22-year-old Norman Oliver Dingley died of wounds at No. 8 Casualty Clearing Station, France having received a bullet wound to the abdomen during the Battle of Arras. From March 1917, he was serving as Lieutenant (Acting Captain) with the 93rd Company, Machine Gun Corps, having previously been gazetted Second Lieutenant with the 6th Battalion, Worcestershire Regiment in January 1915.
Norman was the youngest of the six children (four girls, two boys) of parents Richard John Dingley (a tailor) and Emma Cookes, who had married at St Mark’s Church, Birmingham on 14th March 1885. Two of the couple’s daughters – Kate Elizabeth (1888-1891) and Elizabeth Gladys (1891-1894) died as young children. Norman and his older brother, Donald Clive (1892-1950) were educated at Solihull School and were members of the Officer Training Corps. Norman belonged to “School House” and was an excellent cricketer, scoring 83 in the match between Solihull Grammar School and Camp Hill on 2nd July 1910. He also took five wickets in the same match.
In 1910, Norman attended the Officer Training Corps Summer Camp with fellow pupils Percy Lilico and Harold Morley Eyles, who were also both killed in the war. After leaving school at Christmas 1911, Norman joined his father’s tailoring business in Birmingham. When war broke out, he quickly enlisted as a Private, joining the 1st Birmingham Pals in August 1914 and receiving the service number 335. His brother, Donald, also joined up at the same time. Norman didn’t see active service overseas whilst in the ranks, and was gazetted Second Lieutenant in January 1915 with the Worcestershire Regiment, as was his brother.
De Ruvigny’s Roll of Honour describes Norman’s active service, including that he was taken ill with dysentry whilst with the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force in Gallipoli from August 1915. He and his brother both took part in the evacuations of Suvla Bay and Helles Point and Norman also later served in Egypt. From February 1916, he was with the Expeditionary Force in France and Flanders and was promoted Lieutenant from 1st August 1916. He took part in the Battle of the Somme and was invalided home in September 1916. On 1st March, 1917 he was transferred to the Machine Gun Corps, and returned to the front on Easter Monday, 9th April 1917.
His Colonel described him as “good and conscientious”, whilst Major Stokes-Roberts said:
I set great store on his services. As a Company Commander, I could never wish to have a better officer under me than Nod. He was, without exception, the best platoon officer I have ever had….I very deeply deplore his loss.
On the morning of 3rd May 1917, Lieutenant Dingley was in charge of four guns in a forward position in the front of the infantry. He was standing next to one of the guns, giving orders to Corporal F, Woodman when they heard a faint cry for help. Corporal Woodman describes Lieutenant Dingley’s actions:
Without a moment’s hesitation he jumped out of the trench, ran forward, and brought in a wounded man who was lying quite close to the enemy’s lines. During the actual battle his cheerfulness and utter lack of fear put heart in all of us.…To get to two of the guns under his charge, he had to get out of the trench and cross about 20 yards of open ground, and he was continually going to and from these guns to cheer and encourage the men. It was while returning from one of these journeys that a bullet struck him in the abdomen, causing the wound to which he eventually succumbed….Even while lying in the trench his great pluck asserted itself, and he continually smiled encouragement to his men. I believe even then the last thing he thought about was himself.
Severely wounded, he was recovered from the field in the evening of 3rd May and taken to a Casualty Clearing Station where he died of wounds on 5th May. He is buried at Duisans British Cemetery, Etrun and is commemorated locally on the war memorial at Solihull School, as well as at St Augustine’s Church, Edgbaston.
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