Hill-Norton, Peter John (IWM interview)
British cadet with Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, 1928-1932; midshipman served aboard HMS London in Mediterranean, 1932-1935; officer served aboard HMS Ramilles in GB coastal waters, 1936-1937; served aboard HMS Sussex in Mediterranean, 1937-1939; served as instructor at HMS Excellent, Whale Island in GB, 1939-1940; served as gunnery officer aboard HMS Cairo in Atlantic, 1940-1941; served as gunnery officer aboard HMS Cumberland in GB coastal waters and Arctic, 1941-1943; served with Gunnery Division with Naval Staff at Admiralty in London, GB, 1943-1945; served aboard HMS Howe in Indian Ocean, 1945; served aboard HMS Nigeria in Indian Ocean and Atlantic, 1946-1947; served on shore duties with Admiralty in Bath, GB, 1948-1951; served as second in command of HMS Eagle in GB coastal waters, 1951-1954; served as naval attaché in Buenos Aires in Argentina, 1954-1955; commanded HMS Decoy in Mediterranean and during Suez Crisis, 1956-1957; served as Director of Tactical Weapons and Policy in Admiralty in London, GB, 1957-1959; commanded HMS Ark Royal in GB coastal waters and Arctic, 1959-1961; served as Assistant Chief of Naval Staff in Admiralty, London, GB, 1962-1964; served as Flag Officer Second in Command, Far East Fleet in Far East, 1964-1966; served as Deputy Chief of Defence Staff, Defence and Logistics with Admiralty in London, GB, 1966-1967; served as Vice Chief of the Naval Staff in Admiralty in GB, 1967-1968; served as Commander in Chief, Far East, 1969-1970; served as First Sea Lord with Admiralty in London, GB, 1970-1971; served as Chief of Defence Staff in GB, 1971-1974; served as Chairman of Military Committee of NATO in Brussels, Belgium, 1974-1977
REEL 1 Background in GB, 1915-1928: move from South Africa to GB, 1915; father's service with Royal Flying Corps in First World War; education. Aspects of period as cadet with Royal Naval College, Dartmouth in GB, 1928-1932: reasons for joining Royal Navy; arrival at college; costs of attending college; cadet who left for theft after on day. Aspects of period as midshipman aboard HMS London in Mediterranean, 1932-1935: voyage out aboard HMS Cyclops to Mediterranean, 1932; impressions of Mediterranean Fleet; promotion to midshipman from sea going cadet; character of county class cruisers; discipline and punishment; incident when he was beaten; three month destroyer service aboard HMS Venetia opinion of destroyer commanders; preference for gunnery. REEL 2 Continues: brief midshipman service aboard HMS Malaya and HMS Rodney; importance of final midshipman examinations. Aspects of period as officer aboard HMS Ramilles in GB coastal waters, 1936-1937: marriage, 1936; sub-lieutenant pay; appointment to ship and duties. Aspects of period as officer aboard HMS Sussex in Mediterranean, 1937- 1939: appointment to ship; domestic arrangements in Malta; spring cruises; efficiency of Mediterranean Fleet; return to GB for gunnery course; lack of prior awareness of coming war; relations between lower deck and officers; types of seamen; importance of having a happy ship; levels of competencies in Royal Navy. Aspects of period as instructor with Gunnery School, Whale Island in GB, 1939- 1940: nature of gunnery course, 1939. REEL 3 Continues: memories of friend Vice Admiral Terrance Ridley; question of requesting appointments. Aspects of operations as gunnery officer aboard HMS Cairo in Atlantic, 1940-1941: conditions on board; damage to ship in Norwegian campaign prior to his joining; shooting down of RAF aircraft; captain's plan to engage Bismarck; incident of drunken officer opening fire with pistol. Aspects of operations as gunnery officer aboard HMS Cumberland in GB coastal waters and Arctic, 1941-1943: story of motorcycle accident whilst waiting for appointment; problems convincing crew that ship was at war; first encounter with German aircraft; efficient nature of ship; visits to Spitzbergen; story of transporting RAF ground crew and Supermarine Spitfire Wing to Murmansk. REEL 4 Continues: firing ship's gun at German Focke Wulf FW 290 Condor flying over convoy in Arctic; flight in Supermarine Walrus to organise travel arrangements for crew in Scotland; amusing story of wartime censorship; leaving ship. Aspects of period as officer with Gunnery Division of the Naval Staff in Admiralty, London, GB, 1943- 1945: character of Admiral Gerald Langley and his staff; memories of Andrew Huxley; lessons learnt during time with Gunnery Division; bombing of family home; role and advances in gunnery; further memories of Andrew Huxley. REEL 5 Continues: Aspects of period as officer aboard HMS Howe in Indian Ocean, 1945: appointment as gunnery officer to battleship; ship's armament; story of joining ship in Durban, South Africa; initial reception by captain; move to Singapore and return to GB. Aspects of period as gunnery officer aboard HMS Nigeria in Indian Ocean and Atlantic, 1946-1947: appointment to ship; ward room and senior officers' anti-room; duties; ship's officers; ashore in South Africa; opinion of captain; question of leadership qualities and promotion to senior positions; role as mess secretary; promotion; entertainment available to ship's company ashore; parade through Lagos, Nigeria; story of providing demonstration team ashore in Nigeria. REEL 6 Continues: showing the flag on West and East coasts of Africa; reasons for learning Danish on return voyage to GB. Aspects of period as staff officer with Admiralty in Bath, GB, 1948-1951: problems finding accommodation in Bath; role and duties; appointment as project officer for Sea Slug missile; background to start of British guided missile programme; contents of report written after visit to US, 1951 and subsequent meeting with Sir Henry Tizard; appointment as second in command to HMS Eagle; social life in Bath. Aspects of period as second in command aboard HMS Eagle in GB coastal waters, 1951-1954: standing by during construction of aircraft carrier in Belfast, Northern Ireland; accommodation in Bangor; role as second in command; move to Plymouth for commissioning. REEL 7 Continues: difficulty of role aboard HMS Eagle; arrival of carrier aircraft; success of in regatta during Fleet Assembly in Moray Forth; promotion to captain and decision to remain on board for four months; celebrations on promotion. Aspects of period as naval attaché in Buenos Aires in Argentina, 1954-1955: appointment; accommodation; reasons for choosing posting to Argentina; role and duties; story of arranging 'amusement' for New Years party in embassy; working to ambassador and lessons learnt; espionage role. REEL 8 Continues: story of car accident during visit to north of country; visit to Falkland Islands; visit to Patagonia; coup against Juan Peron and encounter with mob; impressions of Juan Peron; visit to casino in Montevideo, Uruguay; return to GB, 10/1955; story of providing information to prospective naval attaché and subsequent aftermath. Recollections of period commanding HMS Decoy in Mediterranean and during Suez Crisis, 1956-1957: character of destroyer; appointment as captain; arrival in Dockyard Creek in Malta; practising arrival at buoy; memories of Flag Officer (Cyprus) Tony Miers in Cyprus. REEL 9 Continues: bombardment duties during Suez Crisis; reaction to situation; return to GB; story of compressor explosion on board off North African coast. Aspects of period as Director of Tactical Weapons and Policy in Admiralty in London, GB, 1957-1959: background to appointment; role with Fleet Requirements Committee; memories of Lord Louis Mountbatten. Recollections of period commanding HMS Ark Royal in GB coastal waters and Arctic, 1959-1961: appointment to command carrier; problem with shortage of fresh water on board. REEL 10 Continues: unreliability of engines; pattern of air operations; threat of fire; need for discipline imposed by captain; character of Arctic trials in Baring Straits; casualties on board; rations; attitude to commanding ship. REEL 11 Continues: importance of leadership; question of friendship and making enemies; working routine aboard carrier; need to delegate to officers; nature of fatigue experienced; importance of maintenance of naval discipline; reasons for change in character of naval personnel; painting carrier and arrival in New York. REEL 12 Continues: visit to New York; rapid voyage from New York to Plymouth; entering Plymouth harbour; clash with senior officer over disciplinary matter. Aspects of period as Assistant Chief of Naval Staff in Admiralty, London, GB, 1962-1964: promotion to Admiral and duties writing Defence White Paper prior to appointment; question of cancellation of new carrier for Royal Navy; sitting on Channel Committee; function of rank of Commodore; increasing influence of Treasury over service funding; opinion of Denis Healey as Defence Secretary; attitude to role as Assistant Chief of Naval Staff. REEL 13 Continues: background to decision to accept Polaris Missile system; question of secrecy surrounding UFOs. Aspects of period as Flag Officer Second in Command, Far East Fleet in Far East, 1964-1966: appointment to role; situation in Far East, 1964; exercises with Allied ships in Far East; promotion to Vice Admiral, 1965; degree of threat from Indonesian forces; taking force into inner sea of Indonesia; lack of interest in Vietnam; memories of Admiral Frank Twiss; wife's birthday aboard HMS Kent; captain who always had one of his officer's under arrest; return to GB and question of next appointment. Aspects of period as Deputy Chief of Defence Staff, Defence and Logisitics with Admiralty in London, GB, 1966-1967: background to appointment. REEL 14 Continues: dealing with the closure of bases in Aden; story of military commander who declared all his gifts to museum on return to GB; visits to Aden. Aspects of period as Vice Chief of the Naval Staff in Admiralty in GB, 1967-1969: appointment; duties and responsibilities; story of having clock fixed; contacts with politicians; promotion to full Admiral; degree to which he created policy; understanding of how Admiralty worked. REEL 15 Continues: Recollections of period as Commander in Chief, Far East, 1969-1970: appointment; responsibilities; voyage to Singapore; accommodation in Singapore; method of getting to know his officers; reasons for short tour; dealing with civil unrest in Malaysia; touring his command; attitude towards role; meeting with American counter part; change in style of morning briefings; degree to which Vietnam impacted on his command; return to GB and question of prospects of promotion to First Sea Lord. REEL 16 Continues: Aspects of period as First Sea Lord with Admiralty in London, GB, 1970-1971: making plans for role; interview with predecessor; reasons for meeting with Chief of Air Staff, Sir John Grandy and subsequent announcement; question of appointing a successor; appointment of Michael Pollock as successor; interview with officer expected to become his successor. REEL 17 Continues: Recollections of period as Chief of Defence Staff in GB, 1971-1974: opinion of his appointment; members of Defence Staff; memories of Field Marshal Michael Carver; attempts to get to know RAF personnel; story of station commander who apologised for wrong flag on staff car during visit to RAF station; visits to US and NATO countries. REEL 18 Continues: opinion of Prime Minister Ted Heath; attending meetings with senior civil servants; opinion of status of Defence Secretary; state of Royal Navy; question of need to save money; use of informal meetings; opinion of decision to move Chief of Staffs in Ministry of Defence; question of dealing with situation in Northern Ireland; nature of informal meetings with Prime Minister Ted Heath; question of acquiring Polaris. REEL 19 Continues: Recollections of period as Chairman of Military Committee of NATO in Brussels, Belgium, 1974-1977: question of retiring after period as Chief of Defence Staff; nature of committee; character of headquarters; personal secretary; method of getting to know committee members; relations with Secretary General; visits to Greece and Turkey at time of invasion of Cyprus; relations with German deputy; opinion of General Alexander Haig; reasons for clash with Alexander Haig. REEL 20 Continues: opinion of Alexander Haig's oratory; importance of smaller NATO nations have some of top jobs; meetings with the King of Belgium; American position and influence in NATO; nature of rows in NATO; opinion of Senator Ted Kennedy; constraints on senior role. Aspects of period as Commander in Chief, Far East, 1969-1970: story of meeting with Sultan of Brunei to attempt him to pay for British troops in Brunei. REEL 21 Continues: attending SEATO meeting in Philippines; contact with Malaysian and Singaporean politicians; opinion of politicians. Reflections on period as Admiral of the Fleet: Conservative Government's reductions in defence; campaign for war widows; suspension of role of Admiral of the Fleet; opinion of need to have ability to deployment medium size forces worldwide. REEL 22 Continues: belief in quality of Royal Navy, 2004; opinion of development of new technology; changes in character of naval personnel over his career; opinion of equipment; opinion of women serving in front-line services with emphasis on Royal Navy; question of importance of joint combined operations. REEL 23 Continues: opinion of Civil Service; opinion of politicians; attitude to making recording.