Norman Tunna GC (Direct Recipient)

b. 29/04/1908 Birkenhead., Cheshire. d. 04/12/1970 Birkenhead, Cheshire.

DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 26/09/1940 Birkenhead.

Norman Tunna (1908-1970) was born on 29th April 1908 in Birkenhead, Cheshire, the son of Charles and Emily Tunna (nee Weston), who resided at 21 Rowland Street. Charles Tunna was a goods checker on the Great Western Railway and served that company for 42 years. Norman was educated at St Paul’s School in Birkenhead, leaving at the age of 14 to take up employment as a rivetter at the Cammell Laird shipyard. However, he was determined to follow in his father’s footsteps and work on the railways. So, after only a few months on the shipyard, he joined the staff of the Great Western Railway as a shunter, carrying on the family tradition.

Norman Tunna GC

On Christmas Eve, 1932 Norman married Helena Higgins in Birkenhead, and they went on to have two children, James and Irene. In 1938, he was promoted to Shunter First Class, and his ultimate ambition was to become a Guard.

On the night of 26th September 1940, the Blitz struck Merseyside, a large number of incendiary bombs fell on and around the goods station and sidings at Morpeth Dock. Among the wagons was a train load of ammunition, petrol, bombs and fuses. Most of the incendaries were extinguished by the prompt action of the staff on duty before much damage could be done, but a serious fire broke out. Tunna climbed on top of a covered wagon containing 250lb bombs and discovered two incendiary bombs burning there. With disregard for his own safety, he removed the cover, extinguished the fire and then removed the bombs from the truck. He was helped by Ivor Davies and Frank Newns, who both were awarded the George Medal.

Norman was awarded the George Cross, and was invested with his GC at Buckingham Palace by King George VI on 8th July 1941. He was the first Merseysider and first railwayman to receive the GC. Also in January 1941, he had been presented with a gold medallion by his union, the National Union of Railwaymen. Later in the war, Norman served in the Home Guard. As a result, he had the honour on 8th June 1946, of taking part in the Victory Parade in London.

Shortly after the war, in May 1950, he was promoted to his dream job, Goods Guard. Norman’s exploits received a lot of attention, and he appeared in many publications including the “Hornet” comic on 19th March 1966. He also received a personal letter of congratulation from Sir James Milne, the Chairman of the Great Western Railway. By 1967, after 45 years’ service, he had become a Passenger Guard at Birkenhead Central Station and was presented with a clock by the British Rail Area Manager, Mr F.L. Hargreaves.

Norman passed away on 4th December 1970, aged 62, and he was cremated at Landican Crematorium, The Wirral. His GC and 1953 QEII Coronation Medal are not publicly held. On 15th November 1982, British Rail chose to name its sixth locomotive after a GC recipient. At Lime Street Station, Liverpool, No 47471 became “Norman Tunna GC”, and it was unveiled by his widow, Helena. It was attended by twenty other relatives and Helena wore his GC. Also present was Richard Blackburn GC, representing the VC and GC Association, of which Norman had been an active member during his lifetime.