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Vice-Admiral Sir Norman Denning

Vice-Admiral Sir Norman Denning

Vice-Admiral Sir Norman Denning, who was better known as Ned, was the youngest of a remarkable Whitchurch family. Brought up in the modest surroundings of a local shop and educated at Andover Grammar School, he rose to become Director of Naval Intelligence. Two of his brothers died in the First World War, but two who survive him have also enjoyed brilliantly successful careers - Lord Denning the Master of the Rolls, and General Sir Reginald Denning, former Chief of Staff Eastern Command and G.O.C. Northern Ireland.

He joined the Royal Navy in 1922 and in 1937, two years before the outbreak of war, was brought in as a young Lieutenant Commander to the Intelligence Branch of the Admiralty. He was the officer primarily responsible for preparing the Branch for war and assumed the role of Head of the Operational Intelligence Centre.

Initially involved with the tracking of U-boats, he became responsible for the surveillance of the German main fleet. When the battle cruiser "Scharnhorst" was sunk on Boxing Day 1943, Sir Norman, in his London operations room, had calculated within 20 minutes when she would meet her fate at the hands of the battleship "Duke of York". During the hunt for the "Bismarck", he slept under the table.

He became Director of Administrative Planning, Admiralty, in 1952, and was Director of Naval Intelligence between 1960 and 1964. For a further year, until his retirement, he was Deputy Chief of Defence Staff (Intelligence).

Between 1967 and 1972, he was Secretary of the Defence Press and Broadcasting ("D" Notices) Committee, deciding how much newspaper or radio programmes could reveal about national security. He was made C.B. in 1961, and K.B.E. In 1963.

After retirement in the mid 60s, Sir Norman lived quietly at Rose Cottage, Micheldever, where he took a keen interest in all village affairs and gave ready support to a variety of community interests. 

In his retirement he enjoyed visiting the Half Moon and Spread Eagle for a pint and a chat with the locals.

He died at his home on 27 December 1979 due to the following circumstances. After separating a pair of fighting dogs he was bitten on the hand, and the resulting tetanus jab caused a reaction which set off a heart attack.

His funeral service was held at the parish church of St Mary's where he was churchwarden for many years (see plaque in the church). He was survived by his wife Iris (nee Curtis) whom he married in 1933, and a son and a daughter. His eldest son John followed him into the navy, the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, but died in 1975 after a fall. His daughter Jill was married to Michael Stretton-Hill and lived at 62 Church Street (corner of Rook Lane) in the 1970s and 80s.

Sir Norman was buried next to his eldest son's ashes within the Micheldever churchyard.

Some Family records have been donated to the Winchester museum and are available for public access.

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