunite Dad with Bernard or Jack, Norman or Sam. But they were, at least, all aware that each had survived to old age. We owe them all so much.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

The Sparrow's Tale

The Sparrow’s Tale

It looked like a star, bent low,
Below the horizon by the wood’s edge.
A wedge of light from a window high in a barn
At night it would glow and I would feel its pull,
Pulling me away from the dark in which I lived,
(A dark as dark as the deepest bowl in a beech tree trunk)
Pulling me away from the cold and the snow.

I held that shining star in the corner of my beady black eye
And one day took the plunge and flew head long through that gap
Where the light shines, where the feasting humans herd.
And then I was there, flying between beams like branches held up
By bolt upright timbers like trunks reaching up
To the twiggy rafters inside was lined inside
Like the outside with gleaming threads of golden straw

How my feathers shone! I couldn’t stop singing. But strange,
Humans living in upturned nests. I gasped in surprise to see them
Flocking there and when they me espied their twittering ceased.
Mouths hung open like hungry fledglings. The fire
Pinned their crackling shadows high upon the lime-washed wall.
I took in the prickly air and the wide eyes that followed my excited flight,
The satiated dogs that barely moved from the flickering hearth.

And then it all began, such squawking and clucking
And the clattering of steely-knives stabbing the table
Impaling all manner of meats lost in a cloud
Full of feathers from startled chickens. One human barked
And leapt upon a perch on the fully laden table
Scattering crumbs, (such rich pickings!) I was tempted to rest
And to take some nourishment there but an arm swished

To snatch me from the pungent air mid-flight up turning
A great plateful of precious water that splashed and showered the
One who gleamed with such an exotic plumage that the droplets
Sparkled like jewels in a crown of light. I held that moment
Struck in awe. This was for surely a nest for the gods, I was able
To reflect before returning from whence I came.
Brief is my life and a humble sparrow has no place at this table.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

The Lament of the Oak

The lament of the Oak

(Bird song can be heard)

Listen, can you hear that?
That sound celebrating the new day
Once fill all my waking moments.

That song heralding the end of a long night
Sung to the open air to where the sound would stretch out,
And gently fall to earth like the downward spiral
Of a sycamore wing.

The Spring saw my tree feathers unfurl
And Summer bore throughout the forest a rich store of fruit and berries
For the seed-thief to plunder, and enrich its song.
I was moved in my surroundings, a part of everything that grew
I was blessed by the sunlight that reached out
Touching the forest floor with a quiet ecstasy,
And in such moments I would remember what the Ancestors had said:

Once, when the trees of Holmwudu
Were at rest inside the forest
A light appeared above them in the air
It penetrated deep below the canopy
And hooked itself to their roots, alighting in a clearing.
A presence rippled in the undergrowth
And the trees struggled to comprehend it.
‘This light is surly our salvation’
The mighty oak then said ‘We should yield’, so they did,
The light space remained and the presence passed over
And out of the mystery that couldn’t contain it.

I managed to survive the Great Storm and in times of short water
Learned to conserve my energy. But when a dark cloud
Came to rest above my crown the birds took flight.
Then a searing pain struck me like Winter.
I felt the surrounding meadow lean in and press the air, heavily.
I could smell the earth. I felt the void where my roots had clung to the soil.
A wide gap in the sky had opened and was funnelling blackened air.
I shuddered and I bore my silver-leaf underside to invoke the rain.

When I awoke I felt a warmth
And a breeze, a breathing
From one who held me in his hand
He had a knife and with it he was whittling, carving, quietly.
And as I began to take shape
I began to resemble the one-who-carved.
Heavy was he in thought as if the trunk of the mighty oak itself
Lay across his shoulders. Was that why in me
He carved the image of himself
With eyes closed?

And the more he carved the more
He began talking to me, and I heard words like, 'friend'
And since he understood my longing
To return to the wood he gave me back
My two outstretched branches with their 5 slender twigs
And I began to hope that the birds would come back
To nest in my arms.

But, for a long time I was held in a long lasting night.
I was pale, I was cold, I was shivering.
Then I heard noises
But nothing of the like that I had heard in the forest, but gradually they
Became louder until suddenly
I was overwhelmed by a great gust of wind
Like that of the night of the Great Storm.
I tried to let my branches be carried along
But I saw that my limbs had been
fastened with great thorns.
I was surrounded. Surrounded by a plague of shouting
And jeering in a language I did not understand.
They hoisted me up above their heads and a light blinded.
I was spun around, disorientated.
I wanted to cry out but without the leaves I had no voice
And had I cried out who would have understood my voice?

I felt at that moment a visitation of all the evil of the world
beyond the forest. And beyond that instead of trees, people
A crowd, surging and swelling like the Great river
They looked at me. They looked into this face
That the one-who-carved had given me
And they tried to find themselves reflected in this face
And leaning forward, they outstretched their arms like branches
To touch me and force upon me their vision
But it was a vision not of my world,

It was a vision of such horror, of fire and flames.
I could see their suffering, their jealousy, their vanity,
I saw how they cheated and deceived one another
Corrupted anything that was treasured
Yet through that pain they sought to find in me salvation,
And then they began pleading with me.
And I heard words like, 'father',
And then I saw myself in that vision
And they told me that I was the source
Of all wisdom and knowledge
And I began to lament
How we had become estranged.
I wanted to cry out,
'You people have brought this all upon yourselves.'
I wanted to tell them
'Look into your own heart.'
It cannot be made of stone.

And then as if far off rising above the cacophony
The song of the seed-thief returned
But this time it wasn't just the one voice, but many
And the many voices were singing together.
And they were singing together
As if they were singing as one.

Fourth version

Friday, 1 January 2010

Four Anglo-Saxon Poems

Four Anglo-Saxon Poems

Through Anglo-Saxon verse we ascend to the source of the English language where words are rooted in things and full of meaning...perhaps more so.

These poems were inspired by the Anglo-Saxon sense of playfulness, found particularly in the surviving riddles, and exploit a variety of end and internal rhymes to create cycles of repeated sounds around a collection of concrete images

Poem I

The wood some trees
As well as these

A well, a wood
As well they would

The wood as well
As the trees

Poem II

On the brow of a clough
Sits a chough on a bough

Three brothers in a rough
Take turns at the plough

A boat on the lough
Is lost in a trough

And the sough of the wind
Is more than, more than enough

Poem III

The wild wind wanders
Round the old wintery wood

Wondering whether
It would waken the weather

Winding its windy fingers
Round the old wold world

Poem IV

The field leaves its yield
To the breeze in the trees

And the hedge at the edge
Yields to the leaves

In the heart of that hedge
By the edge of the wood

A fledgling sings, concealed
While a herd in a field

Lifts its head
To a bird on the wing

That heard nothing
But could, see everything

* * * * *

Poem II Glossary and pronunciation guide

Brow: \ˈbrau̇\ before 12th century, the projecting upper part of a steep place
Bough: \ˈbau̇\ before 12th century, a branch of a tree
Plough : \ˈplau̇\ 12th century, an implement used to cut, lift, and turn over soil.
Sough: \ˈsau̇ before 12th century, to make a moaning or sighing sound

Clough: \ˈkləf\ Dialect a gorge or narrow ravine
Chough: \ˈchəf\, Date: 13th century, an Old World bird related to crows
Rough: \ˈrəf\ Date: before 12th century
Enough: \i-ˈnəf, before 12th century

*Lough: \ˈläk, ˈläḵ\ 14th century of Celtic origin; akin to Old Irish loch lake
Trough: \ˈtrȯf before 12th century : a depression (as between waves or hills)

*Clearly not Saxon in origin

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Kolinje - the slaughter of the pig

Pig hangs by its hind legs splayed out
on a wide frame. A single slit splits the
underbelly open, opening up to the
outside its warm, steaming interior all
reds and succulent, shining and wet
spilling out into well versed hands
cutting and carving, weaving a polished
tip between bone and cartilage severing
stretched tendons with a snap and
paring flesh from fat. All is carefully
sorted and dispatched, just a small
sack of bitter, black fluid is discarded.
By the end only a suggestion of pig
remains, recognisable, its tail uncoiled
and pale.


Thursday, 10 December 2009

Field Songs, parts VI & VII


More sky appears (Still so warm)
Between each limb (I could be deceived)
As trees cast into the wind
Their bronzed, autumnal leaves (For thinking it is spring)
Edged in burning red
And black decay
Colours almost singed (Colours changing)
For want of cooler days.
From their summer greens.
Rich mossy greens
And blue tinted lichens
Vibrant shades
Of ochres and orange
The season’s
Wind-blown wreckage
Remains. (Remains of leaves)
(Lie scattered in drifts.)
Ankle deep mounds of (Ankle deep mounds lie)
Lobed edges oak, (Under the oaks)
Serrated lime (And the limes.)
And smooth walnut
All long abandoned
By their branches.

I’ll take a rake (I’ll take a rake)
To tidy up (And sweep them up)
And burn them (And burn them)
Scenting the air (Filling the air)
(With plumes of)
(Brilliant white smoke)
With that acrid smell
(In an otherwise)
(Flawless sky.)
That is autumn.


The fires are lit
And the fields glow

The evening sun (The labouring men)
Brightens the wall (Work in silence)
(In their unfenced acreage)

In the room (Burning stubble)
(Each in his field)
Where the colour (Where the slow wound)
Deepens (Deepens)
(And the blood)
To a crimson.
(Stiffens in the veins.)
The floor boards (The earth con-
Creak underfoot -tracks underfoot)

Unsettling the dust.
Viewed from the window
The folds in the valley
Open like a book
(Breaking the spine.)
Where the unwritten lines
Linger in the wood smoke
Hanging in horizontal layers.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

A sapling senses the end of Summer


These beaded threads of morning moisture
Stretched across our hardening antlers
Come upon us in our sleep and we seem to be sleeping longer,
Longer since our leaves have left us.

Heavy in the dark they become lighter as the light up-rises.
This binding silk is not bondage to us
But through it we detect little tremors in all our parts.
When that happens it is like the wind but not the wind

But like the wind it stirs us from our light-green reveries
Since we know that sound of something airborne all too well.
It has been around us, everywhere, while it has been warm.
A kind of singing that is not singing, just coming and going,

And sometimes we feel the sensation of a sudden shudder
Which shakes these sparkling crystals and then the singing stops And while they fall there is a moment of silence
That is taut and tense in which we wait to hear them shatter.