Turtle Bunbury

Writer and Historian

 
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HISTORY

FAMILY HISTORY

IEVERS OF MOUNT IEVERS, COUNTY CLARE

RETURN TO IEVERS CONTENTS

 

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Above: Norman Lancelot Ievers.

18. SQUADRON LEADER NORMAN IEVERS

Norman Lancelot Ievers was the third son of George and Ada Ievers. He was born at Patrickwell, Co. Limerick, on 16th March 1912 and educated at Aravon. In September 1926, he entered Campbell College, Belfast, where he played for the 1st XV rugby team in 1928, 1929 and 1930.

In 1930, he took up an engineering apprenticeship at Messrs. J. I. Thornycroft in Basingstoke and spent four years learning the whole process of engine manufacture, fitting and testing. He was subsequently employed within the factory workforce and acquired a motorbike. However, the ongoing recession led to mass lay-offs and Norman instead found work as a farmhand near Winchester. His eldest brother George was tragically killed in a car crash in 1932. Norman continued to play rugby, for the London Irish XV in 1934 and for the Monkstown XV in 1935.

He became a pilot officer with the Royal Air Force in 1937 and, by 1941, was ranked as Squadron Leader. His cousin F/O Eyre Osborne Ievers was killed in April 1942. His older brother Freddie died in a Japanese POW camp in 1943 and his father passed away on 15th September 1944.

John Colclough told me he once took a Lady Mayor (or Burgomaster) of Dresden to stay at Mount Ievers in the 1970s. There was an awkward moment during dinner when the Squadron Leader said 'yes, well, I've, um, sort of been to Dresden ...'.

BIOGRAPHY OF NORMAN ON BATTLE OF BRITAIN WEBSITE

The Battle of Britain website gives a particularly useful biography of his time in the war which I will now quote here:

In March 1936 he applied for and was granted a short service commission in the RAF. His initial training up to soloing on the Tiger Moth took place at a civil flying school and he was then posted to 10 FTS Tern Hill on 14th May. His first squadron posting was to 56 Squadron at North Weald in January 1937. As part of the pre-war expansion of the RAF Ievers was posted to 6 FTS Little Rissington in May 1939 to instruct new pilots. This was followed by a move to 15 FTS Lossiemouth, where he was able locally to indulge his passion for shooting and fishing.

When Lossiemouth was required for operations in the Norwegian campaign the instructors were dispersed, Ievers ending up at 1 FTS Netheravon in September 1939. With war now imminent he resolved to splash out on a Rolls-Royce, as he did not expect to survive. He also recorded that it was about this time that he lost a pupil, the only time this happened, when the pilot under instruction flew into the ground on a solo dive-bombing exercise.

After a short posting to the Fleet Air Arm Flying School he was posted on 19th October 1940 to the newly-formed 312 Squadron, composed of Czechoslovakian pilots with English commanders and operating Hurricanes from Speke. Their role was to intercept bombers attacking Liverpool. Although operational sorties were flown during his time with 312, no contact with the enemy was made. Ievers next posting is unclear but he can only have been there a matter of days as he answered a request for test pilots and in late November 1940 reported to the newly-formed High Altitude Flight at the Aircraft and Armament Experimental Establishment, Boscombe Down.
His testing career was mostly involved with experiments that would eventually lead to the introduction of pressurised cockpits and he records many flights at altitudes up to 40,000 feet plus at least one engine failure followed by a forced landing. Returning to Fighter Command, his next posting was to 257 Squadron at Coltishall on 28th July 1941. Their role was convoy protection over the North Sea. This posting was interrupted when he was offered command of a squadron in North Africa and he accepted, setting off on 3rd November. Travelling by Sunderland via Gibraltar, Malta and Cairo he arrived at the base of 80 Squadron on the 13th.
80 Squadron operated Hurricanes in the ground attack role and their job was to disrupt Rommel’s supply lines thus slowing his advance towards Cairo. On one sortie when Ievers was rested the formation was ambushed by Me109’s and his stand-in was shot down and killed.
On another occasion the squadron was returning from a successful attack and Ievers took up the high rear position himself in order to be able to detect a repeat ambush. Three Me109’s duly came down from a higher altitude but Ievers turned to meet them head-on. All three opened fire with cannons at a converging speed of over 500mph but the Hurricane came through unscathed and the Germans did not return.

80 Squadron moved forward as far as Tobruk in Libya before being withdrawn from service for re-equipping, Ievers, now a Squadron Leader, was sent to the Air Staff, Cairo on 23rd January 1942. Being seated behind a desk was not to his taste and he agitated for another flying posting. This was granted and he sailed on the SS Orestes in mid-February, bound for Rangoon. The city fell to the Japanese on 8th March and his ship cut short its voyage, docking at Colombo, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). No-one in authority knew what to do with these unexpected guests and Ievers found himself sent to Calcutta in India to test-fly aircraft assembled from parts shipped out from England. He had a near-fatal crash when one was assembled with the controls reversed.

Norman was kept in India for the remainder of his RAF service, serving on the staffs of 221, 222 and 224 Groups and on 20th August 1942 was appointed Acting Station Commander at RAF Kanchrapara. His final posting was to 320 MU at Karachi on 20th February 1943.

Late in 1943 he returned to the UK via South Africa and the Suez Canal, arriving in Liverpool. He was released from the RAF in 1944 and returned to Ireland, eventually settling at Mount Ievers which he purchased from his cousin in 1945. The house was virtually devoid of furniture at the time, reflecting a long period of decline for the family from its prosperous heights in the 18th century.

He thereafter completely devoted himself to the maintenance of the building. In this regard he was helped by his cousins Nancy Pocock and Mildred Switzer, both of whom were immensely fond of him. Nancy’s late son Robert Pocock believed that, without their support, Mount Ievers would probably have been leveled in the 1950s. Both sisters helped paint the windows for many years as a contribution to keeping the old place standing. They also went to considerable efforts to lure prosperous young women to Mount Ievers to woo the Squadron Leader but he resisted, either because he loved the house too much or because they simply did not suit him. The house was in sufficiently good nick to impress Mark Girouard into writing an article about Mount Ievers for the Country Life edition of 8th November 1962. Norman’s mother lived until 13th May 1963.

The Squadron Leader modified the ground-floor as a self-contained flat for his family to live in, and installed extra plumbing etc to make the upper three floors suitable for the visiting public.

On 30th March 1970, the 58-year-old war veteran finally took a wife. She was Breda O’Halloran, third daughter of Martin O’Halloran of Sooreeney, Co. Clare.

The Ievers began a new restoration programme in the 1980s. A grant from the Irish Georgian Society offset some of the subsequent costs of cleaning and repairing the gutters, as well as restoring the sash windows which had been damaged due to water ingress.

Norman Ievers died aged 81 on 21st November 1993. He was succeeded by his only son Norman Eyre Ievers who was born on 23rd May 1973. Norman was married to Karen Font on 7th November 2011 in Cyprus. Born near the naval base of Anacortes, Washington, USA, Karen is the daughter of Kathleen Lord (nee Harris) and Lt. Cmdr. USN ret. Carlos G. Font who, like Norman’s father, was a pilot, serving on American navy aircraft carriers during the Korean and Vietnam wars. They currently split their time between Mount Ievers and a flat in Jerusalem, Israel, where they live with Karen’s daughter Shirel (born 2003), one of three children born to her from a previous marriage. Norm and Karen's twins Natalie Christine and Nathaniel Eyre Ievers were born on April 23 2014.

In 1997, the house served as a location for the movie The Serpent's Kiss, directed by Philippe Rousselot. It is a story about a Dutch garden architect named Meneer Chrome (Ewan McGregor) who has been hired by a wealthy metalworker (Pete Postlethwaite) to create an extravagant garden. The film, which also stars Greta Scacchi and Richard E. Grant, was entered into the 1997 Cannes Film Festival.

 


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