Norman Hurtle Charles (Norm or Nessie) MCNESS


MCNESS, Norman Hurtle Charles

Service Number: WX6004
Enlisted: 29 June 1940
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 2nd/28th Infantry Battalion
Born: Nannup, Western Australia, 12 May 1912
Home Town: Nannup, Nannup, Western Australia
Schooling: Barrabup & Nannup State Schools, Western Austrlia
Occupation: Mill Worker & Farmer
Died: Died at sea (Nino Bixio), At sea (Nino Bixio), Mediterranean Sea, 17 August 1942, aged 30 years
Cemetery: No known grave - "Known Unto God"
Col 93
Memorials: Alamein Memorial (El Alamein), Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Ballarat Australian Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial, Busselton War Memorial, Nannup WW2
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World War 2 Service

3 Sep 1939: Involvement Private, SN WX6004
29 Jun 1940: Enlisted Australian Military Forces (Army WW2), Private, SN WX6004, 2nd/28th Infantry Battalion
26 Sep 1940: Enlisted Private, SN WX6004, 2nd/28th Infantry Battalion
17 Aug 1942: Imprisoned El Alamein, He was one Of the 3000 POW’S onboard on the Italian transport ship Nino Bixio which was torpedoed by a British submarine in the Mediterranean.

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Biography contributed by Joy Dalgleish

Private Norman Hurtle Charles McNess was the eldest child of Charles and Matilda McNess who lived at Barrabup, Western Australia. He had two brothers and two sisters.

He was educated at Barrabup and Nannup schools and became a good athlete who excelled at football. Following school, he was employed as a mill worker and farmer. On 22 July 1934 he married Lilian at Nannup and they had four children. Norman enlisted at Nannup on 29 June 1940 and was posted to 2/28 Battalion.

He was serving in the Middle East and fought in the battle of El Alamein where he was taken prisoner. He and many other prisoners were being shipped to Europe when the POW ship Nino Bixio was sunk near Greece. He was 30 years of age. His name appears on the Alamein memorial, el Alamein war cemetery, Mersa. Of the 3000 POW’S onboard, 337 were Australians on the Italian transport ship Nino Bixio was torpedoed by a British submarine in the Mediterranean.

The Nino Bixio was hit while transporting Allied POWs from Libya to Italy. With another unmarked prison ship, the Sestriere, it had left Benghazi for Brindisi on 16 August 1942, escorted by two destroyers and two torpedo boats. Crammed aboard the Nino Bixio were almost 3000 POWs captured in North Africa

Two days out of Benghazi the convoy was attacked by the British submarine, HMS Turbulent. The Nino Bixio was hit by two torpedoes, one exploded in the tightly packed forward hold, killing an estimated 200 men and wounding another 60. In the ensuing panic and confusion many POWs jumped overboard. Some drowned immediately; others reached makeshift rafts and drifted around the Mediterranean for weeks without food or water. Those on board who survived the carnage were hauled up on deck by rope. The injured were treated by medical officers.

Despite extensive damage the Nino Bixio did not sink. The ship was towed by an escorting destroyer to Navarino in southern Greece, where the dead were buried. The surviving POWs were transferred ashore, and those fit enough were shipped, after a short stay in Corinth, to Bari in Italy.

The Nino Bixio survived the war and visited several ports during its post-war career. Its attacker did not fare so well. HMS Turbulent was lost with all hands off the coast of Sardinia in March 1943.