Joseph Taylor Dinnis, my grandfather, fought in both World Wars. He didn’t come home after the end of World War 2. He didn’t die or anything. He just didn’t return home to his family. It is difficult to write about this without putting one’s own opinion forward. The truth is that I have no idea why, so all I can do is look at what memories and evidence we have in our family and try to see the man he became.
Thankfully in our family we have some first-hand memories, thanks to the effort my Auntie Nancy went to in order to maintain a relationship with her father. This meant my cousin Sue remembers her (our) granddad fondly. Joseph married Annie in 1915, they had four children, Jack, Nancy, Gordon (my father) and Ron.
Nancy, Gordon and Ron all married in the years after the war, but their father, Joseph was at none of their weddings. I didn’t know I had a granddad until he died. But Nancy made the effort to keep a relationship going with her father, and when her first child (Sue) was born, he was invited along for a family day at Nancy’s home.
This is the only photograph I have of Dad with his father that was taken after WW2. In all probability it was the only time they were together in the same place after the war. It’s good to see everyone made the effort, Nancy’s husband Bert and her brother Jack were also there.
Sue has a collection of family letters written from Joseph to his daughter Nancy over the next few years, and it’s obvious he was very attached to his grandchildren. He called them his cherubs, Susan and Ian. He visited often, and wrote thanking Nancy for the wonderful time he had shared with her family.
From these letters we can see Joseph moved around a lot. The addresses are from places such as Horsham and Worthing in West Sussex. Not far from Brighton, but his wife Annie had a job keeping tabs on him. He worked as a fishmonger, the trade he had learnt as a young man. Here he is at work.
Nancy kept the relationship going with her father, and between her parents, as she invited them both on family outings.
He wrote to Nancy some time after this outing.
“Horsham Tuesday night.
My dearest Nancy, Bert and playmates,
A line to let you know I arrived home safely and in good time. I was so very pleased to see you all looking so well, and of course the youngsters are really a picture of health and energy. Nancy dear I do want to thank you both for a wonderful weekend – as always I was extremely happy every moment and the glorious weather made it perfect.
I enjoyed the visit to the park and I have thought of you all very much today. I expect after all your exertions you are both a bit stiff today, no need to ask where the children get their energy from, it’s born in them. I think you have done a grand job in your selection of Susan’s school outfit, and she really looks perfect. Everything fits and suits her splendidly. I wonder if you have been washing today, an ideal day for airing and drying but damned hot work!
Bert, as expected has made a splendid job of your drawing, sitting room, I wish I had half his ability. He met me and saw me off safely, a good pal is Bert and I admire him so much. Nothing is a trouble and always so delighted to welcome one. I am so grateful to you both for everything. Keep smiling, I do hope you will soon get your anxiety over and feel very fit and relieved in due time.
All the best darling – my fondest love and grateful thanks, the best of luck and a big kiss for my little pals. God bless you all. A very hot day here again, Cheerio love, Dad “
My Dearest Susan and Ian,
This is just a few more lines to wish you both a very Happy Easter with the very best of health as well. I have been out for a nice walk along the seafront this morning, I was out early 9.30 and it was a lovely morning but I am sorry to say it now rather overcast with a sea mist rising.
I am anxiously looking forward to seeing you on Easter Monday. Last time I came you were both at school. I do hope you are enjoying your holiday and that the weather will continue fine for you. I hope you will like my card for you know I am always thinking of you and loving you very much. So until Monday I will say Cheerio, and tweet tweet to Jimmy. My fondest love and God Bless you both, lots of love Granddad.
I am so sad to say that Joseph never made it to visit his precious family on Easter Monday. He died at Shoreham Rail Station on his way over, and never enjoyed the day with his grandchildren. He suffered a heart attack and was pronounced dead on arrival at Southlands Hospital, Shoreham by Sea on the 19th of April 1965.