27/06/2014 07:13 BST | Updated 26/08/2014 06:59 BST

Remembering Friends on Armed Forces Day

From evacuee in London at 11 years old, boarding a train to Sussex, adapting to civilian life, being fitted with artificial knees and walking the Great Wall of China with Queen Victoria's Great Granddaughter and raising over £20,000 to support the armed forces and their families. It is safe to say Norman Young, (Brigham) is an achiever, focused and determined individual.

Speaking with Norman truly made me realise that anything is possible. Mind over matter and keep going.

At the tender age of 11 years old in 1939, Norman found himself heading to Southwater in Sussex with many other evacuees travelling to the countryside to get away from London during the 2nd World War. In the school holidays, Norman would visit his parents in Streatham in London and remembers hiding under his parent's strong kitchen table with wired mesh around it when the doddle bugs came across London and sirens sounded.

In 1942 Norman joined London Nautical Training School (TS Exmouth) and went on to sign up for the Royal Navy in 1944 as Boy Seaman 2nd class. When he became Boy Seaman 1st class he was also rated Ordinary Seaman at 17 ½ years old and served in the West Indies.


Withdrawing torpedos from tubes for inspection at crossing Indian Ocean

Photo (c) Norman Young

Aboard HMS Diadem in 1946 as an Able Seaman, Norman escorted King George and Queen Mary with Princess Elizabeth & Princess Margaret Rose, who were visiting South Africa on HMS Vanguard. He and his crew mates escorted as far as Freetown then the South African Navy took over.

Norman's career in the forces developed and in 1947 he joined Submarine Service and boarded HMS Dolphin for training. In 1948 he was part of HMS/M Trump in Reserve Group "R" in Gosport and later on went onto HMS/M Telemachus in 1948 at Barrow in Furness.

As Norman's career progressed he became an Instructor in Submarine Escape Training Tank in 1956 which led him to Depot Ship Msida Creek Malta as S/M Escape Instructor in 1958.

With the then Captain Lieutenant Commander John Fieldhouse, Norman boarded HM/M Walrus CPO Coxswain in 1960.

In 1964 he became the Escape Instructor aboard HMS Dolphin S/M and later went on to become Senior Instructor in 1966.

In 1968 Norman was discharged from the Royal Navy.

Adapting to civilian life, Norman had his challenges. He bought a pig farm and faced troubled times during the pig trade unpredictable times. He also recalls learning that pigs can swim and they did so during a routine transportation and the pigs jumped into the small stream on the farm and swam across. This was one of the many happy memories Norman recalls in his early years of civilian life.

Norman later retired after working for Ford Motor Company until 1993. The same year he became a SSAFA Volunteer in service committee in Gosport. Norman's health needed attention and in 1995 he was fitted with artificial knees.


Norman in Nepal

Photo (c) Norman Young

A year later after becoming a volunteer, Norman was made Chairman of SSAFA Service Committee.

6 years after the fitting of his artificial knees, Norman completed his first trek in 2001 across one of the oldest deserts in the world, the Namib Desert and raised £5,000 for SSAFA. The fundraising and trek did not stop there and in 2002 he trekked 100 miles in Brazil with RUKBA & SSAFA working together.


Norman in Namib Desert

Photo (c) Norman Young

In 2003 Norman undertook the challenge of walking the length of the Thames from source of Thames to Thames Barrier.

Norman was recognised for his achievements and was voted SSAFA Volunteer of the Year 2004/2005 and was presented with a certificate by HRH Prince Michael of Kent. Norman represented SSAFA at the Albert Hall and laid SSAFA reef at Cenotaph.


Norman collecting his Volunteer of the Year 2004/2005 certificate from HRH Prince Michael of Kent

Photo (c) Norman Young

Norman carried on his adventures and trekked Nepal in 2005 and raised over £5,000 and in the same year trekked Peru, again raising over £5,000.

His last walking challenge came in 2006 across the Great Wall of China with Queen Victoria's Great Granddaughter Victoria Adelheid Clementine Luise Gräfin Zu Castell-Rüdenhausen and again raised £5,000 for SSAFA. His trekking days came to an end after a heart condition stopped him from climbing Kilimanjaro.


Norman at The Great Wall of China

Photo (c) Norman Young

In 2013 Norman stepped down as Chairman of SSAFA and in 2014 he was again recognised for his work done in SSAFA and assisting veterans and families. He has been awarded the BEM (British Empire Medal). His local MP Caroline Dinenage congratulated him in an open letter and said,

"Heartfelt congratulations on the recent announcement of British Empire Medal, seems a very fitting recognition of the hard work and commitment you have shown to our forces, veterans and their families over the years. Many thanks for all you have done."

This Armed Forces Day Norman remembers it as "remembering old friends and being proud to be a volunteer of SSAFA."

Further information

What is the British Empire Medal?

Who are RUKBA?

What is Armed Forces Day?

List of other Armed Forces Charities

Who are SSAFA?