Norm Miles has lived his life large. In fact, he claims he's lived many lives, having experienced four narrow escapes from death.
Norm grew up during the Great Depression and tells stories of eating 'bread and drippings' and riding the 'paper train' from his home in Sydney to Foxground (near Kiama) to shoot rabbits for the family meal. He helped his father to build their home at Hoxton Park at Liverpool, catching the train each weekend, with timber and nails and everything else needed to continue the work. He credited his grandfather for many of his skills, including re-soling his children's school shoes.
Norm boasts of meeting the Queen, and of "opening" the Sydney Harbour Bridge. In 1932, as an eleven year old schoolboy, Norm was nearly run down by the horse of Francis de Groot, who is infamous for upstaging Premier Jack Lang and cutting the ceremonial ribbon instead.
The most heroic times of Norm's life were of course those spent as a commando in the Australian Army during the Second World War. It was this service in New Guinea and the Pacific Islands which saw Norm's many close-shaves; a bullet flying past his head whilst shaving, missing his assigned landing barge which was subsequently hit by a shell and destroyed, and having the crotch shot out of his pants!
In 1943 Norm took a hit to the head from a Japanese sniper during the battle of Lae in Papua New Guinea. He was carried from the jungle, spending weeks paralysed in hospital and 12 months in recovery before going back to war. Just seven years ago, on going for a cat-scan, it was discovered he still had shrapnel from this incident!
Norm is as tough as they come, his 'kerosene and sugar' sore throat remedy a testament to this. Norm's family describe him as "hard as nails with a heart of gold", a "true Aussie Digger". Norm told me it was his wife Joy that he cherished above all else (they've been married over 70 years). All these things of this man were so evident to me.