Percival Leslie Norwood GC (EM non-exchanger)

b. 15/11/1893 Eastleigh, Hampshire.  d. 29/06/1972 Exminster, Devon.

DATE OF GC ACTION: 27/11/1913 Liss, Hampshire.

Percival Leslie Norwood (1893-1972) was born on 15th November 1893 in Eastleigh, Hampshire, the son of Obed Joseph Norwood, a railway guard, and his wife Ann Elizabeth (nee Rogers). Percy, as he was known, was an only child. After his schooling, he followed his father into the railways, and by 1913, he was working as a railwayman for the London and South Western Railway at Liss in Hampshire. His father was by now a station master at Newton Toney.

George Cross

On the afternoon of the 27th November, 1913, a blacksmith named Harry Rasell was driving downhill towards the London and South-Western Railway Station, Liss, when his pony bolted and dashed into the gates of a level-crossing, which were already closed owing to the approach of a train only 80 to 120 yards away. Rasell was pitched over the gates and lay stunned across the inside rail on which the train was approaching. The driver of the train put on his brakes and reversed the engine, but was unable to pull up until he had run over the level-crossing. Just as the train came up, Norwood jumped down from the platform and tried to pull Rasell clear by his legs; failing to do so, he went in front of the engine, grasped Rasell by the shoulder, and tried to roll him over. Norwood just succeeded in getting Rasell clear, but was struck on the head by the front of the engine, which came to a standstill a few yards further on.

If the driver had not reversed his engine, both Rasell and Norwood must have been killed. The injuries to Norwood’s head were serious, and he is stated by the doctor who attended him to have had a miraculous escape from death. His intention to effect the rescue at all hazards is shown by his changing his hold on Rasell, and by his maintaining his hold after being struck by the engine.

On the 13th February 1914, the citation for the award of the Edward Medal of the First Class was announced in the London Gazette for Percy Norwood. By 1918, Percy was now working in the Winchester Booking Office earning £85 a year, and was receiving annual bonuses, and by 1920 had an annual salary of £170. In 1919, Percy married Fanny Saunders in Stockbridge, and it is believed there was no children in the marriage.

Little is known about Percy’s life for the next 20 years, but it is believed he remained in the railways. In January 1943, he is found living in Surrey, where he was Booking Clerk at Kew Bridge, and a month later was appointed Station Manager at Egham. Three years later, in 1946, he had taken over as Station Manager at Byfleet. He eventually became Station Manager at Crediton in Devon until his retirement in 1958.

The final Royal Warrant relating to the Albert Medal (and Edward Medal) was dated 15th December 1971, effective 21st October 1971, which revoked all existing Royal Warrants and provided for the optional exchange for the George Cross, although all holders, whether they exchanged or not, would be regarded as recipients of the GC. Unfortunately, due to an administrative error, Percy was not included in this process, and now living in Devon, he passed away on 29th June 1972 in Exminster Hospital, a hospital for mental health patients. He was unaware at the time of his death of the chance to exchange his EM for a GC. In recent years, research has uncovered a number of cases similar to Percy’s, and he is now recognised as a recipient of the GC. At this time, it is unclear about the location of his Edward Medal, or his final resting place.

Norwood Primary School, in Chamberlayne Road, Eastleigh, which opened in 1977, was named after Percy Norwood and still holds a “Norwood Day” every year, when bells in the tower are rung.