I grew up knowing Archibald Trill as The Man From The Pru. When I met him recently at his Marley Road address and learned he was 95 I was more than surprised, he looked almost exactly as I remembered him way back in the sixties.
He had another surprise for me to. He told me he had been a great friend of my father and attended my christening in Rye Church back in 1938!
Archie Trill was born at Ramsgate in 1906 and still has a vivid memory of standing on top of the cliffs there with his Father watching a large coaster sinking after coming aground on the Goodwin Sands.
The family moved to South London and he attended Croydon Elementary School and later Stanley Technical College South Norwood. The First World War raged during most of his secondary schooling and he remembers seeing the remains of the first house in Croydon to be hit by a 50lb. bomb dropped from a Zeppelin. It completely destroyed the house.
He Watched as the Zeppelin Blazed
Later he was witness to a very historic event. He watched as a Zeppelin was caught in the searchlights and watched in amazement as an incendiary bomb, dropped from an English aircraft piloted by Flt. Lieutenant Robbinson flying above the Zeppelin set the German raider afire. He watched as the fire engulfed the entire airship and it came tumbling out of the sky. This was the very first Zeppelin that had been destroyed on a raid over London. The guns could not reach high enough to hit them and it was almost impossible for an aircraft to find them in the dark and attain an altitude high enough to get at them. This incident heartened the Londoners who had been suffering the bombs dropped by these high flying craft and put fear into the hearts of the crews of other Zeppelins, knowing their days of immunity were over.
He completed his schooling in 1920, two years after the Great War ended. Bearing in mind his qualifications he started in a career in engineering, working at a Garage. He soon discovered that the man he wanted to emulate, the Master Fitter, was earning only £3 per week. Young Archie could see no future in this and decided to go and work for his dad, Bertram Trill, delivering groceries from his South Croydon shop.
During this time he was approached by one of their more wealthy customers and asked if he wanted a job as his office boy. Archie had been trained as an engineer and did not fancy office work. He later learned that the Gentleman who offered the job was none less than Mr. Walker, Managing Director of the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway.
Could Have Been With The BBC
He let another fine opportunity slip by when he won a major prize in an early radio competition sponsored by Marconi. His prize was a day out in the brand new studios (radio had only recently been invented, these were in the days before the B.B.C. was formed) He was introduced to all the radio stars of the day including announcer Aurther Burrows, Autie Sophie, Rex Palmer etc. He was offered a job in this infant radio project that later was to become the BBC Again he refused as he “Did not want to do office work, he was a trained engineer” Another opportunity lost.