Unsung Sheffield war hero honoured at last – 74 years after she served as a ‘Wren’

When Pam Norton left the Women’s Royal Naval Service in 1946, she was just happy to have contributed in some small way to the war effort.

By Dan Hayes
Saturday, 15th August 2020, 6:00 am

Having just turned 18 when she joined up on her birthday in 1944, she served two years as a ‘Wren’, working as a signals communications clerk on HMS Wagtail in Ayr, Scotland.

Demobbed in 1946, Pam returned to Sheffield to help run her family’s business, completely unaware she was entitled to a medal for her service until family friend Alison Garner managed to retrieve copies of her former service records and applied to the MoD Medals Office on her behalf.

The medal was finally presented to Pam on Friday - 74 years after she left the WRNS - by Commodore Phil Waterhouse, Naval Regional Commander for Northern England, in a ceremony at her Stannington home attended by friends and local dignitaries.

Miss Pamela Norton is a former member of the WRNS presented with a medal. She volunteered and joined the service on her 18th birthday in 1944 and served with the Fleet Air Arm as a signals communications clerk. She served just over two years at RNAS Ayr HMS Wagtail Scotland.

After initially being told she had ‘missed the boat’ when it came to having her service recognised by the Royal Navy, her case was taken up by the Lord Lieutenant of South Yorkshire Andrew Coombe, whose deputy Christopher Jewitt attended Friday’s ceremony.

Ms Garner, who has known Pam since she was 15, said she was inspired to take up her cause after seeing another former Wren get one on the anniversary of VE Day in May this year, and was very proud that her friend of 40 years had finally got the medal she deserved.

She said: “Pam always says she didn’t do anything but she did give up two years of her life aged 18 which would be unheard of today.

“She speaks very fondly of her time as a Wren including when she was taken on a ride in a Spitfire over France and when she got drunk for the first and last time in her life on rum with some sailors on VE Day.

Pam Norton in the WRNS.

“And she has remained active all her life, carried on horse riding until not too long ago and even bought a sports car - a bright yellow MG - when she was in her 80s.”

The presentation was accompanied by two drummers who had been brought in specially from MOD Caledonia in Scotland, and was followed by a double bugle tribute to the 94-year-old.

Commodore Waterhouse described Pam’s story as ‘wonderful’ and said it had been a ‘great honour’ to present her medal, particularly in the run-up to the 75th anniversary of VJ Day.

During the short ceremony, he apologised that it had taken so long for the Royal Navy to get the medal to her before presenting it on behalf of the First Sea Lord and Her Majesty the Queen.

Pam receiving her medal.

Also in attendance at the presentation was Trish Wilkinson, who served for 22 in the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Navy and now works in recruitment for the Forces.

“Thanks to people like Pam I don’t think we will ever have to experience anything like that again,” she said.

“They are so humble and never think they did anything - but they are the real unsung heroes of the war.”

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Pamela with Commodore Phil Waterhouse ADC and Chief petty officer Trish Wilkinson.
The presentation was attended by Pam's freinds and local dignitaries.