University of Oxford
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Frank Denham and The 5 Trosh Brothers

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posted on 2024-06-05, 19:09 authored by Their Finest Hour Project Team

Frank Denham was born in 1915, he was in the Territory Army in the Northumberland Hussars and was mobilised at the start of the war. The regiment went to Greece first and the Germans pushed them all the way through Greece into Crete where he was involved in heavy fighting. He was evacuated to "Libya in North Africa and while fighting in the desert, near a place called Knightsbridge that was surrounded by tanks he was captured, he was then taken to Italy where he went into a transit camp in June 1942 and then onto another camp and unlike the officers, the soldiers had to work and he worked on a farm."

In about September 1943, he was no longer detained by the Italians as a POW but was still "on the run from the Germans". The Italians gave him food and shelter and in early 1944 he went to Milan and was with the partisans and then on to Switzerland where he was then repatriated back to England. Frank spent about one year on the run from the Germans and as a consequence he was interviewed by MI9, (Military Intelligence) his son Trevor has these interview papers. In 1946 he was also awarded a medal for helping save a mother and her two children.

Another relative: "Robert Shirley, he was in the Merchant Navy. He was only 20 and he was on board the Hartlebury when it sailed on PQ 17. The ship was sunk and when the order was given from the admiralty for the Royal Navy ships to, well for the Royal Navy ships to leave the convoy to its fate really, because they thought the Tirpitz was going to come out. The Royal Navy left them basically unescorted and they were just picked off by U-boats and dive bombers. And unfortunately, my Uncle Robert, who obviously I never ever met, died on that convoy."

Trevor then talks of his wife's side of the family about the five Trosh Brothers from 5 Dacre Street, Laygate, South Shields who all were in the armed forces in World War 2: "Louis Albert, Harry, Matthew, Norman Valentine, and Gren all served at some capacity during the Second World War."

Harry Trosh was a driver carrying mortars up to his platoon near Caen in Normandy who is mentioned in a newspaper article entitled "Mortar Men Do The Trick", he had previously been in North Africa.

Louis had been in North Africa, "Mattie was in the Royal Navy, but I'm not sure of where he actually served but he was in the Royal Navy. Norman was in the Coldstream Guards, but he'd previously been in the Home Guard. He lied about his age to get in the Home Guard as well. And Gren was in the Home Guard as well and he too had lied about his age to get in, said he was a little bit older than he was."

Unfortunately, one of the brothers was killed: "Norman was killed in Belgium and I remember Gren told us that it really hit him hard he was close to Norman because they were close in age, whereas others were a little bit older". Also in 1943, the 5 Trosh brothers' father was killed in an accident in the shipyards.

Trevor comments that "it seems to be that there have been South Shields residents involved in really well-known things like the Graf Spee" where many merchantmen from South Shields were held captive including two captains, one of whom Captain Robison of the Newton Beech gained the OBE for his gallantry. The German tanker Altmark held 25 South Shields merchantmen when they were repatriated.

Trevor's final comments: "There was another one just quickly mention there I didn't know about, but there was a film that was, it's an old film called San Demetrio London and there were four guys from Shields on the San Demetrio!" The interviewer commented that his uncle was on the same convoy such was the large number of Merchant Navy personnel from South Shields.

Audio and transcription are attached.


Item list and details

1. Photo of the 5 Trosh Brothers. 2. MI9 (Military Intelligence) report for escapees 4 pages x8. 3. Photo of Alaramo Valario who assisted Frank Denham. 4. SS Hartlebury a ship on convoy PQ17.

Person the story/items relate to

Frank Denham and 5 Trosh Brothers

Person who shared the story/items

Trevor Denham

Relationship between the subject of the story and its contributor

Father and Father-in-laws family

Type of submission

Shared at Ocean Road Community Centre, Tyne and Wear on 18 November 2023. The event was organised by South Shields Local History Group.

Record ID

98138 | SSH029