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Norbert Wegner was the son of Max and Rosa Wegner and was born in Vienna, Austria on 9 July 1922. Norbert fled from Austria in 1936 and made his way to Merthyr Tydfil. He had been sponsored by the Reverend Emlyn Davies, minister of High Street Chapel who lived at 29 The Parade, Thomastown. Norbert attended Cyfarthfa Castle Grammar School and it was there that he met and fell in love with Rita Phelps who was a pupil at the girls’ school there. Her father was a sidesman at the Quar Church and had fought in WW1, so was not happy at all when his precious younger daughter was courting a German speaking boy. However, sympathy got the better of him and he soon came around.

In July 1940, aged 17 years, Norbert was playing football on the Pandy field inside Cyfarthfa Park when he was suddenly arrested as an “undesirable alien“. He was deported to Canada (probably from Hoyton, Liverpool on the Duchess of York as one of 2,500 internees). He was sent to Camp Q Montieth POW camp which lies 700 km north of Ontario. He was now a prisoner of the British.

This postcard was sent on the 2nd of August 1940 from Norbert to Rita: “My dear Rita, When I left you on Monday night I never thought that this would be final and that I would not dance with you on Tuesday night. I was taken straight to a camp near Liverpool and a week later to Canada into this camp. I feel very well as far as health goes but I must not think much about you and the old days in Merthyr because the memories are too nice. [Name illegible] is here too. How are you! And what is going on in Merthyr? I hope you still remember me a bit because I always think of you, little girl. Please write very soon and long. Put no signs [?] whatever and no photos in the letter; that is prohibited; and write no politics, please. My name and address in block letters. One day I may return and then I shall cash in all the kisses I can only send you on paper for now. If you still want me to, that is. Cheerio for now Phelpsie. NORBERT WEGNER, CAMP: Q …”

Norbert was assessed as eligible for release under category 12 - “Internees accepted for enlistment to the Auxiliary Military Pioneers Corps”. Many Jewish German and Austrian nationals who had fled persecution enlisted and they were known as "The King's Most Loyal Enemy Aliens”. It was particularly dangerous for them as they were likely to be shot if captured. He was released on 4 March 1941 and returned to Britain on the S.S. George, embarking on 5 March. He enlisted into the Pioneer Corps on 1 April 1941 as 13805634 Pte Norbert Wegner; he was later promoted to Sergeant and served in 137 Coy, PC.

He visited Merthyr and took Rita to the Peter Pan restaurant which was opposite the Town Hall. He told her that he would be away for some time and might not be in touch. She noticed that he had no insignia on his uniform. Rita’s family thought that Norbert was a member of Churchill‘s Special Operations Executive (SOE), but the Intelligence Corps have advised us that in March 1943 he joined the ‘War Office’ for ‘special training’ and was listed as ‘ERE - Extra Regimentally Employed’, indicating employment by one of the intelligence or security agencies. His name was changed to Norman Willert to disguise his Jewish origins, and he transferred to the Intelligence Corps on 4 October 1943. He was seconded from the Intelligence Corps to SIS (MI6) and on 1 September 1944 was parachuted into Austria. He was never heard from again and there are no details of his mission. In June 1945 he was posted “Missing in Western Europe” and declared ‘Presumed killed in action’ on 5 December. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission records that Norbert was killed in action (aged 22 years) on the 1 or 2 September 1944.

We do not know why he is recorded on the Groesbeek Memorial, which is near Nijmegen (see the link below), rather than in Germany or Austria. He was commemorated on the WW11 Memorial on the ground floor of Cyfarthfa Castle where his name is recorded as Norbert Wagner, and he is also on the Cyfarthfa Castle School Roll of Honour: (with three spellings of his name) at He is also remembered on the Intelligence Corps’ Memorial Wall at Chicksands in Bedfordshire.

This account has been compiled with information provided by Rita’s niece, Joyce Bourne, who also supplied the photographs of the postcard, Norbert and Rita. His date leaving Austria is from Cyfarthfa Castle School Roll of Honour. Military advice was initially provided by Jeremy Konsbruck, and updated by Colonel (Retired) Nick Fox OBE, Deputy Colonel Commandant of the Intelligence Corps.

The alien index card is reproduced with permission. Citation: The National Archives; Kew, London, England; HO 396 WW2 Internees (Aliens) Index Cards 1939-1947; Reference Number: HO 396/133.

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