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Hero of bombing missions.

Byline: By Andy Lloyd

Funeral of decorated North pilot

Quiet hero Norman Glaholm was a family man loved by his grandchildren - but his wartime memoirs reveal nights of terror in the hostile skies above Nazi Germany.

The former RAF Flight Lieutenant was one of a brave band of young men who piloted bombers and risked anti-aircraft fire and night fighters to destroy Hitler's war machine.

Today mourners were at the funeral of the 84-year-old, who won the Distinguished Flying Medal and Air Force Cross for completing 38 successful bombing raids.

Norman, of Whitley Bay, was a member of 106 Squadron, based in Lincoln and at one point served under the famous Dambuster, Wing Commander Guy Gibson.

Norman would take a cine-camera up into the sky to record the amazing views over Nazi Germany - realising that one day they would become collectors items.

His daughter, Elizabeth Hickson, also from Whitley Bay, and who unearthed Norman's film archives, said: "Dad was a very brave man, but he never really spoke to us about what he did.

"Part of it was modesty but he was also aware that they had bombed towns where people lived and worked, even if they were the enemy. He knew the raids would have killed people.

"He could live with it because that was what they had been sent to do, but he said he was glad he'd not taken part in the terrible raids on Dresden at the end of the war.

"The fact he flew 38 missions was incredible. The average for a crewman was six, which shows how dangerous it was.

"He crash-landed twice and flew back on one engine with the plane stalling numerous times, but never lost a crew member. He was very proud of that. He was also in the first Allied bomber over peacetime Italy, in 1945, on a flight they called the Continental Express. He also brought prisoners of war back home.

"He had always wanted to write a book about his experiences as a bomber pilot, but never got around to finishing it, which is a shame.

"We have been through all his wartime memorabilia and it is amazing to see what he went through.

"He and his crew got hold of a camera and attached it to the plane so they could take pictures above Germany."

Norman was given five days leave in October 1940 and travelled from London to Tyneside to marry his sweetheart, Claire.

The pair were married for 52 years before she died 11 years ago. They had four daughters, seven grand-children and five great-grandchildren.

Elizabeth said: "Dad was a real gentleman, one of the last true ones. He always looked immaculate, Brylcreamed his hair and never went anywhere without a shirt and tie.

"He was in the Bomber Command Association, but there are very few of them left now.

"After the war he was manager of Graham's Furniture Store, in North Shields. He loved his family and playing golf.

"We spoilt him rotten. Even until the end he had kept his wicked sense of humour and he loved a ride in my daughter's convertible car with the roof down.

"He'd get out with his walking stick and comb his hair. My husband Ossie worked for a firm which has a factory in Minden, in Germany, and dad admitted he'd bombed the town on his way back from Hamburg.

"He was a wonderful father and a lovely, gentle man. He was never grumpy and didn't have a bad word to say about anybody.

"He never considered himself as old and we didn't until the last few months. He had to go into hospital last week and died during Sunday night's thunderstorm, peacefully, with his family around him."

Norman qualified for his wings in 1941 and spent some time in Ontario, Canada as an RAF trainer, but was soon drafted back for attacks on Germany.

He flew Lancaster, Manchester, Whitley and Stirling bombers in raids targeting cities like Berlin, Cologne and Dusseldorf - not knowing if he and his crew of six would make it back alive.

He left the RAF in 1946 and was also awarded the 1939-45 Star, the Air Crew European Star, the Defence Medal and the War Medal.

One of his proudest possessions was a signed letter from King George VI with his Air Force Cross which said: "I greatly regret that I am unable to personally give you this award which you have so well earned."
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Article Details
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Geographic Code:4EUGE
Date:Jun 13, 2003
Words:744
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