Norman Miners – LaB 42-50

Monday 18 May 2020

Submitted by Robert Miners

Norman John Miners attended CH from Sept 1942 until April 1950.  He was the House Captain and a Sergeant in the cadet force in his final two terms.  He won the Rice prize in May 1949 for translation into Latin.  He perfected riding a bike while at school.  The Blue of July 1948 noted that he can “make do with half the road now, but still really prefers the ditch or pavement”

Rationing meant the 1942 intake did not have Housey dress until the Lower IVth.  Boys had to arrive with gas masks in the trunks.  Norman recalled the tumult in the day room when 50 boys all tried to read three daily newspapers to keep up with news of the war.  Oswald Flecker would read out the names of old Blues who had died on active service during the Sunday service.  Norman recalls one death being a former member of Lamb B whom the older boys knew.

During the summer term of 1944 the roads around the school were full of military vehicles in preparation for D-Day.  Soon after the invasion began, doodle-bugs started being launched at London.  A couple landed in the school grounds and the junior boys’ dormitory was moved into the tube as a precaution.

Norman recalled that the news of the end of the war came during prep.  All the boys rushed into the avenue to celebrate.  The hymn at the evening service, chosen weeks prior, was “The strife is o’er, the battle done”.  The next day the boys marched to Sharpenhurst and burnt a hayrick in celebration.

In Norman’s final year Oswald Flecker recommended him for a place on a three month tour of Africa which was paid for with funds remaining in the “South African Aid to Britain” fund after the war.   T.E. Archbold wrote a note saying that he envied Norman for the opportunity and telling him not to be “airsick”.  Twenty-two school boys were chosen to go.  They met Clement Atlee at No. 10 before flying to Nairobi in stages then travelling by bus to Cape Town. Norman missed the final term at school.

After returning from Africa Norman did two years of National Service in the UK before going up to Corpus Christi College, Oxford in 1952 on a scholarship.  He was awarded a First Class degree in Literae Humaniores and a university prize for Ancient History in 1956.  While at Oxford Norman met Sir Christopher Cox, who advised the Colonial Office about education.  Norman decided to join the Colonial Education Service and in 1957 sailed for Nigeria to take up a position at King’s College, Lagos.

At King’s College Norman ran the cadet force and succeeded in getting Latin removed from the curriculum. He stayed after Nigeria became independent in 1960. He married Wilma Roberts, also a school teacher, in 1965.  A military coup in 1996 led to changes in the government education budget and thwarted Norman’s ambition to be a headmaster of a new government school.  He and Wilma left and returned to the UK.  The Nigerian civil war, or the Biafran war, began the following year.

Norman was awarded a Social Sciences Research Fellowship which he used to write a PhD at the University Exeter between 1966 and 1968.  The subject was the Nigerian Army 1956-1966.  Norman was able to draw on the knowledge of former King’s College cadets for information.  Some cadets died in the 1966 coups and others fought on opposing sides in the civil war.  The PhD was adapted and published as a book in 1970.   A prominent Nigerian politician claimed libel and demanded damages which were far greater than Norman could afford.  Fortunately the commander of the Nigerian army corroborated Norman’s account of the 1966 coups.

In 1969 Norman took up a post as lecturer at the University of Hong Kong.  He left Wilma, pregnant, in the UK.  She and their first son joined him the following year.  They had a second son two years later.

In 1975 Norman published the “Government and Politics of Hong Kong”.  He updated it four times over the next 20 years.  The fifth edition was published in 1995, shortly before his retirement.  It became the definitive text on its subject.  Norman was a frequent commentator on politics and the negotiations about the post-1997 status of Hong Kong.  The book was translated into Chinese and published in Shanghai. The leader of the Chinese side in the negotiations leading to the 1984 Joint Declaration told him how useful the book had been.

Norman and Wilma spent their time travelling, reading, swimming and going to the theatre.  Norman made several return visits to Hong Kong after retirement, mostly recently in 2011.  He kept a keen interest in Nigeria and Hong Kong.  He added a newspaper cutting to his Hong Kong file on the day before he died.

Norman had a deep affection for the school and the opportunities which it gave him.  He kept many momentoes of his schooldays.  During Norman’s final term his father, a former polceman suffering from an incurable illness, made an unusual request. He asked to meet the headmaster, Oswald Flecker, and Norman’s classics master, Mr Macnutt, to thank them personally for everything which the school had done for his son.  My father carried the same appreciation of the school throughout his life.  His headmaster in London told his parents that going to CH was the opportunity of a lifetime, and so it proved to be.