Generations of brave Hartlepool family went to war for peace

Norman Wise's grandfather Norman Wise pictured bottom left as a tug captain.
Norman Wise's grandfather Norman Wise pictured bottom left as a tug captain.

One Hartlepool family devoted their lives to fighting for King and Country – in two World Wars.

The Wise dynasty produced several sailors and soldiers over the decades; and those who married into the family played their part, too.

Norman Wise's father Norman Wise (senior).

Norman Wise's father Norman Wise (senior).

“My grandfather fought in the Dardanelles, my father served in Africa and one of my uncles was captured by the Japanese,” said Norman Wise.

“One of my aunts won a commendation for pulling a pilot from a burning plane, and my mother was an ambulance driver.”

The head of the Wise family, Norman’s grandfather Norman Henry Wise, was born to Hartlepool shipyard driller William and wife Ada in 1890.

Norman’s childhood was spent at 31 Crimdon Street but, at the age of just nine, he signed up as a cabin boy in the merchant navy.

My father never talked about the war much, neither did Doug or Rob. There was a stoic attitude - they just got on with it.

Norman Wise - son, nephew and grandson of wartime heroes.

“He later joined the Royal Naval Reserve in 1911, and married my grandmother Alice the next year,” said Norman.

“When World War One broke out, he fought at the Battle of Heligoland and was also ‘noted for services’ in the Dardanelles operations.

“Later he was part of a task force in the Irish Sea preventing gun-running and, after the war, he worked as a tugboat master in Hartlepool.”

Norman’s father, also called Norman Henry Wise, was born in 1913. Too young for the Great War, he was destined to play his part in the next.

“He left Hartlepool at 13, to be indentured as a cabinet-maker, but later struggled to find work due to the depression,” said Norman.

“So he joined the Rifle Brigade in 1932 and, after training in Winchester, he was shipped out to Malta for four years.”

Norman jotted down notes on day-to-day life as a soldier during his time in Malta – from sports to leisure activities – which his son still has today.

He was then sent to Palestine in 1936, where he fought in what is now Afghanistan, before being posted to Egypt when World War Two broke out.

“The whole battalion was battle-hardened by that time. After Egypt they were sent to Ethiopia, to fight against the Italians,” said Norman.

“There is a story that his unit chased some 20,000 Italians through Ethiopia before capturing them.

“After that, he fought at El Alamein in Egypt, before training commandos in Edinburgh. He married my mother, Doris, in 1942.”

Other members of the Wise family to fight in WWII included Norman’s Uncle Rob, who served with the Royal Navy on combined operations.

But his Uncle Doug was forced to join the army under a false name – Peter Thompson – as he was too young to serve.

“Doug fought guerilla jungle warfare against the Japanese before being captured. He was lucky to survive,” said Norman.

“My father never talked about the war much, neither did Doug or Rob. There was a stoic attitude – they just got on with it.”