Norman Steel was an only son born in Stroud, Gloucestershire in February 1897. He was in New House from 1911 until 1915 becoming a member of the XV. He was a useful rugger player, speedy with an eye for tries. In 1914 the Laxtonian said: “He is very good at making openings for the backs. He is very fast and knows when to cut in. He passes well and saves well but his collaring is too high.” In 1912, New House lost in the final to Dryden after a replay; the first match being drawn when both sides failed to score. Two years later, New House, with Norman Steel to the fore triumphed, thrashing Dryden in the semi-final and making light work of School House in the final. Norman Steel appears in a picture of that triumphant team, sitting alongside Freddie Milholland and Hugh Davis, who were also killed in the war.
Leaving at Xmas 1915, Norman Steel joined the Gloucester Regiment and went with them to France. Aged 20, he was killed by a machine-gun bullet while leading his men over the top on 16th August 1917, during the 2nd Battle of Langemarck.
His Commanding Officer wrote: “We are all very sorry, as he was popular with everyone in the Battalion, and always led his platoon with skill and in a fearless manner.”
The regimental diary of the Gloucesters for 16th August gives some idea of the circumstances surrounding Norman Steel’s death.
“At ZERO hour, 4.45pm the Attack commenced with a barrage the first objective, namely BORDER HOUSE, Gun Pits on S and N sides of ST JULIEN -WINNIPEG road was soon gained. Machine guns in JANET FARM and in positions in rear prevented any further advance. A house containing a M.G. was still held by the enemy, this was cleared by rifle grenades and a L.G. & was occupied. By this time the barrage had left us behind & many casualties had been caused. The Bn. therefore dug in in its present position. A weak counter attack was stopped with L.G. & rifle fire. During the day enemy snipers were very active and caused us some casualties.”
Norman Steel’s body was never recovered, so his name is inscribed on the Tyne Cot Memorial Wall.