Charlie Trott lived in the Village for over 60 years. The following tribute to Charlie was given by Tony Goverd at St Mary’s Church, Litton Cheney, on14th July 2014.Today we give thanks to God for the life of Charlie, remembering the man we knew, his friendship, good humour and love of steam. Charlie, husband to Pearl, Dad to Roslyn, Elizabeth, Micky and Alison, was born on the 9th of August 1922 in the village of Cannington, Somerset, the son of Pearcie and Effie Trott. He was actually named and baptised Thomas Charles - an old family name. He had a younger brother, Bernard, who predeceased him.The family moved to live at Wells, where father Pearcie was a steam lorry driver for the Somerset County Council, driving both Sentinels and Fodens. Charlie was never to forget his first experiences of being driven in a steam powered vehicle. The fascination and memory of the power of steam was to remain with him.He was educated at the Wells Blue School, a grammar school. He was fond of the outdoors and a member of the Wells Sea Scout Troop. On leaving school he obtained an apprenticeship with Westlands at Yeovil. Following the Battle of Britain major production of Spitfires was switched to Westlands. Although in a reserved occupation, assembling aircraft held no attraction for him and he managed to get himself conscripted to serve in the Royal Navy.After basic training and gunnery school, Charlie joined a crew of 1200 as a gunner on a new steam turbined aircraft carrierHMS Unicorn. Unicorn, a Repair Carrier, had 35 operational aircraft. The ship took part in U-Boat patrols in the Northwest Approaches and convoy escort duties between the Home Fleet base at Scapa Flow and Gibraltar and Malta where he manned the ship's anti-aircraft guns against continued air attacks. Unicorn also provided support for the amphibious landings at Salerno. Fitted with 4 twin turrets of 4 inch guns, she was the only aircraft carrier during the war to use her guns to pound shore installations. After transfer to the Eastern Fleet based at Trincomalee, Ceylon, there followed patrols in the Indian Ocean with visits to Bombay. Ordered to Durban, South Africa, the ship was refitted and sent to join the Pacific Fleet where she was dive-bombed by a Japanese Kamikaze pilot. Charlie lost shipmates when a gun turret caught fire. It was only the sudden list of the ship that saved his turret. With preparations under way for the invasion of Japan, Unicorn was used in a support role, providing air cover at the invasion of Okinawa. During her service, hundreds of aircraft sorties were flown from the carrier, sadly not without loss.Charlie enjoyed his naval service. He was a great storyteller, mindful of events experienced. With great humour, he would recall the happy times and of his escapades ashore. Ever resourceful, whilst ashore in Durban, he managed to arrange his own sight-seeing trips when he became the driver of a jeep actually allocated for officer use. A similar situation was to avail itself when the ship made harbour in Brisbane some months later. It was in Durban that South African soprano, Perla Siedle Gibson, 'The Lady in White', sang to troop and warships as they came and went from harbour. Her performances as she responded to requests for popular songs were a highlight for many visiting ships. Years later, when relating the experience, Charlie was heard to jest: “I wish she would come and sing to me”! When peace was declared on the 15* August 1945, Unicorn was at the Manus naval-base in the Admiralty Islands and eventually docked in Sydney. There, with thousands of matelots ashore, including Americans and Australians, he described the situation as “lively”! He recalled with gratitude the overwhelming hospitality he enjoyed in Australia and, as ever, had many a tale to tell. The Unicorn was eventually nominated to return to the UK and arrived at Devonport on the 16th January 1946. Charlie's Navy days were over but the experience remained for ever in his memory.On demob, he did not return to work at Westlands but took a job as a vehicle mechanic with The Bristol Omnibus Company at its Wells depot. He was to recount that working there, especially after nationalisation in 1948, could well have been the basis for the eventual script for the sitcom 'On the Buses', complete with an inspector that could double for 'Smiler'. The time had come to move on.In 1953 there was a total career change and approach to work. Charlie, Pearl and the family moved to Litton Cheney where he took a job as a painter and decorator with Fry and Son. At the time Charles Fry was not only a local builder but also an undertaker. With just 6 employees, Charlie found himself called upon to undertake a number of tasks including that of pallbearer. In the 1950's and 60's West Dorset was in a time warp - this suited Charlie. A Somerset man by birth, he became Dorset by adoption. He worked for the Frys for 34 years during which time he undertook numerous specialised tasks, such as wallpapering the hall at Kingston Russell House with hand blocked paper specially imported from China. The firm grew and Charlie became known for the quality of his work. He became somewhat of a father figure, offering advice and guidance, especially to young apprentices - a 'Mr Fixit'. Even after he retired his services were still called upon, a real friend to the village where he lived for over 60 years.In 1960 Charlie and the late Ron Wilcox acquired a Burrell single cylinder general purpose traction engine, 'Duke of Windsor’, which, built in 1895, was in a sorry state. There was much shaking of heads that the engine would ever be restored. Although it took over two years to achieve working order, as engineer on the project, Charlie proved his mettle. The engine subsequently proved a great attraction. Charlie and Ron often took part, with Dr Giles Romanes from Portesham and his Wallace and Stevens engine 'Goliath', in mini-rallies, with suitable 'watering holes' in mind. Charlie merged well with the other characters who at that time were also steam locomotion enthusiasts. Over the years, the engine attended numerous venues including Litton Fete, Bridport Boxing Day Pram Race, Gore Cross Rally, Weymouth Carnival, Yeovil Festival of Transport, Yesterdays Farming and 'Stourpaine'…. the list goes on.In 1967 the Burrell engine and associated threshing machine was commissioned for use in the filming of a scene in the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film ‘Far From the Madding Crowd’, directed by John Schlesinger and starring, amongst others; Julie Christie and Alan Bates. Three weeks were spent by Charlie and Ron in filming, only for a few minutes to be shown on screen. However, the engine and its operators became stars. In 1968 Charlie became a founder member of the Dorset Steam and Historic Vehicle Club which in 1969 combined with Michael Oliver to put on a steam rally at Stourpaine that was eventually to develop into the Great Dorset Steam Fair. Charlie and Ron took part in the Steam Fair with the Burrell engine and threshing rig over a number of years until the ‘Duke of Windsor’ was sold. Charlie, looking for another challenge, acquired an Aveling and Porter Steam Roller which he restored to working order and named 'Charlie's Darling'. This was sold in 1996. Pearl was very supportive of his hobby – by no means a total 'steam widow’. He acquired 'Roller Man's' vintage caravan, which he refurbished so that she could accompany him, and they both enjoyed the 'Stourpaine experience' and other day shows in comfort. Regular in his attendance at the Steam Fair, he did the rounds, always prepared to share his wealth of knowledge and expertise. He was never without a project. More recently he totally rebuilt and modified a vehicle powered by an American ‘Mason' steam car engine. So, for over 50 years, Charlie was a 'steam man’.My old friend, yours has been a life lived to the full, with love abounding for Pearl and the family. During the last difficult year, your strength of character ever present, you expressed a wish to stow your hammock and so it was the Lord called you to muster. You lived life with good humour giving many a helping hand along the way. Your philosophy on life is perhaps summed up in this prayer, words couched in the vernacular - copied for me many years ago by Pearl using her calligraphy skills.Give us Lord a bit o'sun, a bit o'work and a bit o'fun.Give us, in all the struggle and sputter, our daily bread and a bit o'butter.Give us health, our keep to make and a bit o'spare for others’ sake;Give us too a bit o'song and a tale and a book to help us along.Give us Lord a chance to be our goodly best, brave, wise and free;Our goodly best for ourselves and others ‘til all men learn to live as brothers.Until we meet again - God Bless.
Charlie and ‘Duke of Windsor’ - 1988 Great Dorset Steam Fair
Charlie and Pearl in 2005
ADDENDUM - HMS Unicorn
HMS Unicorn was an aircraft repair ship and light aircraft carrier built for the Royal Navy in the late 1930s. She was completed during World War II and provided air cover over the amphibious landing at Salerno, Italy, in September 1943. The ship was transferred to the Eastern Fleet in the Indian Ocean at the end of the year. Unicorn supported the aircraft carriers of the fleet on their operations until the British Pacific Fleet (BPF) was formed in November 1944. She was transferred to Australia in early 1945 to support the BPF's operations during Operation Iceberg, the Allied invasion of Okinawa in May. To shorten the time required to replenish the BPF's carriers, the ship was based in the Admiralty Islands and in the Philippine Islands until the Japanese surrender in August. Unicorn was decommissioned and placed in reserve when she returned to the UK in January 1946.The ship was recommissioned in 1949 to support the light carrier of the Far East Fleet, as the Eastern Fleet had been redesignated after the end of World War II. She was unloading aircraft and equipment in Singapore in June 1950 when the Korean War began. She spent most of the war ferrying aircraft, troops, stores and equipment in support of Commonwealth operations in Korea. Unicorn supported other carriers during operations in Korea, but she became the only aircraft carrier to conduct a shore bombardment with her guns during wartime when she attacked North Korean observers on the coast during the war. The ship returned to the UK after the end of the war and was again placed in reserve. She was listed for disposal in 1958 and sold for scrap in 1959.