Norman Feather

Private Norman Feather, 42380 - 8th Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers, later 76798 - 2nd Battalion Tank Corps.

Private Norman Feather

Norman was born on 3rd September 1896, one of eight children born to Charles and Margaret (Maggie) Feather, they lived at Low Bank, Oakworth.
He was baptised in Oakworth on 20th May 1900. At the time his father Charles was working as a labourer. By now he was 4 years old and had four brothers and a sister. By 1911 the family had moved to 3, Griffe View, Oakworth and Norman was fourteen years old and had four brothers and three sisters, but sadly his father had died and left his mother a widow and the children without a father. Norman was working as a doffer at a spinning mill, probably Oakworth Mill on Mill Lane in Oakworth and three of his siblings also brought a working wage into the household.

In Nov/Dec 1915, he enlisted in the Army with the Northumberland Fusiliers. Norman later served on tanks with the 2nd Battalion Tank Corps. He was wounded in December 1917 which was reported in the local newspaper.

Keighley News December 1, 1917 page 3:
Gunner Norman Feather, Tank Corps, of Oakworth, son of Mrs Charles Feather, Griffe View, Oakworth, has been wounded, and is now in the 7th Canadian Hospital, France. He was shot in the right knee, but the bullet has been extracted, and he is progressing favourably. Prior to enlistment he was employed by Messrs. Prince Smith & Son, Burlington Shed, Keighley.

Here is his the story of his experiences, as told to his neighbour Peter Morell many years later, who is conscious that they are old memories retold in conversations with Norman in the 1970's:

1) " 'I was given a choice of regiment, so I opted for the Tyneside Scottish because I liked the uniform.' He joined up with a friend at Keighley Drill Hall on Lawkholme Lane and they celebrated this with a pint at the Volunteers pub across the road. Soon after they were marching across France towards the trenches. It was an adventure and they sang and laughed as they went. Suddenly a German shell fired from miles away smashed into their lines and Norman's friend was blown to pieces. The horror of war was then very real and as Norman staggered to his feet he told me everything had changed and he was absolutely terrified."

2) “On one occasion whilst marching towards the trenches a troop of soldiers came marching down the lane towards them. At the very front of the column Norman recognised his own brother. Instinctively he stepped sideways and shouted 'Harry!' Immediately the sergeant disciplined him and told him to expect No. 1 Field Punishment for stepping out of line. This punishment involved being strapped, with arms and legs outstretched, to a gun carriage for a day. However, when the commanding officer heard the facts of the case he turned to the sergeant and said 'It was his brother he hadn't seen for two years. For God's sake have some compassion man!' 'Case Dismissed.'”

He received the British War Medal and the Victory Medal for his war service.

After the war Norman made his living as a coal man and farmer, and his coal business was at Oakworth Station where the 1970 film 'The Railway Children' was centred around the station. They used Norman's pile of coal in the film scene where the character Peter stole coal for his family.

He was living at 13, Griffe View in 1919 and married Alice Evelyn Thorpe (Occupation: Spinner) on 5th July 1924 at The Primitive Methodist Chapel, Lane Ends, Oakworth. By 1926 they'd moved to Low Bank Farm, Oakworth. Norman died aged 89 years in 1986.

Carved wooden plaque containing Norman's photo and medals.

His brother Laban Feather was killed in the war and is named on Oakworth War Memorial and another brother Harry also served.

Source information:
Birth, marriage and death records.
1901 and 1911 census.
WWI Service Medal and Award Rolls, 1914-1920.
Army service records.
Keighley News archives, Keighley Library.

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