Triumph were a major contributor to the war effort throughout two world wars and provided reliable machines for dispatch riders who were the mainstay of land based military communications during both conflicts (pigeon fanciers may have a view on this).
I have chosen to end the Real Triumph period at 14 November 1940 when the Luftwaffe put an end to the Coventry factory. I take their interest as a testament to the success of the Triumph marque.
I don’t know much about the first world war. My grandfather served throughout and his medals hang in my living room, but I didn’t know him well. I arrived a year after WWII ended and I have no first-hand experience of that war either, but I did feel it’s effect through my dad (his medals on the wall alongside his father’s). Not from things Dad said, more what he didn’t say and how he reacted to situations. Over the thirty odd years I knew him there were a few stories, little flashes from his memory that bubbled up to the surface or were drawn out by some incident or piece of news, but I think I could feel his history. I could sense what it was like to go through a war. I could feel the pain, the desolation at the waste and the regret of the loss of, perhaps, the best years of his life. The comradeship, heroism, humanity and decency of men was also in this soup, perhaps more of a a broth of boiled bones and human spirit.
As a Baby Boomer, I knew about bomb craters, ration books, temporary housing (if you could call it that), making do, growing your own and everything second-hand, or third or more. Eventually, I knew about council houses, education for the masses, orange juice and cod liver oil.
Dad’s been gone a long time now and I’m quite a bit older than he was when he left the planet, but l still carry a deep admiration for him and aspire to his morality. I believe he was a thoroughly decent man, courageous and tenacious. He seemed to face adversity all his life, deal with it with fortitude and celebrate the little rewards that came from his toil.
After rather a poor start in life, by the 1930’s Dad was starting to have quite a good time in. He worked as a professional ice skater, an occupation that gave him a good living and introduced him to the smart set. He’s in the centre of this group.
It was going quite well, until 11 am on 3 September 1939 when Herr Hitler had not provided Mr Chamberlain with the assurance he had demanded. Our government ordered a ban on the assembly of crowds; this included football matches and ice shows.
Dad, in 1939, on a Triumph 3SW?
As you can see, this is where motorcycles come into the story. I have a few photographs of Dad with a motorbike. I think the bike in the picture looks like a Triumph model 3SW or 5SW, that is, 350 or 500 cc single cylinder, side valve. This is probably the bike he travelled to France on in April 1940 for Operation Dynamo, A Short Trip to France.
The relative freedom of carrying dispatches suited him I think. There was a little less discipline to contend with than there would need to be in a company of soldiers and some room for initiative.