One of the few photographers awarded the DFM
He flew with Wing Commander Adrian Warburton from RAF Luqa
Corporal Norman Shirley was one of just three photographers awarded the DFM (Distinguished Flying Medal) during WW2. They were all classified as “non aircrew”, being volunteers to accompany their pilots on missions into enemy territory. Cpl Shirley flew on many sorties to cover the dispositions of the Italian Fleet in Taranto harbour, coming under vicious anti aircraft fire at close quarters. His pilot was the legendary Wing Commander Adrian Warburton.
The DFM was awarded as a result of the following incident when he and his pilot Flt Lt White returned from one such sortie:
“As my pilot, Flt Lt White, came in to land, a FW 109 fighter attacked. I saw part of the rudder fly off and a piece of the wing then a terrific bang in front when the armour plate of the Very Light Box exploded and I was hit in several places including the left lower abdomen. I was about to leave when I saw that the air intake behind him was ablaze and he was sitting in his seat staring at it and not moving so I went along the plane put the fire out and shoved him through the cockpit sidelight. When I tried to get out myself my legs wouldn’t work so he pulled me through. The Beaufighter did not explode and I was able to receive some treatment on the ground beside the plane before being rushed by stretcher to the Medical Room and then by ambulance to hospital. I was in a hospital bed with my legs sand-bagged apart unable to see clearly. I had just had surgery to remove a splinter of cannon shell from my left eye and my right eye was weeping in sympathy, neither could I speak properly through swollen gums and the stumps of my departed teeth. Through the haze and pain I saw a group of officers at the foot of the bed. One of them pinned a medal on the front of my pyjamas and I was told that I had received the immediate award of the DFM. “