Norman wasn’t close to his mother but his father was his idol and it was from him, and a trip to the 1954 British Grand Prix at Silverstone, that his love of all things fast came. Tagging along in his father’s shadow to glamorous destinations provide only some of a plethora of too-amazing-to be-false stories in this book – Norman Conquest – from Porter Press. Could you image getting into an endurance water-skiing race against Donald Campbell and Stirling Moss? And, indeed, winning? It just serves to set the tone for this memoir.
The coronavirus pandemic of 2020 was the fuse that lit the grenade of telling the stories of his life. Norman Conquest grew from the initial concept of ‘a few pages’ into an 85,000-word, 272-page behemoth filled with astonishing stories and personal photographs illustrating a world few of us will ever experience.
Norman, along with Anne, his wife of over fifty years, has stories aplenty to share and they make for an engrossing read. From first sight of her at a Rolling Stones concert at their local swimming pool at the age of seventeen to the present day they have never been separated and she has accompanied him on many of his adventures.
Those adventures include being part of the pit crew for Brabham during a tilt at the 24-hours of Le Mans for Alain de Cadenet in 1975 to becoming the leading race car preparer for Ferrari and, subsequently, the Ferrari dealer for Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and Avon.
Then, in a major swerve on life’s path, Norman took a flight in an open-cockpit plane. Having already been a qualified pilot he spontaneously decided to buy his own plane.
The flying bug really took hold and it seems a natural segue that, with his innate derring-do, Norman was to get into aerobatics. Airshows followed as did operating a wing-walking flying circus at any given opportunity or location ranging from back home to the furthest fields of China.
There was one occasion, flying at an event at South Cerney in Gloucestershire, that Norman was asked by a sponsor to fly HRH Prince Michael in a vintage 1940s Boeing-Stearman. Having been instructed not to do any aerobatics for fear of falling foul of insurance regulations, his royal passenger demanded some 'fun'. Well what could he do? It all led to him becoming an honorary Air Commodore in the RAF.
Other adventures detailed in this wonderful tome include riding a motorcycle across the Sahara desert and rallying an old Porsche 356C – and breaking down – in Namibia in southern Africa. There really are too many tales to recount in this review, but at all times the indefatigable Anne has been by his side.
Vic Norman has no intention of settling into his dotage. He currently works for the RAF Association and 614 Squadron and is a Display Aviation Examiner for the Civil Aviation Authority. He also organises and flies at air events raising money for charity.
Norman Conquest recounts the archetypal ‘squeezing a quart into a pint pot’ story of a life. If words aren’t your thing then the pictures alone tell an amazing tale. Read it, enjoy it, treasure it.
Oh, and he played a key role in the recording of the Pink Floyd album, The Final Cut. Because of course he did.