The Chorlton family had lived in Heaton Mersey for many years before Norman was born – the sixth or seventh child of James and Sarah. When the Census was taken in 1901, they were living at 40 Lyme Street and, later, at 39 Poplar Street.
Little is known of his early life until he enlisted into the army at Manchester in on 25 October 1915, when he was assigned to the artillery. His service papers, at the National Archives, show him to have been 5’ 7” tall with a 37” chest. Before joining up, he’d worked as a window cleaner.
The units of the Royal Garrison Artillery fired the heaviest weapons in the arsenal of the British Army and the Siege Batteries fired the most powerful of all. 308th Battery does not appear to have been Norman’s first unit as he is believed to have gone overseas later in 1916 and the Battery was not ready for active service until the following year. Norman was home on leave during 1917 and soon after returning to duty in France he suffered a nervous breakdown and was invalided home. He had recovered by the spring of 1918 and it is probable that it was in April that he transferred to the 308th when he was pronounced fit.
The Battery was equipped with four six-inch howitzers which could send a 54kg shell over a distance of 10 kilometres battering down enemy strongpoints from this long range. There are no remaining records of the Battery’s day-to-day activities which would describe the circumstances in which Norman was killed. 16 July was a relatively quiet day in the fighting in France with no major attacks underway by either side. The fixed position of Siege Batteries meant they could be spotted by enemy aircraft and would come under fire from the Germans’ own heavy guns. Most artillerymen were killed by these bombardments and Norman was no exception. His death was instantaneous. His Lieutenant and the Chaplain both wrote to his family telling of his usual cheerfulness and good work in the Battery.
It was reported in the local newspaper that two of Norman’s brothers and a brother in law were serving in he army and another in the navy. In October 1918, the Army returned Norman’s personall effects to the family. There wasn’t much – just some letters and photographs.