Norma Hudson, daughter of Norman Walton, has written a biography of her father, and the book was launched on November 15th 2008
Norma Hudson, daughter of Norman Walton, has written a biography of her father, the only survivor from the catastrophic loss of HMS Neptune, a cruiser sunk in a minefield off the Libyan coast in December 1941. This unique book would never have been written if Norma had not found her father's 'ditty' box containing his diaries and stories after he died in February 2005. It gives an extraordinary insight into the tragedy of HMS Neptune and is a valuable contribution to the nation’s knowledge of WWII.
Able Seaman Norman Walton, aged 20, was the sole survivor of the 765-man crew of HMS Neptune. She perished along with 73 men from HMS Kandahar and it was the Royal Navy’s 5th worst loss of life in the war, a little known tragedy. Force K, 7 ships, left Malta to intercept a vital convoy loaded with Panzer tanks, fuel and military equipment en route for Tripoli, Libya, to reinforce General Rommel’s Axis forces. Neptune entered a huge enemy minefield, hit 4 mines and sank in the early hours of a dark, stormy night in the Mediterranean on the 19th December 1941. Kandahar tried to rescue the survivors but was badly damaged and then sunk by HMS Jaguar.
Norman Walton spent 6 days on a Carley Float after Neptune sank and witnessed his shipmates dying around him. His Captain, Rory O'Conor, died in his arms on the fourth day. Rescued by an Italian Torpedo Boat, he spent 15 months in a POW camp before being released in a prisoner exchange.
Norman arrived home in June 1943 for 3 weeks survivors leave (after 4 years away)
and he was greeted not only by his family but also by a sack of mail from relatives
of crew members, with every letter reducing him to tears. A mother even arrived to chastise him for being alive while her son was dead.
For the next 60 years he took on an extraordinary role as 'Counsellor' to every relative who needed to know what happened and why. The letters kept arriving year after year - not just from hundreds of relatives but also from senior officers and naval historians who wanted his eyewitness description of the loss of such a large ship. For a 20-year-old Able Seaman, who had been sunk twice previously, his role was unique in WWII naval tragedies, since in no other ship was there just one survivor with so little explanation of why the tragedy occurred.
Norma’s book also tells of how Norman became a professional middleweight boxer after leaving the Navy in 1946, with 146 recorded fights (82 wins). His sharpness was still evident just 2 years before his death as he was mugged by two youths who demanded his wallet. He said “You will have to get it out of my pocket”. As one moved forward he butted him on the nose, then landed a left hook on the second and struck them both with his stick. As they ran off, what upset Norman the most was not being able to chase them!
Norman Walton died in April 2005 aged 84 and as a measure of the stature of the man, lead obituaries were published in The Times and the Daily Telegraph.
The climax for Norma was in April 2007, when 60 members of the Neptune Association made a pilgrimage to Tripoli and went by Libyan ship to the site where it is believed Neptune's wreck lies. It was a very moving occasion as she scattered Norman's ashes so that he could join his mates, in accordance with his wishes.
Norma Hudson launched her father’s biography on the 15th November at the Union Jack Club, London at the Neptune Association’s AGM. www.hmsneptune.com
For more information contact
Norma Hudson – Author of ‘Sole Survivor, One Man’s Journey’ MOB 07802 772227
Lynn Davidson – Publisher, The Memoir Club 0191 373 5660
Graham Davies - Trustee, The Neptune Association (Marketing) MOB 07941 440113
Commander John McGregor, Chairman Neptune Association MOB 0777 6180945
It is available by post from:
The Memoir Club, Dartmoor Suite, The Courtyard,
Arya House, Langley Park
Durham DH7 9XE
Cheques for £ 22.45 to be made payable to the Memoir Club. This includes postage and packing.
© 2002-2018 The Neptune Association, Registered Charity No 1103413.