Michael Bridgman, a Royal Australian Air Force trainee from Victoria, played four games leading up to the 1941 grand final but unluckily missed selection in the Norwood premiership team. One year later he embarked from Sydney on his way to distinguished World War II service in Europe.
An accomplished footballer at Morwell, Michael was attending an RAAF training school at Victor Harbor when he joined Norwood's push for its first flag since 1929. Norwood had lost to Sturt at home earlier in the season but turned the tables at Unley and then won its remaining eight minor round games - with Michael a forward flanker in three of them.
There was a hiccup when Michael left the field with an injured instep in the third quarter of the match against Glenelg on 23 September. Later that day he was found to have "been in possession of intoxicating liquor" on the Adelaide to Victor Harbor train and was confined to barracks for 14 days. His last match for Norwood, the second semi-final against Sturt, was a debacle. He did kick a goal but Norwood was thrashed by 71 points. Injured in the match was another RAAF trainee, Gordon Sawley, who would perish in an air force accident in Scotland a year later. Norwood recast its side and Michael was absent when young Jack Oatey's master class in the mud steered Norwood to victory in the preliminary final against West Adelaide. Captain Kevin Hardiman then led a revitalised Norwood to a 14.16 to 10.11 triumph over Sturt in the grand final.
Born on 31 March 1916 at Leongatha, Victoria, Michael was the youngest of five siblings of Jeremiah and Bridget (O'Leary) Bridgman. Before enlisting in the RAAF on 17 September 1940, he worked as an assistant linesman and a grocer's assistant.
After final training in the UK, Michael was posted in June 1943 to 467 squadron, RAAF operating Avro Lancaster bombers from Bottesford and later Waddington. Having survived a full tour of operations, Michael and the other gunner in the crew, Clement Lacy, immediately volunteered for another tour and were posted to Coningsby to join 97 squadron, RAF as part of the Pathfinder Force. By mid-August 1944 Michael had completed his second tour.
Flying Officer Michael Bridgman completed his war service as the recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross, 1939-45 Star, Aircrew Europe Star, Italy Star, Defence Medal, Pathfinder Force Badge and Active Service Badge.
His DFC Citation reads:
"Pilot Officer Bridgman has displayed ability as rear gunner well above the average and, throughout his numerous operations, his vigilance and constant alertness has undoubtedly contributed largely to the safety of the aircraft. In May, 1944, he was flying as air bomber in an aircraft detailed to attack Toulouse. On the outward flight, one engine and rear turret became unserviceable and, as the aircraft was leaving the target area, it was attacked by a Messerschmitt 110. Correct and specific commentary given by Pilot Officer Bridgman to his captain was of great assistance in enabling him to evade the hostile aircraft. This officer has invariably displayed great courage and devotion to duty"
Michael married Dorothy B. James in Nottinghamshire, UK, in 1946. He was an active member of the Newark Golf Club, Notts. He died in the same shire in August 1990
P. Robins, M. Coligan and D. Cox Feb 2019, revised Feb 2021
* For the picture we are indebted to aviation historian Ian Simpson.