April 24, 2016

Darren Norton


IMG_20160424_145817788_HDRMAY – My latest book has now been printed and is due to go on sale.  “1919 – Brandon Riot” tells the story of when some of Brandon’s residents rioted in the town’s High Street at a perceived injustice metered out to a disabled war veteran.  The war veteran was assaulted by a town councillor and it was this that triggered the riot.  Estimates of the time put those assembled mob in the High Street at 1,000, which would make it almost half the town laying siege to the councillor.  The councillor’s home and businesses were attacked and some of the mob wanted to do mortal harm to their target.  This book tells the events that lead up to the riot, the riot itself, and of the aftermath, when it had to go to court to be sorted out.  That Councillor is still today very much revered among his peers, and few people have ever heard of the night Brandon rioted in 1919.

The book can be purchased via this website, just click on the ‘bookshop’ tab.  Alternatively if you live in or near Brandon, then you can purchase a copy (£5) from ‘Bunches and Bows’ florist on Brandon’s High Street.  I am aiming to raise £500 for BLESMA through sales of the book.  BLESMA cared for the disabled war veteran in his dying days.


imageThis year saw my second book, “Brandon at War – memories of the Second World War”.  The book features excerpts from interviews I conducted with Brandon residents about their experiences during the Second World War.    Reg Sylvester, then Chairman of Brandon Town Council, paid for the printing of the book from his Locality Budget.  This then meant that all proceeds of the book’s sale went to the Heritage Centre in Brandon.

I am very keen for future books to be self-funding.  So, even though all books will be for the benefit of a charitable cause, I will put aside enough money from books sales to fund the next project.  I have always maintained that I shall not benefit financially from my hobby.

I am passionate about sharing my research as much as I can.  This website serves to hold as much of my research as I can find the time to upload it to.  I also write monthly articles on Brandon’s history from 100 years ago, which feature in the Brandon Suffolk magazine – delivered free to homes in Brandon Suffolk.  I have done talks in the town covering WW1 and WW2, next year I plan to talk about the Brandon Riot of 1919.  I have also been into local schools.  On three occasions I visited Breckland Middle School to chat with students about the Second World War – taking in coins, gas mask, and other wartime items for them to handle; but since the school had new owners, becoming a Free School, I have not been asked to do a presentation.  In 2014 and 2015 I visited the pupils at Glade Primary and we spent a couple of  hours discovering life in Brandon 100 years ago.  They are really responsive and exhibit a real keenness to explore history.  I am keen to return next year and I know school enjoyed it too.

Just before the end of the year I identified that some WW1 medals, listed on Ebay, belonged to a Thetford man killed in that conflict.  Fortunately I managed to alert his descendants and they were able to be reunited with them.  Read their story.

In 2001 I began researching my hometown of Brandon, Suffolk, during the Second World War.  Back then the research involved me either travelling to the Record Office, at nearby Bury St. Edmunds, to uncover information, or travelling to Brandon resident’s homes to interview them.  Today I still interview residents, but information is now much easier because of the vast online resources.  The internet also brings a two-way exchange of info and I often receive emails from relatives of people who feature in Brandon at War.  I am very thankful to those correspondents for sharing their photos and family histories.  Much of the 1914-18 research was found online.  If you have anything you feel is relevant to ‘Brandon at War’ then please email me.