On Saturday 12 October 1940, many people who had attended Norman’s wedding at Holy Trinity eight months earlier arrived at the same church for his funeral.
Among the mourners were Mr and Mrs H Hartley from his mother’s family and Miss Alice Walker from his step mother’s family. Ten members of the RAF from Speke, including Squadron Leader Geoffrey Pilkington, formed a guard of honour, before four of them headed the cortege and the remainder formed a file on each side of the hearse. Norman’s body was carried into the packed church in a coffin draped with the Union Jack.
The Reverend R Campbell, who had married Norman and Joan, conducted the service and after reading the lesson expressed his deep sympathy with the relatives in their loss. Referring to the funeral service he said “Do not think that the service in which you are taking part is wholly a sad one. Consider not the height of sadness and despair but in peace and assurance. It is against that background that we should see his life of one whom we remember at this hour”.
He went on to say “He saw his life’s wish as being partly fulfilled. Human life should be measured by the extent of sacrifice, and we get some idea of the measure of that sacrifice when we pray for this young man today. The extent of our sacrifice cannot be as great as his. He died for his country and no man can do more than that.”
During the service the congregation sang Psalm 23 and the hymn Abide With Me.
Norman Sutton was laid to rest in the Hankinson family plot in St Helens Cemetery, section 58 grave number 281.
Norman’s father arranged for his name to be etched on his mother’s headstone in Undercliffe Cemetery, Bradford. The inscription reads “Also their son Norman Pilot Officer R.A.F. killed over England Oct 5th 1940”. The headstone is in section D grave 223.
Norman’s death and funeral garnered much coverage in both the St Helens Reporter and the St Helens Newspaper and Advertiser. Indeed both papers carried a photograph of him on their front pages and described him as a “noted sportsman.”
On hearing of Norman’s death, Squadron Leader JE McComb of No 611 (West Lancashire) Squadron was moved to write to Oliver describing his son as “an outstanding airman, a brave lad and efficient. With more luck I know that he would have built up a very substantial score of victories to his credit.”
Although Norman didn’t engage any enemy aircraft during his service, we owe an enormous debt of thanks to him. He showed that defiant spirit that brought the nation together to ensure it was not invaded and we were not defeated. As Geoffrey Wellum of No 92 Squadron said;
“To be a fighter pilot defending our country against an utterly ruthless enemy – it doesn’t matter if Bill shot down ten, Geoff Wellum got three and poor old Sid didn’t get anything, what matters is we stopped them. Didn’t matter who shot down what. We stopped them, and that’s the important thing about the Battle of Britain, saving this country, which it did.”
Norman is commemorated in several places:
Battle of Britain Monument in London.
Battle of Britain Memorial in Capel-le-Ferne (erroneously as Norman J Sutton).
Book of Remembrance at St Clement Danes, the RAF church in London.
Book of Remembrance, the casualties list and on the Roll of Honour in St George’s Chapel at Biggin Hill.
Book of Remembrance at Holy Trinity Church, St Helens where he was married and his funeral took place.
St Helens war memorial in the town square.
No. 611 (West Lancashire) Squadron memorial in St Michael’s Church, Garston.
Roll of Honour at Belle Vue Boys’ School in Bradford.
He was the first employee to be named in the Pilkington Bros. Ltd Roll of Honour.
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