Norman Charles Achille Negretti – son of an Italian industrialist

Early life & family – Norman was the youngest of five children of Henry Paul Joseph and Eliza Negretti, born in the summer of 1897 and baptized in Hampstead Parish Church on 2 October 1897. His surname came from his paternal grandfather, an Italian merchant who (in 1850) founded the partnership Negretti and Zambra – opticians and scientific instrument makers to the Royal family, the Royal Observatory and the Admiralty. Norman, however, like all his siblings, was born in Hampstead where his grandparents lived – in Cricklewood House, Shoot Up Hill. At the time he was born his own family was living in Worthing, where his father was working in the family business.

The family moved back to Hampstead, and Norman went to school – initially to Heath Mount, and then as a boarder (age 13) to Pelham House Preparatory School in Folkestone. By 1911 Norman’s parents and one brother and sister were living at The Manor House, 57 Frognal (another brother and sister were married and each had their own homes). He subsequently went to Oundle School, until he was 18 (in 1915).

Norman’s two older brothers were already working in the family firm by 1911 – the third generation in his family to do so. This may have been what was planned for him as well. After Norman left school he had planned to continue his studies in Modern Languages on the continent, but the War intervened. Instead he went to a private tutor in Maidenhead, but he left after 6 months.

War service – Norman enlisted in the Inns of Court Officer Training Corps as a private (number 5712) for basic and officer training (about 3/ 4 months) in Berkhampstead. He may have been there at the same time as Roy Launceton. He was commissioned in May 1916 as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 23rd (Service) Bn (Duke of Cambridge’s Own) Middlesex Regt.

The battalion was mobilised for war in May 1916 as part of 41st Division, and was involved in action on the Western Front including the battles of the Somme (1916) and Messines (1917). It was at the beginning of this last that Norman was killed in action (the battle itself was not won until June).

Death & commemoration – He died on 30 Jan 1917 in Flanders (age 19½), after 8 months in the field. He is buried at Dickebusch New Military Cemetery, Belgium (grave ref: M 40) and is commemorated on the War Memorial in Church Row and on plaque CH34 in Hampstead Parish Church. His family was very insistent that his full age was recorded!

This page was last updated on November 24th, 2014.

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