Norman Wainwright in wartime

Reflections by Norman Leigh-Hughes

1943 Norman Wainwright with Sgt Norman Hughes in IraqI was stationed with Norman at Staging Post 117 in Iraq at a little place called Sh’iaba not from Basra (more recently in the news in the Gulf War) “The last place God made and the first the Devil took possession of” Norman called it (picture, left, shows the two Normans together in Iraq in 1943, the writer of this article sitting to the right).

Life at Sh’iaba was not very good except for the few who could swim and that elite were able to form a water polo team. We then set about checking times and eventually we were able to challenge the various units in the area, needless to say with Norman in our team we were soon Champions. Enough about us, after all this is about Norman

I left the Middle East earlier than Norman and returned to my home town of Newcastle Staffs and was able to carry some up to date news to Betty his wife.

May I add a couple of insights into Norman’s attitude to life:

A wordy argument was in progress in the mess it was mainly concerned with some swimming technology and in desperation one party to the argument said in desperation “Norman you think you know everything about swimming don’t you?” Norman took a steady pull on his pipe and calmly said “Well if you did something better than 118,000,000 (the estimated population of the British Empire) other people you might think the same” a deathly silence came over the gathering!

At another time Norman was sent for to the C.O’ office and was posed this question “Sergeant Wainwright when you were stationed at Stafford M.U. (and here followed the description of a piece equipment urgently needed for some vital war effort) can you tell them where it is? Norman replied “Sorry, sir I can’t recall but if you sent me home I think I could trace it!!” It was of course ‘tongue in the cheek’. Needless to say he did reveal all and the war was won I think!

More recently I telephoned Norman to say that I was concerned that although the tourist leaflets referred to local celebrities there was no mention of either Bob Leivers or Norman himself.

Norman seemed quite content with the numerous awards from the swimming association.

The world lost a great man

Norman Leigh-Hughes