Courtesy of Twickenham Times – July 2009

Family of VC winner Sergeant Norman Jackson proud of new centre

Shirley Donalt with the opening plaque at the family centre

A new centre for young families has been named in honour of a war hero from Hampton Hill who earned Britain’s highest award for gallantry.

The Norman Jackson Family Centre was officially opened by Vince Cable MP, and Mr Jackson’s children and grandchildren.

The centre, in St James’ Avenue, Hampton Hill, was named after Sergeant Norman Cyril Jackson, who earned the Victoria Cross for his acts of valour as a flight engineer during the Second World War.

Sgt Jackson, who was in the 106th squadron, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, died in March 1994, at the age of 75.

Since then, his family has campaigned for a lasting memorial to the Victoria Cross recipient.

Speaking at a ceremony to unveil the new centre last Friday, Sgt Jackson’s daughter, Shirley Donalt, said: “We are immensely proud that he is still recognised as a hero and thrilled this family centre has been named after him.”

Bill Jerman, headteacher of Hampton Hill Junior School, which is helping to fund the centre close to the school, said: “We’re really thrilled to provide this fantastic community resource, and very proud to name it after such a brave and important figure in the community.”

Dr Cable added: “The school came up with the idea of naming the centre after him, which ensures that his courage will be remembered.”

Sgt Jackson’s heroics began on the night of April 26, 1944, when he and his crew members flew in a raid on the German ball bearing factories at Schweinfurt.

Having bombed the target, Sgt Jackson’s Lancaster was attacked by a German night fighter and a fuel tank and the starboard wing caught fire.

Sgt Jackson, already wounded from shell splinters, strapped on a parachute and equipped himself with a fire extinguisher before climbing out of the aircraft and on to the wing, while the aeroplane was flying at 200mph, in order to put out the fire.

The flames seared his hands, face, and clothes. The German fighter returned, and hit the bomber with a burst of gunfire that left two bullets in his legs.

The burst also swept him off the wing, leaving him to fall 20,000ft with a smouldering and holed parachute.

He suffered further injuries upon landing, including a broken ankle, but managed to crawl to a nearby German village where he was paraded through the street. He spent 10 months recovering in hospital before being transferred to the Stalag Kc prisoner of war camp.

He made two escape attempts, the second of which was successful as he made contact with a unit of the US Third Army.

After Sgt Jackson’s story was disclosed he was awarded a Victoria Cross, with his investiture taking place on November 13, 1945.

He was also promoted to warrant officer