On 20th April, 1939, Hitler’s 50th birthday, Dennis William Trinder joined the army. It was the year of the first nylon stocking, the first rocket test, and the first animal (a rabbit) conceived by artificial insemination. It was the year of the last execution by guillotine (in Paris). Britain had just signed the mutual assistance pact with Poland, pledging to come to their aid if German attacked, and the Italian invasion of Albania had been completed with little resistance in the previous weeks. Roosevelt had sought assurances from Mussolini and Hitler that they would not invade any further countries; in private, Hitler had laughed at him. Meanwhile, the Soviet Union proposed an alliance with Britain and France to contain aggression in Eastern Europe. And on April 26th, less than a week after Dennis joined up, Neville Chamberlain announced a bill in parliament for the conscription of all young men, age 20 and 21.
From his military record, we know that Dennis was working as a “commercial traveller.” This is a travelling salesman, a trade he took up again after the war as a “representative, paper trade.” When he joined up, Dennis gave his permanent, fixed address as Morwood Hall YMCA, Leeds. There could be a number of reasons why he didn’t give (for example) his parents address – all would be speculation. I have also been unable to find information regarding Morwood Hall in Leeds. Even changing the parameters and searching for Norwood House and other related terms doesn’t bring up any results. Please see open questions section for more information.
On the same day, he was “attested” into the army (swore his oat of allegiance). He joined the 66th Leeds Rifles, Heavy Anti Aircraft Regiment, TA, 184 battery, as a private. He was measured as being 6’5”, 196 pounds, 41 inch chest, fresh complexion, grey eyes, and dark hair. No note is made of any lipoma. His religion is C of E. He gives his next of kin as his father, who is living at 9 Guest Road, Prestwich in Manchester. He was still in contact with his father at this point, and his father lived til 1968, so it’s possible William Thomas Trinder met both my father and my uncle, his grandchildren. His rank was Gunner, which is equivalent to private.
He was posted to the “Home Service,” and sent to Orkney in the Shetland Islands. This was a very quiet period and a quiet place in the war; he would not have seen much action. However, many entertainers visited at this time, and it is likely (given that Dennis wrote in his transfer sheets that he ‘put on shows of all types’) that he would have seen – and we might speculate that he possibly even booked – the Wren’s Choir, Gracie Fields, and a whole host of other famous wartime entertainers who visited Orkney whilst he was there.
In June 1939, he was in “Wayburn.” I haven’t been able to find out where this is, but it is a rather good picture of him and his squad resting.
On the 8th Sept 1939, Dennis went to “wireless school.” His record shows only that he “passed,” but Mary’s photograph album captures some of the activities he got up to.
On September 11th 1939, Dennis became a “Fire Control Officer Class III.” My army contact reliably informs me that in the Royal Artillery, this is the person who is in charge of marshalling the weapons to fire on a target, and who undertakes the technical supervision of gunfire. “Fire Control Officer” refers to his position as a petty officer, and third class refers to his evaluation rating and progress up the chain of command. Either way, he looks to have a snazzy new uniform and to be very pleased with himself in these pictures from Mary’s album.
On Valentine’s Day 1940, Dennis was promoted to “Fire Control Officer Class II.” This is a step up the ladder, and it would have been based on his ability to lead. He is still a petty officer, but this is a step up the ladder. It’s usually part of a routine evaluation. He undertook a medical assessment in April of that year and was classed as “A1,” which means that he is fighting fit.
In May 1940, he and his squad were at Marsden Bay. This is one of my absolute favourite photographs of all time, not just of Dennis. He is on the far right, and it is titled “Landing Party.”
In August of that year, he was back in Prestwich, smiling with my grandmother outside a surburban house. They were married on the 28th August in Heywood in Lancaster. That’s an interesting place to be married, when her parents lived in Cullercoats, and his father lived in Prestwich. Did they elope? Anyway, Grace Lilian Ada Trinder and Thomas Geoffrey Trinder (Dennis’ mother and brother) were the witnesses. He gives his rank as ‘gunner’ and his army number on the marriage certificate (most helpfully for military history purposes). He was living in Prestwich at the time.
On September 14th 1940, with the 6th Leeds Rifles, Heavy Anti Aircraft Regiment, Dennis was promoted to acting Bombardier. This is now an obsolete rank and he would have been in charge of a small group of soldiers. He was confirmed in post on 14th December 1940, and granted “substantive rank and pay.”
Dennis was admitted to hospital on 27th January 1941. He went to the Kirkwall Military Hospital in Orkney. There are no notes as to why he was admitted, or when he was released. There is some information about medical treatment in Orkney here.
On 31st January 1941, Dennis was “Deprived of appointment of OFG Class II for reasons other than lack of diligence and inefficiency.” Given the timing, this may have been related to his hospital visit, maybe he was injured in a way that meant he couldn’t do the job or something? Or possibly the timing is a coincidence.
In June 1941, there is a picture of Dennis in his uniform, looking very jaunty, in Sheffield. It’s possible that he was feeling that “new father” glow, as his son Geoffrey was born in that month. A month after Geoff was born (Tynemouth), Dennis was in Rotherham, where he was approved by an interview board as a suitable candidate for training at OCTU (Officer Cadet Training Unit). He became a father and then found out he would become an officer in two consecutive months.
Dennis was back in Cullercoats in September 1941, with his wife and son.
Dennis was posted as a cadet to 133 OCTU on 5th September 1941. The note reads: “W.O.U.M. 695/ A.B.I.E. Lt 8/8/41 and RA records letter AA/60/34/695 dated 15/8/41.” WOUM refers to a note that allows an officer to wear slightly different uniform, usually because of an injury. There is no obvious alteration to his uniform in the picture.
Dennis’ war had so far been quite quiet. There were more “entertainments” than “action.” However, that was about to change. Dennis finished his OCTU on 19th March 1942. He was given an emergency commission and was sent straight to the depot.
I wonder whether his new commanding officer read the note he wrote about himself in his record: “Hobbies: sport and photography. Up to joining present regiment have produced shows of all types for the army, and am keenly interested in entertainments.”