Sgt Norman Wood
17th Battalion, Middlesex Regiment
Norman Wood was born in Tooting, South London in the early part of 1890, the fifth child of Benjamin and Catherine Wood.
A promising school career saw him play for Bromley before joining Tottenham Hotspur in June 1908 and, after a year at White Hart Lane without breaking into the first team, he began a nomadic career, spending a season with each of Crystal Palace, Plymouth, Croydon Common and Chelsea. While at Plymouth he appears to have played as a reinstated amateur; indeed, the 1911 census describes him as a ‘clerk to football club’ as opposed to a professional footballer.
He finally achieved the first team football he craved at Stockport County and, after signing in June 1913, he was a regular in the club’s Second Division side, making 60 first team appearances and scoring 12 goals. A skilful inside left, Norman was, ‘unselfish, for with a crafty left foot he made openings and opportunities for colleagues.’ On the other hand, in his sixth appearance for Stockport County, he scored an own goal and both conceded and missed a penalty!
In February 1915, Norman enlisted in the Army, joining 17th Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment, the Football Battalion, but then signing for Stalybridge Celtic the following month. This probably explains why he enlisted in Chester, even though his address at the time was given as Millbrook, Plymouth. Incidentally, this was Norman’s second attempt to join the Army. In May 1906, he had enlisted but was discharged after a misstatement about his age was discovered.
By September 1915, Norman was stationed locally and began his brief association with Reading FC, although not initially actually for Reading. Norman’s Elm Park debut came when he played for the Football Battalion team that beat Reading 1-0 on 4th September 1915, but he was soon on the ‘right’ side. A month later he more than made up for beating Reading by scoring the winner in a 2-1 triumph over Swindon on 2nd October. He played two more times for the Biscuitmen that month and notched up two more wins, at Portsmouth and then against the Football Battalion, netting again in that 3-2 victory.
Army training and two more Football Battalion games kept Norman away from Reading duties until 4th December when he played his final game, again at Portsmouth, where he scored the goal in a 2-1 defeat. The period from the start of the 1915-16 season to October 1916, when the club ceased playing, were generally unsuccessful times for Reading, so Norman’s record of three wins and three goals in four appearances was something of a ray of sunshine in those dark days.
After his false start in 1906, Norman made up for lost time and quickly rose to the rank of Sergeant in the battalion’s ‘B’ Company, albeit with a few hiccoughs along the way, including being demoted back to the rank of Corporal for absenteeism in November 1915, a period in a Casualty Clearing Station for treatment to ingrowing toenails and a stoppage in his pay amounting to 4d per day in order to support an illegitimate child, which rose to 7d per day following his promotion to Sergeant!
In the summer of 1916, he was involved in the heavy fighting to take Delville Wood during the Somme Campaign and on 27th July he was killed. Norman’s body was never recovered and so his death is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial (Pier/Face 12D). He qualified to receive the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.
Killed in action at Deville Wood, 26th July 1916.
Commemorated at Thiepval Memorial, France.