One of the first ever members of the SAS has died in Chesterfield aged 88.
Scottish-born Norman Watson joined the forces in 1942 aged 17 and was soon based with the 5th Battalion Parachute Regiment, who were then based at Hardwick Hall.
During his time on the Duke of Devonshire’s estate he met his wife-to-be Peggy at a dance in nearby Chesterfield – and on his retirement many years later the couple returned to the town.
It was while serving in North Africa that he was chosen to become part of the fledgling Special Air Services, a new covert unit.
Over the next three years Norman took part in daring anti-Nazi raids in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Crete, Italy, Belgium, Holland, Norway, France and Germany – earning the nickname The Fox for his cunning ability to avoid capture.
His friend Charles Miller said: “As a Second World War Special Air Services volunteer he had numerous escapes, but none more extraordinary than when passing through enemy lines in Germany after D-Day.
“He was seen by an Allied patrol who held fire believing he was a tramp.
“By extraordinary coincidence and good luck he had come upon his home battalion, the 8th Royal Scots, and an officer recognised him exclaiming, ‘It’s Norman Watson, The Fox!’.”
Throughout his later life he was reluctant to discuss any of his heroics.
Norman was busy until the end of the war.
In the final weeks he and his patrol took the surrender of the German garrison in Bremen.
Being a bomb disposal expert, he was also deployed to Norway after the German surrender to check for booby traps among the U-boat fleet.
Norman enjoyed an extended leave of absence to marry sweetheart Peggy on July 14, 1945.
His courage and endeavour during the conflict with Germany led to him being selected as the SAS representative for the Victory Parade in London shortly afterwards.
David Mellor, secretary of the Chesterfield Parachute Regiment Association, was a friend of Norman’s in later life.
Mr Mellor said: “Norman never spoke much about his military service and I knew him very well.
“He was very young when he joined the Paras and I know he had trouble staying in the regiment because of his age. He was a fantastic bloke.”
After retirement, he remained active and despite being unwell, continued to show his trademark courage.
Just before his 89th birthday, Norman was admitted to Chesterfield Royal Hospital, where he died in his sleep.
His funeral service took place this week at Chesterfield Crematorium.