Norman Ellis Williams was born in the small village of Greens Norton, Northamptonshire, in 1908. He was the youngest of five children. His brother, William Washington Williams, who became Bursar of Fitzwilliam College Cambridge, was ten years older. His three sisters died in their twenties from tuberculosis. After a childhood and adolescence in Greens Norton and Towcester, Norman was accepted at Cambridge University, where he studied Literature and Classics, culminating in First Class Honours.
In 1939 he married Margery Bosworth, whose family were from Northampton. They had one daughter, Alison (mother of Thomas Corfield, who prepared the manuscript of the grandfather he never met.) Shortly after his marriage, Norman signed up as a gunner at the outbreak of war. He served mainly in North Africa and rose to the rank of Captain in Intelligence. After the war he joined the British Council, with postings to Egypt, Holland, Czechoslovakia and India.
His final posting, in 1958 was to Australia as British Council Representative (and Cultural Advisor to the High Commissioner.), during which he was awarded an O.B.E. He and Margery lived in Sydney, until in 1968, he was diagnosed with acute leukaemia. He died within three months at the age of 60. When Margery returned to England a few months later, it was arranged that his ashes should be interred with the rest of his family at Greens Norton church. In 1988, Margery’s ashes were also buried there.