Wolseley’s ten at #1 Wireless School summer 1940. Front to back – Jack Diller, George McIver, Harry Tensdale, Wilson Tiller, Norman Hancock, George Crossley, Sam Merrifield, Glen Merifield, Jerry Pugh, Spencer Hollowell.
Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum
Canada 150 Vignette – 048 of 150
British Commonwealth Air Training Plan
A World War II Memory - Sam & Glen Merrifield
March 30, 1940 – train stop at Welseley enroutd to Toronto, lower step Jack Fuller, George McIver, mid step Sam Merrifield, top step Glen Merrifield.
Glen is the typist and will from time to time add or express another opinion and here is the first one. Taking our medical for our induction it was discovered that Sam & I were Red Green color blind and the Medical Sergeant informed us that we could not join the Air force and left the room to report this to higher authority. He returned and gruffly told his assistant to "Put them through". This puzzled us as the rule was firm in those early days but not long after we arrived in Toronto we learned that Rev. Stewart had been called up and was the C/0 of the Recruiting depot. The affliction while common is not serious and as long as we did not take flare duty where we would have needed to distinguish very pistol flares it presented no problem. On leaving the recruiting depot, we were all given envelopes containing our records and on the outside of the envelope was typed Re: AC2 Samuel S. Merrifield in my case and in the case of all the others except Glen who was designated AC3. AC2 was the short form of Aircraftsman Second Class and there was some concern that Glen was an Aircraftsman Third Class. Once we arrived in Toronto, we learned there was no such thing as AC3 and that it had obviously been a typing
The memories of ; Sam Merrifield and Glen "Red" Merrifield assisted by Russ "Stoney" Stonehouse.
The wonder of these stories is not that they are badly organized and poorly written, the wonder is that they are recorded at all. For any errors or ommdssions we ask to be forgiven. We can only claim elderly faulty memories as our defense. The Hometown flavor indicates for whom the writing was intended.
ROYAL CANADIAN AIR FORCE
When the second World War broke out, my brother Glen and I were working with our father in the neighboring town of Qu'Apple (Saskatchewan) where he was relocating a house on a corner lot so that a service station could be built next to the two intersecting roads. One evening, we were sitting around when we were joined by two of the local young men who had been to Regina that day and had attempted to join the army and were rejected.Their assessment of the situation was that a person had to have political pull to be accepted into the army. With that in mind and before the year end, we learned that our next door neighbor, the local Anglican Minister, M.P. Malcolm Stewart was giving classes in wireless telegraphy to prepare candidates as wireless operators for the air force which trade he had held in the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Air Force during the First World War.
He agreed that we could join his class and we therefore spent the rest of the winter learning how to send and receive Morse Code. Sometime about the first of March 1940, we attended at the Regina Barracks of the Signal Corps of the Army where we took a trade test which we passed handily.
Mr Stewart was a personal friend of Wing Commander Cyril Malone the top ranking Air force Officer in Regina and in charge of all Air force recruiting. Once the Federal Election was over in mid-March, recruiting commenced in earnest with the result that we were inducted into the air force on March 29, 1940 and left for Toronto Manning Depot next morning. We spent the 30th and 31st days of March on the train between Regina and Toronto where we arrived on April 1st. There were five of us going from Wolseley on that train, being Jack Duller, Norman Hancock, George Mciver, Glen and myself and while we still retained our names, we would from that time on also be identified by our numbers which were respectively R6**** thru R6**** mine being the last and Glen's being R6****.
The train we were on stopped for a brief period in Wolseley and almost the entire town was at the station to greet us as we passed through. All manner of cakes, cookies and other goodies were shoveled on to the train for us as well as two wrist watches for Glen and I as presents from our Dad. Probably the only two available in town.
bed to dry and promptly had it swiped. We all fell prey to numerous photographers hovering around trying to convince us to have our pictures taken in our uniforms. We were reasonably proud and all availed ourselves of their services, for a price, of course. The one other thing that sticks in my mind was the fact that the YMCA operated the canteen and a cup of coffee was ten cents as was doughnuts whereas the Salvation Army had a place on the grounds where both a doughnut and coffee could be purchased for a nickel.
Once we were allowed off the base into the city. We visited the numerous movie houses and in particular the one which had strip tease skits, the Casino I believe it was called. About half way through our stay in Toronto there was a call for
error. It did, however cause some concern for a period of time.
We were taken in Motor Vehicles from the railroad station to the Canadian National Exhibition grounds where we were allocated bunks in the cow barns. On the first day we were given our uniforms and regulation kit including all necessary toilet articles except shaving cream and tooth paste which we were expected to purchase with our daily stipend of $1.55 a day. Because we had taken a trade test we were inducted as "C" group tradesmen which gave us 25 cents extra a day. We were also given large cardboard cartons into which we placed all our civilian clothing and had them addressed to be sent home to our families.
We stayed in Toronto until the 27th of April learning to march and do necessary drills and nothing much of note happened during that period. I do recall that I left one of my towels on the end of my
volunteers to work in the Post Office and I stepped out and was accepted. From that time on I did no more marching nor drills and spent my time sorting and giving out mail. As a result of this I never received rifle drill.
Glen's memory recalls being on KP every weekend in Toronto so we never got to see Niagara Falls or other places we Westerners had heard so much about.
Finally on the morning of April 27th we were taken to the railway depot and put on the train for Montreal where No.1 Wireless School was located. When we arrived we were taken to the school which was housed in a building that had been an Institute for the blind operated by some order of nuns. There were then four more Wolseley boys at the school being Wilson Tiller, a regular force member, and George Crossley, Harry Teasdale and Spencer Hollowell, all of whom had been trained by Rev. Stewart and were members of the first entry into the school with us being the second entry. At that time there was only a field out behind the building but within a very few weeks, the heavy equipment came and prepared a proper parade ground. The station was then commanded by a Wing Commander Buck but he was shortly replaced by Group Captain Scott.
Apart from the daily morning parade, and a physical training session twice or three times a week, our time was spent in the classrooms learning radio circuitry and improving our abilities to
send and receive Morse code both orally and visually. We were free Saturday afternoons and Sundays, except for those Sundays when we were obliged to go on Church Parade when the service was either Church of England for the Protestants or Roman Catholic. What Jewish boys did, I don't recall.
The school was on Queen Mary Road just west of a boys school which was immediately across the street from St. Joseph's Oratory. At the end of the block the road ran into Cote des Neiges which wound around the mountain to downtown Montreal and it was only a ten minute street car ride to Sherbrooke and Guy Streets.
Shortly after our arrival in Montreal, Norman Hancock was found to have a hernia which resulted in him having an operation and his stay in the hospital meant that he had to await the third entry to complete his training and we more or less lost track of him. He had become acquainted with Dick Lewington who remained in our class and became very friendly with us. Dick came to Canada from England as a boy in his late teens and when he joined the air force he had been working for a restaurant owner in Athens Ontario, just north of Brockville, which was close enough to Montreal to permit him to motor home occasional weekends. He owned his own car which he kept in Montreal and on a number of his trips to Athens he took us with him.
He was heavily involved with a girl, Thelma McEvoy, who lived with her parents on a nearby farm and we spent the night with them there. We would leave Montreal just after noon on Saturday and be back in time to check in just before midnight on Sunday which was the latest check in time allowable without being charged for being late.
On another occasion we took a trip to Ottawa and visited some friends of Dick's and our Aunt Queenie and Uncle Guy. I also became friendly with a classmate named Dick Schnider who
had an Aunt and Uncle who lived a few blocks away in Westmount and we had several outings to their place or elsewhere with them as well as a couple of nights on the town with their daughter and her fiancé and other friends.
We were being trained as Wireless Operators Ground as opposed to Wireless Air Gunners who would ultimately be members of the aircrews and as such had minimal training in radio circuitry . Shortly after we arrived, the first of the aircrew trainees began to come and in one of the first contingents was Jerry Pugh. a lad with whom we grew up in Wolseley, until he moved away in his early teens, As children we were always sorry for him because his parents insisted that he take piano lessons which meant he had to practice the piano instead of being able to come out to play. By the time he came to Montreal, he was proficient in playing the piano which resulted in many happy hours with him providing the music. Two of his and our favorites were "Sunrise Serenade'' and "Lovers Lullaby" which he played almost as well as Frankie Carle, the composer.
When he arrived there were ten boys from Wolseley at the Wireless School at the same time being Wilson Tiller, Spencer Hollowell, George Crossley, Harry Teasdale, Norman Hancock, George Mciver, Jack Duller, Gerry Pugh, Glen and myself. On one occasion a snapshot of the ten of us was taken and was recently printed for posterity in the history book of Wolseley,published some five or six years ago. Shortly after we left, two more Wolseley boys arrived being David Stutters and Garnet Warner. Another Wolseley boy, Bill Lemke, attended that school as well as some who became aircrew as wireless air gunners, of whom our cousin, Lloyd Brown was one.
Because we had some training and had taken a trade test before joining the air force, we were promoted to the rank of Aircraftsrnan 1st Class which gave us an additional ten cents a day which brought our daily pay to $1.65. This was no small consideration at a time when cigarettes were a penny apiece and a glass of beer was a dime. We did not drink but it gave us that much more for other things.
We became familiar with the area from making route marches along the nearby streets, avenues and boulevards. These would last a couple of hours and would be seven or eight miles in all. The only time I can recall having a band was during a parade along Sherbrooke Street on the evening of July 1st when members of several armed forces units participated in celebrating Canada Day.
We were in Montreal when Italy carne into the war on the side of the Germans on June lOth 1940 and a few of us jumped into Dick Lewington's car and headed for the Italian area of the city. Just what we were going to do to show our displeasure, I do not know at this late date but in any event, we either got lost or thought better of it so nothing ever carne of it and we likely finished off in the canteen at the school.
Glen here . .. I have two recollections of #1 W.T.S., one was the food which was our first sustained bash at institutional grub and we did not think it was too good. After over four years on smaller rations overseas it does not now seem so bad. The other was a concert given us by Gracie Fields and I shall never forget the evening she sang for over two hours with her very wonderful voice.
At or about the middle of September, our course was completed and one morning all the members in the entry were paraded in one of the halls where we were informed that there was a request for fifty men to volunteer for overseas duty, Glen, Jack Duller and myself stepped forward, I believe George Mciver also offered to go but was rejected because he was of the entry who had been singled out for special training as an Instructor. I have no idea what rank was given to those staying in Canada but those of us going overseas were promoted to Leading Aircraftsmen "B" Group which brought our pay up to two dollars a day.
We were all given new uniforms but had to surrender our Khaki summer uniforms which were not used in England .Glen again.. . . We were told we would get our second uniform when we got overseas. Well the RAF could not understand how we who came from the land of plenty would be so poorly outfitted. Needless to say it was many months before we got the second one but working in an office setting at Station HQ made things acceptable.
Sam and Glen Merrifield’s memoir is a substantial book with 78 pages written in March of 1989 and submitted to the Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum in 2000. This vignette recounts the first eight pages. We intend to review the rest of their submission and hopefully provide future vignettes on the further adventures of the Merrifield brothers.
DRESSED IN BLUE
IN WORLD WAR TWO