Today in the Memorial Library we are gathering to remember and celebrate our former colleague and dear friend Tony North.
Tony North was originally from Yorkshire but moved to Norwich in 1940. As a schoolboy, he spent a great deal of his spare time visiting local airfields such as Hardwick, Rackheath, Hethel and Horsham St. Faith.
Tony’s loyalty and dedication to the 2nd Air Division Memorial Library and the 2nd Air Division Association veterans was legendary.
When he was no longer working as an engineering draughtsman, he found he had more time to spend as a volunteer ‘meeting and greeting’ visitors to the library, particularly American veterans and their families. An ever increasing number of veterans and families making the trip back to England kept him more than busy. Such was the level of interest in the Memorial Library from visitors and locals alike that Tony joined the library staff in 1985 as Trust Aide, a position he held for many years.
As an associate member of the 2nd Air Division Association, his dedication was rewarded in October 1992, when he became one of the first British recipients to be awarded a 2ADA Distinguished Service Award at the annual convention. It was an award that meant a very great deal to him.
Tony continued in his role at the Memorial library until failing eyesight prompted retirement. However, this was by no means the end of Tony’s involvement. As part of any new staff induction process, Tony was invited to share his knowledge of aviation and generally build a picture of what life was like in Norfolk during WWII for local people and those young Americans so far from home. Staff were privileged to hear first-hand experiences from someone who was there. Over many years Tony amassed a photograph collection of B-24 Liberator aircraft from his involvement with veteran Liberator crewmen that became the envy of many. He was always happy to provide help with identifying particular aircraft and generously supplied copies of photographs if requested. He also collaborated with Mike Bailey on a number of very popular books on their shared passion.
After the Memorial Library moved to its current location, Tony continued to be a regular visitor. One of the things that particularly mattered to him was that fresh flowers were placed in the Shrine area of the Memorial Library, adjacent to the 2nd Air Division Roll of Honour. Due to Tony’s generosity this was made possible.
During recent years Tony’s eyesight prevented him from visiting the library but regular phone calls from staff helped fill the gap on both sides. He was still able to enjoy his garden, watch sport on television and share his knowledge and memories with his many friends. As a member of the Station 146 Tower Association he was also able to enjoy the regular open days through the summer months at Seething airfield.
When Tony’s passing was posted on the Memorial Library’s Facebook page, it drew many comments reflecting not only his expertise, but his kindness, generosity and helpfulness. Tony bequeathed his collection of photographs to the Memorial Library, an invaluable resource that has already proven to be very helpful. He will be very much missed by library staff, past and present.
If you have any memories or thoughts you’d like to share about Tony, please feel free to leave a comment here or to email us at 2admemorial.lib[at] norfolk.gov.uk.
Stay tuned for an upcoming blog post featuring photographs from Tony’s albums (donated to the Memorial Library), which he personally amassed over many years from veterans, archives and other sources.