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Eddie Norman – from battalion commander to bishop

Eddie Norman – from battalion commander to bishop

Battalion commander to bishop was the career trajectory of Napier-born Sir Edward Norman, the subject of a new biography written by his daughter Elizabeth Kay.

Eddie was training as an Anglican priest at St John’s Theological College in Auckland when World War Two broke out. Piped out of the college gates, he and two other students immediately signed up for the army, and Eddie quickly rose through the ranks to become one of the Second New Zealand Division’s most distinguished commanding officers.

‘He started as a private and ended the war as a lieutenant colonel,’ she says. ‘His training as a priest meant he was a disciplined and thoughtful soldier. He was also a natural leader who showed real warmth and care for his men.’

Eddie Norman’s first battle was at El Alamein in Egypt in 1942. The New Zealand Division suffered huge losses, a great shock for the young soldier. Eddie went on to become commander of 25 Battalion during the tough Italian campaign. The battalion was responsible for the division’s sole success at Cassino, almost single-handedly smashed the German defensive line south of Arezzo, and led the advance across the Senio to the Sillaro River.

Eddie was awarded the Distinguished Service Order, Military Cross, and American Legion of Merit, and in 1984 was made a Knight Commander of the British Empire.

Eddie Norman and 25 Battalion is based on letters Eddie wrote home to his new wife, Margaret, and black-and-white photos taken by him and fellow soldiers. It also includes detailed maps of the movements and battles of 25 Battalion.

War historian Christopher Pugsley says, ‘The book is both a love story and a war story. Its message is universal.’ Former Secretary of Defence John McKinnon, who launched the book, spoke of how Elizabeth Kay's writing had eloquently and economically captured the difficulties of the NZ Division's Italian campaign and the role her father played in it, as well as the daily tedium of being of soldier while waiting for battle.

The book was launched at Wellington Cathedral, with three hundred people in attendance, including around 40 descendants of men who'd fought in 25 Battalion, and the ashes of Bishop Edward Norman and his wife, Margaret, were close by in the walls of the ambulatory.

Fittingly, at 2.30pm on 7 December, Elizabeth Kay will be interviewed by historian Neil Frances at the Featherston RSA, hosted by Lincoln Gould of Messines Bookshop.

Eddie Norman and 25 Battalion is available at Marsden Books, Messines Bookshop, and all good bookstores nationwide and
ISBN: 978-1-98-859506-1
RRP: $40

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