Joyce Trott in 1943.Joyce Trott
Joyce Trott with twin brothers Edison (her husband, left) and Douglas (right).Joyce Trott
Joyce Trott and her husband Edison on their wedding day in 1943.Edison Trott
Joyce Trott's Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) cap badge.Joyce Trott
Joyce Trott's Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) cap.Joyce Trott
"My particular office was that, we were about a dozen of us I think, and we had to work on prisoners of war. The Germans were reasonably good. And they did send in some kind of records. But the people that kept it going were the Red Cross and they were very good."
At 17 I said I really wanted to leave home, I felt I’d go into the army. Well, at 17 you could, there was, of course, conscription for women. But that was not until they were 21. I think it was either 20 or 21. But you could volunteer, of course. Anybody over 17 could join without a parent’s consent. Anyway for one reason or another I didn’t need consent.
Well, there was an awful struggle over that. My stepmother didn’t, I should call her Evelyn. Later in life, I called her Evelyn and she always tried to do what was best for me. But she didn’t like the idea of me leaving this perfectly, to her, a very admirable lifestyle, to be a good hairdresser, maybe have my own shop. Maybe, you know, all kinds of things. Instead of that I wanted to go into the army.
And my real posting was to Leicester [Leicestershire, England] to the record office there. There were several record offices and ours was the RAOC, Royal Army Ordnance Corps. And it was a purely a records job that I had which was quite a big records office. My particular office was that, we were about a dozen of us I think, and we had to work on prisoners of war. The Germans were reasonably good. And they did send in some kind of records. But the people that kept it going were the Red Cross and they were very good. They would somehow, God knows how they did it, but they would somehow get the best up to date list that they possibly could. And that was what we relied on to get the information that we need for prisoners of war.
And there was one part, of course, one very small part of our, our office was very small, the office itself was big. But ours was a very small part of it, the prisoner of war part. There were other people taking records on other things. And so and then there were people, everything had to be checked. So in one building there would be all the information to a person’s life, to a man. They were all men in the RAOC.
The RAOC, by the way, they were the people they were not in the actual fighting but they delivered this stuff. They were the people that delivered the armaments and food, of course, for that matter, that came up with the trucks into the worst of the fighting. They were never far from the fighting but they were not actually carrying guns. And there were a lot of casualties, of course.
Prisoners of war, that was the big thing. So keeping records in those days meant that you had the information coming in from the Red Cross. You’d have to check this off with these massive binders that took a man’s name and something about him. And then and go to another big hall which kept another set of records which recorded his army career, if any. So, you know, you had to get all this sorted out before you could tick off this chap who came up as a prisoner of war, you know, on the long list that we got from the Red Cross. You could tick off it, yes, that’s the fact. When you come to names like Smith, Brown, Jones or Robinson, you have to do an awful lot of checking to find you’ve got the right chap saying that he’s in prisoner of war camp so and so in wherever.
Oh, yes, thank God. Not mine but, yes, it was. They were the people that had to, of course, all the letters were standard but our particular CO [commanding officer] would add a little note saying my deepest sympathy or something like that. So prisoner of war and, of course, we had to adapt, of course, as well, the prisoners of war. Of course, horrific deaths that happened there.
If you were married, you could get, you could get a better weekend. You could get a long weekend, a 72 hour weekend which meant I was free on a Saturday morning because the office, of course, wasn’t open... We were in the office on a Saturday morning but we were free after 12. And then I think, I didn’t have to get back and I think, until some time on Monday. I just forget, but I had 72 hours anyway. So I could get the, I could get what they called the [Royal] Scot’s express train and I could get from Leicester to York [Yorkshire, England]. He* was stationed in York now he was flying. Oh, I didn’t tell you. Well, he told you that, of course, he’d transfer to the air force and so he was stationed in York. And he was on bombing missions and I would get there. I’d get out of work at noon and I could get the express train and I could be in York about two o’clock in the afternoon. And I’d check into a little hotel there. And he would probably not be off duty, i.e., you know – they were doing daylight bombing and so he would be out busy bombing Germany. I would be in York wondering when he was going to come home and kind of thing – “Oh, come now, look, it’s five o’clock. Time you were getting on for dinnertime.”
I stayed in the army for another two years and I got pregnant. We definitely knew the war was just about over. Definitely a planned baby as I wanted, we knew the war was going to be over, and I would be living in Canada. I wanted this baby to arrive among friends shall we say.
Ed had to go ahead of me because they wouldn’t take me while I was pregnant. I think they didn’t, they thought they couldn’t handle that. I had to wait until Susan, she was three months old and then I got my trip to Canada. Now the war was still on, of course. There were still U-boats in the Atlantic. And so was a lot of other war wives and most of them had either babies or very small children. We were all transported to Liverpool [England] – that’s right. I knew when I was going. They gave me about three months’ notice, I think, in which time I had some, I think, but I begin to get cloudy about dates here because Sue was only three months old when we got to Canada.
We knew, as I say, we knew that the war was coming to an end and it was my turn now to join Ed in Canada. And I still hadn’t received any information about how I was going to get there. But, then I did, just a couple of weeks before I was due to go, I got the full information. I had to get a doctor’s certificate for this, that, and whatever. And, now I was advised on what clothes if any – didn’t have very many civilian clothes – and when I could pick up the train I could pick up the train in Birmingham [England] and go directly to Liverpool and in fact it was a military organization and it was beautifully organized and went very smoothly.
So I remember Evelyn and Ray took us to this train station in Tipton [West Midlands, England], I suppose, and I transferred in Birmingham and there I was in Liverpool. And then there were a whole lot of other young, we were nearly all young, young mothers with young, with young children and this where we embarked. And we were out, it went very slowly because we were still in, we were still in a, what you call it when you got a mob of little ships around? Of course we were in the convoy.
And we were about halfway across the Atlantic and we were listening to radio broadcasts on both sides and then suddenly here it was, it was VE Day [8 May 1945]. And there we were, bang in the middle of the ocean. And it was kind of funny because there were a whole lot of us. There were also some returning soldiers, just a few of them, not very many. And we never saw them. I think they were down in the hold somewhere. But, anyway, here we were and they didn’t quite know what to do with us. I mean, the captain didn’t know. They gave us all a bottle of beer to celebrate.
*Mrs. Trott’s husband Edison