Norrie Martin was one of the most experienced pilots in the Corps at the outbreak of WWII. He already had considerable squadron and aircraft carrier experience before returning to Corps Duty in 1937 but on the outbreak of war he had just returned to the F.A.A and on 4 September 1939 he was already in ARK ROYAL as a Flight Commander in 810 Squadron which was commanded by Captain Skene RM. This squadron was engaged in many of the Norwegian and Atlantic operations. A typical raid took place on 9 May 1940 when Captain Martin led his section in an attack on the railway east of Narvik. This involved a two hour flight to reach the target, Martin's section found a train at Hunddallen station and he scored a direct hit with a 250lb bomb leaving the train on fire and the front half overturned. The other section led by Captain Skene, the squadron CO, attacked a bridge near the Swedish border scoring direct hits on the track on the centre of the bridge whilst Skene himself put a salvo into the mouth of the nearby railway tunnel. Martin's aircraft had been hit by anti-aircraft fire during the raid and he was forced to land in the North Sea on his return flight to ARK ROYAL. He and his crew were rescued by HMS MAORI.
Shortly after this, on 29 May 1940 he took command of 821 Squadron at RNAS Haston, but at the end of the year the squadron was disbanded and the aircraft flown to Lee-on-Solent for transfer to the Middle East. He was appointed to HERMES in February 1941 and joined her at Mombasa as CO 814 Sqn and Lt Cdr (F), the first RM officer to hold this appointment.
HERMES patrolled between Mombasa, the Seychelles and Colombo until June 1941 when she was ordered into the Persian Gulf to fly off 814 Sqn in support of Army ops in Iraq against Rashid Ali. This was the first occasion that an Aircraft Carrier had operated in the Persian Gulf. Because of HERMES' low speed and lack of catapault, and with the heat and very light winds, aircraft could not take off with full fuel and maximum armament, so had to operate from RAF Shaibah. One aircraft was lost in the desert through over-heating, but the crew were rescued by Lt Dundas RN, who landed alongside. He was award a DFC for this feat.
While in the Gulf HERMES was informed that Martin had been promoted Temporary Major RM. A signal was sent to him at RAF Shaibah quoting his new rate of increased pay. He was suspicious and so HERMES wrote to the Admiralty asking for clarification of his status and pay scale. It turned out that he was only entitled to pay as a Captain RM, but Their Lordships were genereous enough to permit him to keep the extra money he had been paid by HERMES.
After leaving the Gulf, HERMES was ordered to Simnstown in November 1941 for a 3 month refit. 814 Sqn was disembarked to Ratmalana, Ceylon. The squadron spent their time carrying out A/S patrols on the approaches to Colombo and re-equipping with new aircraft which had arrived from the UK.
HERMES returned to Ceylon in February 1942 and in March was ordered to proceed to Perth, Western Australia, as it was obvious she would be no match for the Japanese, should they advance into the Indian Ocean. Half way to Perth HERMES was ordered to return and join Admiral Somerville's Eastern Fleet. She rendezvoused with this largely obsolete and ancient collection of warships and spent 3 days and nights prolonging the line of 'R' Class Battleships. Not a single aircraft was flown off.
HERMES was ordered to return to Trincomalee and await further orders, disembarking 814 Sqn aircraft and 10 groundcrew to China Bay to act as a shore based striking force. It was known that the Japanese were in the Indian Ocean so HERMES, with no aircraft embarked, was ordered to proceed northeast into the Bay of Bengal and avoid detection. This she did successfully on 5 April when Colombo was attacked. Unfortunately the same ruse could not be used on 9 April because the Japanese had split their force into two groups, one operating in the Bay of Bengal and the larger group operating at maximum range from Ceylon, some 300 miles to the southeast.
Captain Richard Onslow, CO of HERMES, strongly urged the Naval Staff in Colombo to permit the ship to remain in Trincomalee. A Japanese attack was expected on 9 April but the position of their fleet was unknown. Captain Onslow stressed that with no fighter aircraft and only three 3-inch anti-aircraft guns and a handful of small calibre guns, he could not hope to survive an attack such as the Japanese were capable of mounting. He felt that under the cover of RAF Hurricanes and the Trincomalee anti-aircraft guns, the ship might still be hit, but by landing all the hands not required for fire fighting the ship and maintaing damage control, at least the casualty list would be greatly reduced.
Captain Onslow's proposal was rejected and HERMES sailed in the dark hours of 8 April, with no hope of escaping detection. On 9 April she was discovered by Japanese reconnaissance off Batticaloa, attacked and sunk with heavy casualties. In addition to Captain Onslow and many of the ship's company, a large number of 814 Sqn maintenance personnel were also lost. This was a very heavy blow. It also affected Martin's career. as Captain Onslow had been the first to suggest transferring to the RN as a Commander. As a result of his death and the loss of personnel support, it was 3 years before Martin made the transfer and was promoted to Commander on 30 June 1945.
After the Japanese attack on Trincomalee the situation in Ceylon became chaotic, as the native labourers departed for India en masse. Eleven aircraft and a handful of ground crew were all that remained of 814 Sqn, which had been ordered to a dispersal airstrip at Kokkalai at 0400 hrs on 9 April, and had escaped the raid on Trincomalee that same day.
When the sqn returned to Trincomalee on 10 April they found the Air Station heavily damaged and people badly shaken. Immediate steps were taken to prepare for the expected Japanese invasion, during which 814 Sqn was to dive-bomb landing craft on the beaches with 25lb anti-personnel bombs! Fortunately for all concerned, the Japanese withdrew.
Martin then became FAA Liaison Officer to Air Marshal Sir John D'Albiac (a former RM Officer) who was AOC in Ceylon. The Eastern Fleet which had withdrawn to Mombasa after the Japanese raids, returned to Ceylon in June 1942 and many of 814 Sqn's pilots were absorbed into other sqns, and 814 Sqn virtually ceased to exist.
Having been appointed to STRIKER Building in the USA, Martin left for the UK in July 1942. He arrived in the USA on 14 October 1942 and the rest of his career is outlined in paragraph 10 above.
He finally retired in October 1958 and settled in Virginia. After a 10 year stint as a Life Insurance Underwriter and seven years as the Business Development Manager for the local Ballet Company, he finally retired for the second time in 1979 and died on 10 December 1988.