ANZAC Hero in Coogee: Surf Club Legend Norman Hill Embodies Spirit of Sacrifice

Norman Hill ANZAC Coogee Surf Life Saving Club

Did you know that Norman Hill, the Coogee Surf Life Saving Club’s most enduring member and oldest club captain, undertook 36 daring missions across Europe during World War II, embodying an ANZAC legacy that marks a significant chapter in the storied history of the suburb?

A Legacy Born from War

The Coogee Surf Life Saving Club has a long and proud history, dating back to its establishment in 1907. Many young club members bravely answered the call to serve their country during World War I and II. 

Norman Hill was just one of the many young men who left the peaceful shores of Coogee to fight for freedom in the challenging and dangerous conditions of the European and Pacific battlefields. Despite their difficulties, the community remained proud of their sons’ courage and sacrifice.

Coogee SLSC 1907
Photo Credit: Randwick City Library

The Unyielding Spirit of ‘Nob’

Mr. Hill, who was lovingly called “Nob” by his peers, was not only a member of the Coogee Surf Life Saving Club but also a symbol of resilience, bravery, and resourcefulness. 

Nob was born and raised in Coogee, a close-knit community where he grew up around the surf club. As a teenager, he embodied the Australian values of camaraderie and adventure. 

However, with the looming threat of war, Nob shifted from the waves to the battlefield. Initially, he was rejected when he tried to enlist as an apprentice fitter and turner, as he was deemed essential to the homefront. 

During WWII, key industries were exempt from conscription to keep operating effectively. “Apprentice fitter and turner” was a crucial mechanical trade, fabricating and repairing military and civilian equipment. The government protected Nob’s skills to balance military and industrial needs. However, the call to serve his country was too strong to ignore.

Nob changed his surname to pose as a dairy farmer to help the war effort. When caught, a recruitment officer gave him a choice. Nob chose to abandon his old life and become a serviceman.

After receiving military training as a wireless air gunner, Nob was sent on various European missions. He was assigned to the Lancaster aircraft and served in 36 missions crucial to the Allied war effort. These missions were dangerous and tested his character in the crucible of war. Despite being far from the familiar settings of his hometown Coogee, Nob persevered and proved himself as a skilled and dedicated defender of his homeland.

Coogee Centenary (DEINT) from Coogee SLSC on Vimeo.

Post-War: A Return to Roots

After returning to Coogee following the war, Nob had been changed by his experiences, yet his fundamental principles remained intact. Upon rejoining the surf club, he found familiar faces in his friends and fellow servicemen. They shared a deep understanding of sacrifice and survival, as many had served in the conflict alongside Nob. This brotherhood of surf lifesavers carried the weight of their experiences, each looking to rebuild their lives in the hard-won peace. 

Nob’s contributions to Coogee Surf Life Saving Club went beyond membership. He became a pivotal figure in the club’s evolution, embodying the spirit of service.

During his leadership, the club paid tribute to the memory of those who had served and focused on the future by supporting innovation and community involvement. Nob was a strong advocate for establishing the Coogee Penguins Winter Swimming Club and the Coogee Minnows, which were programs that enriched the club’s cultural diversity and ensured its longevity for future generations.

Coogee Penguins Coogee SLSC
Photo Credit: Coogee SLSC

Nob’s efforts to give back to the community that had supported him highlighted his deep commitment to the principles of the surf lifesaving movement: vigilance, service, and camaraderie. Through his actions, he laid the foundations for a lasting legacy, ensuring that his cherished values would continue to inspire and guide the Coogee Surf Lifesaving Club long after he departed from its shores.

Norman Hill 76 years with Coogee SLSC
Photo Credit: Coogee SLSC

Farewell to Coogee: A New Chapter

Nob, then 92, decided to sell his Coogee apartment on Bream Street in 2017 and move to Coffs Harbour to be closer to his son, Greg, and his family. It was not an easy choice as Coogee was not just a home for Nob but a place where he had spent some of the most significant moments of his life. Despite this, Nob embraced the change positively, motivated by the value of preserving family bonds and friendships he had woven in Coogee.

In March 2020, the community bid a solemn farewell to Norman ‘Nob’ Hill, as he passed away at 95, leaving behind a legacy of bravery, service, and community.

Norman Hill Obituary
Photo Credit: Coogee SLSC

Nob’s life story is a powerful reminder of the resilience and spirit of the ANZACs, a legacy that continues to inspire and shape the identity of Coogee and its surf club.

Published 11-April-2024