My Grandad Ron

By Erin Norton


This is my Grandad Ron receiving a medal of honour from the Queen Mother in 1975. According to my Nan, she smiled at him and remarked “A Gordon for me”. Ron stood up so straight that a button of his uniform came flying off!

This is how I would like to remember him: a proud, humble, and respectful soldier with an infectious sense of humour- a trait that he has passed on to my Dad. 

Unfortunately, he passed away in 2013 and as my grandparents lived in Spain, I have few memories of Ron. I remember he had wrinkly tattoos on his chest and a silver tooth but until now, I did not know the extent of his military career. Looking at the old pictures and reading the reports from his fellow soldiers and students, I can see that Ron was loved dearly by everyone, especially my Nan Sandra. It has been an honour to write this article and reconnect with an important figure in my family’s diverse and complicated history.

So, let us start at the beginning (with the help of some official documents).  

Roy “Ron” Alexander Norton was born on the 12th of May 1937. He started boxing when was 8 years old and left school at 15 to join the Merchant Navy. He stayed with the Navy for a couple of years but then changed tack and enlisted in the now legendary Gordon Highlanders. 

The Gordon Highlanders were one of the finest regiments in the British Army, spanning over 200 years until their amalgamation in 1994. Consisting of fishermen, farmers, university students and labourers, the Highlanders were ordinary people with a strong sense of duty and drive to serve their country.

Ron enlisted in 1963 and completed his basic training in Fort George, a tiny town near Inverness in Scotland. That same year, Ron and his fellow Highlanders embarked on numerous tours of duty in Kenya, Mombasa, and Swaziland and then moved on to Borneo and Cyprus.

During his time with the Highlanders, was revered by his colleagues who referred to him as “Mush”. He was described as a short man but one who walked tall and was brimming with the self confidence of an “old soldier” and loved canoeing and boxing. His stern and sometimes ominous exterior concealed a man who would light up a room with his endless supply of jokes, making the dullest moments entertaining.

In 1972, Ron married the love of his life, Sandra in Grays, Essex, England. Shortly after the wedding, the newly weds with my Dad in tow moved to Northern Ireland where Ron completed a tour of duty, assisting the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUI) during “The Troubles”, a series of riots and terrorist attacks by the Irish Republican Army. During the late 70’s and 80’s, the trio moved around a lot and journeyed to many far off and exotic places like Singapore, Penang, and New Zealand.

But after years of service to the Highlanders and the British Army, Ron retired from military life in the summer of 1981 taking up a job in Industrial Security Management. After my Dad was all grown up, Ron and Sandra moved from England to the idyllic seaside town of Mazarron, Murcia, Spain, which provided a perfect place for retirement.

Throughout his later years of life, he became even more of an inspiration by joining the local Karate community, teaching a number of students at the Dominoes Martial Arts Self Defence Club as “Sensei Rocket”.

My Grandad Ron was a hero, a true gentleman, a husband, and a father. He touched the hearts of many throughout his life and I am honoured to say that I am related to him. Love you forever.