Soldier on the memorial who lived to tell the tale

Sgt Alf Norman

The Grangetown war memorial includes the name of one soldier with one special claim to fame – he survived. Indeed Alf Norman, a postman, survived three wars – including his home being bombed - and lived until the age of 81.

But his name still appears alongside 330 others on the war memorial in Grange Gardens and before his death in 1950 he was known for taking family visitors to look at it!

Sgt Norman was serving with the Glamorgan Yeomanry – probably in Mesopotamia - as a messenger when he wife received two telegrams, one to say he was missing presumed killed and another to say he was killed in action.

His Cork-born “widow” Mary organised a traditional Irish wake, in the absence of a body. But later news came through that he was alive. Family legend is that she said: “I’ve never been able to rely on him for anything.”

For some reason, his name still went forward in the early 1920s when the memorial was constructed. “During our research we’ve come across a few errors and omissions regarding the memorial,” said Zena Mabbs, chair of Grangetown Local History Society. “It’s a lovely story really among so many tragic ones, with a happy ending.”

Alf, born in Watchet in Somerset in 1869, had run away from home to join the Army at 15 and had served in the Boer War, as well as India and Ireland.

As well as surviving the Great War, he also escaped the Blitz when a German bomb hit and badly damaged his home in Maitland Place, Grangetown in January 1941. The family story is that he inspected the damage smoking the last of his Christmas cigars. He had been working in a munitions factory during World War Two.

Alf returned to his job as a postman and continued to play in the Post Office band; he received a gold watch for 35 years' service to the band.

His wife died in 1942 and Alf lived his later years with his son Leo opposite the Welsh Regiment Barracks in Whitchurch Road. He died in December 1950 and received a military funeral; the last post was played at the graveside in Western Cemetery. Alf and Mary had five children, Margaret, Irene, Alf, Leo and Roma.

Alf is still remembered by his grandchildren, Jean, Trevor, Leo and Margaret.

Alf played in the band of the Welsh Regiment, as well as with the Post Office in civilian life. He is standing on the far right, next to the drum.

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