In Memoriam: Norman Edward Gripper

Photograph of Norman Edward Gripper in uniform.

Norman Edward Gripper

Norman Edward Gripper, of Blackburn, was killed in France on the 27th May, 1918, aged 21 years.

He was born in Plymouth in 1896 and attended Bootham School from 1912 to 1913. He collected butterflies and months at school.

The Seventy-ninth Annual Report of Bootham School Natural History, Literary & Polytechnic Society. January, 1913, tells us in the Entomology report that:

“N. E. Gripper has the next largest collection. He has only collected for two terms, and has got together a very well set collection, of which, perhaps, the best are Erebia aethiops and Colias edusa.”

and

“Speaking of this subject, the judges report as follows: “Five collections of butterflies are sent in for competition. Of these N. Gripper’s calls for special commendation on account of the particularly neat setting.”

The school magazine, “Bootham” of November 1913 contains Norman’s “Bene Decessit”:

“N. E. GRIPPER, after four terms at Bootham, leaves from the Upper Schoolroom. He was a keen and successful entomologist.”

After school, Norman became an electrical engineer.

Norman joined the Friends Ambulance Unit and went to France in 1915.   The March 1916 issue of “Bootham” of March 1916 contains a section “Bootham School War Lists.”

“The following are, or have been, working with the Friends’ Ambulance Unit :—

Gripper, N. E., Chauffeur.”

The December 1917 issue of “Bootham”, in the “Bootham Oversea” sections has a mention of Norman:

“”R. S. CARR (1909-15), with the “Section Sanitaire ” in France, sends names of O.S. on his convoy: ” R. M. BARROW, O.C., H. LIDBETTER, R. L. SPENCE, N. E. GRIPPER, R. W. SCRIMGEOUR, H. G. CLARK, A. S. HAMILTON, E. O. RANSOME, O. B. LEAN.

They seem to have been “roughing it” in the winter. ” Many a time the bread and bully beef became blocks of ice. . . . We have worked on six different parts of the line, so we have seen quite a lot of France. “He says they are all looking’ forward to the time when they can attend the O.S. Gathering at the “best School of all.” “

The May 1918 issue of “Bootham” again mentions Norman.  The section “Old York Scholars serving with the Friends’ Ambulance Unit” lists him as “Gripper, N. E., Con. 14. “

The next we hear of Norman in “Bootham” is in the July 1918 issue, which records his death. He was killed by a German shell whilst driving an ambulance in Picardy.  The “In Memoriam” section includes:

“NORMAN EDWARD GRIPPER (1912-13). We have heard with sorrow of the loss of Gripper, killed by a shell on the morning of May 27th whilst working on his convoy, F.A.U. An Old Bootham Boy writes:—” Grips and I had become very close pals since we came out together …. He did not suffer any pain fortunately, being- killed outright … . He and Hugo Jackson were buried the same day, the service being conducted by a Scotch Chaplain. He was in a convoy of seven cars at the time, I was leading and he was about fifth, his brother driving in front of him. We were on the way to get casualties, and had to pass through a town that was being heavily shelled. Naturally we did not move through slowly, but apparently not quickly enough, and his car was the only one hit, and they were the only men hit. The four cars in front of him knew nothing of it until we pulled up at our destination, and we experienced a heavy shock on hearing the news. ”  ”

and under “Deaths”:

“GRIPPER.—On the 27th May, 1918, killed in France while with the F.A.U., Norman Edward Gripper, of Blackburn (1912- 13), in his 22nd year.”

The “In Memoriam” section of the December 1918 issue of “Bootham” has a letter from a number of Bootham boys about Norman:

“NORMAN EDWARD GRIPPER (1912-13).

S.S. Anglaise 14,

Convois Autos,

par B.C.M.,

Paris.

June 28th, 1918.

Dear V. W.,—We , the old Bootham boys on S.S.A. 14, felt we would like to write to BOOTHAM to let others know how Norman E. Gripper met his death. BOOTHAM has just reached the convoy, and we all congratulate you on yet another good number.

Yours sincerely,

H . LlDBETTER.

ROBERT W. SCRIMGEOUR.

ALEX. S. HAMILTON.

EDWIN O. RANSOME.

OSCAR B. LEAN.

p.p. ROGER S. CARR (in hospital).

R. W. S.

Norman E. Gripper came out to France with the F.A.U. on January 1st, 1916, and after working- in the Poperinghe district for some months he joined the Ambulance Convoy S.S.A. 14.

Before getting his own car in November he was working as mechanic and extra driver. It was while he was in the workshop that many of us realised his great skill and enthusiasm for all things mechanical. When he got his own ‘bus it almost became a part of himself; it was always in the most perfect condition, and, like him, ready at all times for whatever occurred.

The convoy had just made a fairly long move to a little village some 20 kilometres behind the lines, and was expecting a few days’ rest, when the German offensive of May 27th took us entirely by surprise. Almost immediately calls for ambulances came pouring in from the neighbouring villages, and N. E. Gripper was the last of a small convoy of six to go through B—• , which was being heavily shelled. The shell which killed him and fatally wounded Hugo H. Jackson (master at Sidcot, 1913-14) must have burst immediately in front of his car, and death was instantaneous. H. H. Jackson lived to reach the CCS. at M.N.D., in the cemetery of which both were buried that afternoon; four hours later the hospital fell into the hands of the enemy. Both have been posthumously awarded the Croix de Guerre.

Gripper will always be remembered by those who knew him as an enthusiast in flying and the Air Service, but at the same time he was perfectly sure of the value and necessity of the Red Cross work he was doing. Retiring and unobstrusive though he was, we now realise how heavy is our loss.“

Norman Edward Gripper is buried in Vailly British Cemetery, Aisne, France.

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