Norman Bertram Marshall came from a family that had lived for generations in the small village of Great Shelford, near Cambridge, and was born there in a house built by his father (a builder, as his grandfather had been). Freddy (as he was universally known in later life) was the eldest of three boys and one girl. One of his brothers became an entomologist, the other an architect. The family was not well off, particularly after his father had left for the trenches in France with the Cambridgeshire Regiment before Freddy was born. To supplement his mother's income, Freddy worked in the fields after school and in the holidays, leading horses. He entered the church school in the village in 1920, but he was more interested in trying to catch dace and roach than in his schooling and was evidently rather a trial to his teachers. When his Sunday school teacher, Percy Reed, said T command the Devil to leave this place Freddy felt this was aimed at him and got up and left.