Norman Augustus Finch: Last Man Standing

As the prevailing wind changed dispersing the smoke screen, HMS Vindictive, the aging Arrogant Class Cruiser was hit by a torrent of fire from the German Guns on the shore. The upperworks bore the brunt of the barrage and many were injured by splinters from the battered vessel. Many of the Royal Marine Gunners in the foretop were killed, yet the guns continued to answer the German fire.

Norman Augustus Finch was born in Handsworth, Birmingham on Boxing Day in 1890. His Father Richard Finch was a Mail Porter for the Post Office, and the family had six other children, whom his Mother, Emma, stayed at home to care for. In 1983 the family had another child, George meaning there were now eight children living in the terraced property on Nineveh Road.

Norman Augustus Finch V.C.

In 1908 Norman Joined the Royal Navy as a Gunner in the Royal Marines Artillery, and was posted to China, serving on board HMS Minotaur, a first class armoured cruiser, and the flagship of the China Station. At the end of 1914, Minotaur was transferred to the Grand Fleet and participated in the Northern Patrol, a blockade of German ships preventing them from entering the Atlantic. This was a particularly tough posting, and Norman transferred to a shore based posting.

HMS Minotaur

On the 2nd of January 1915 he was promoted to Corporal, and two years later, promotion to Sergeant followed. In 1918 the admiralty planned a raid on the German occupied port of Zeebrugge in Belgium, which was being used as a strategic U-Boat station, from which the German Navy could terrorise allied shipping. The plan was to block the entrance to the port by sinking three obsolete cruisers filled with concrete, thus preventing German vessels from entering or leaving. Upon hearing about the raid, Sergeant Finch volunteered immediately, and was posted to HMS Vindictive.

For the raid, Sergeant Finch was assigned as second in command of the pompoms and Lewis guns situated in the foretop of the ship. As the Vindictive appeared from the dissipating smokescreen and the Germans let loose their maelstrom, the men around Sergeant Finch were cut down. Two shells hit the Foretop leaving all apart from Finch either dead or disabled. Despite being wounded himself, Finch continued to fire on the German defenders on the mole, scoring valuable hits before another direct hit finally put the guns out of action.

HMS Vindictive

Following the raid Norman was treated at the Naval hospital at Deal, in Kent for gunshot wounds to the right hand and leg, and on the 19th of July he was awarded the Victoria Cross for his gallant actions. He married in 1919 and moved to Portsmouth, where he was promoted again in 1920 to Quartermaster Sergeant, before leaving the Navy and taking a job as a Bank Messenger for Lloyds Bank. He died at St Mary’s Hospital in Portsmouth in 1966 aged 74.

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