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A World War II Memory - Rosalie Woodland




As the daughter and only child of Lt. Col. A. B. Cutcliffe, DSO, A.D.V.S., Canadian Corps, W. W. I. in France, I had grown up hearing stories of my Father's involvement in the Canadian Army. My Mother was a Belgian lady, whose home in Ypres had been demolished by the German army. Therefore, by the time Canada had declared war on Germany in September 1939, I was keen to do whatever I could to help.

When the Air Force began recruiting women, I put in an application. I could not see doing office work for the duration as I felt I would be doing that after the war was over, so I opted for Motor Transport. It seemed as though I would never be called on but finally the day came when a girlfriend (now deceased) and I reported to the Recruiting Centre in Hamilton, Ontario from our homes in Brantford, Ontario.

We were sworn in on January 22, 1942. We were to return there on February 6, 1942 for transport to the Airwomen's Manning Depot in Toronto. At that time we were known as the C.W.A.A.F. (Canadian Women's Auxilliary Air Force) but within days of our reporting, that was changed to RCAF (W.D.) --a proud day for us to be a part of the RCAF and not an Auxilliary. For the next four weeks, we were put through rather intensive training, which included Air Force Regulations, M. T. Training and "square bashing" plus all those lovely innoculations.

Then came "the Day", when our postings came through. With the odd exception, our Squadron was posted to #14 S.F.T.S., Aylmer, Ontario on March 8, 1942. Three buses were used to take us there from Toronto but our bus broke down at Sunnyside, fortunately right at a doughnut shop. When the replacement bus arrived, after what seemed to be hours but likely only one hour, we were boarded again. Then our driver made an announcement that he had no idea where Aylmer was and had been following the other buses. My girlfriend and I happened to know where it was and volunteered to show him. When he found out we were M.T. drivers, his comment was "I think you picked the right job." We arrived at the outskirts of Aylmer and directed the driver down a side road towards the station. He was sure we were not on the correct road, but when we pointed to the planes taking off and landing not too far away, he had to agree that we were right.

The rest of the Squadron was in the Corporals' Mess waiting for us to arrive. After a very nice welcome from the C.O. Wing Commander (later Group Captain) G. N. Irwin, we had lunch which included ice cream (an extra messing treat) paid for by the Corporals to welcome us. Afterwards we were taken to the W.D. barracks, an H-shaped building. We had arrived at last. The rest of the day and evening was spent in unpacking our kit bags, making sure uniforms were pressed, buttons and shoes polished for the next day -- then lights out.

Our barracks was close to the Mess Hall and after breakfast, the six of us who were M. T. 's decided to report to the M.T. Section together. This took a lot of courage as we had no idea what to expect from the airmen of the Section. I think that almost all of them were there to greet us, and made us welcome. We were detailed to a vehicle each -- to look after and drive wherever it might be needed. My friend who was an experienced office worker, was made despatcher. I was given the C.O's car to drive - a black Ford. This meant it had to be kept clean as the black showed every bit of dirt. It also meant that I spent more time in the drivers' room, waiting to be called. G/C Irwin, a W.W.I pilot had his own little plane and car on the Station, so I did not have many runs.

Not long after my arrival at Aylmer, I ended up with the mumps and was sent to the hospital at RCAF Station T.T.S. (Technical Training School) in St. Thomas. When I returned to Aylmer, I found out that the C.O. had decided to drive himself on the station and I no longer drove him on the Station. I was made spare driver, being given whatever vehicle was available without a driver. I drove our two station wagons, a panel truck and a pick-up truck. Then one day our Sergeant took me out on a test run with one of the stake trucks. I must have passed, because he told me that I would now be on the freight run daily.

This was great news as I now had a vehicle to look after and best of all, it meant being off the station daily. On one run I had to take the cabover-engine (COE) truck and a trailer into town to pick up four crates of motors for some Hampdens, which were stored at the Station. The same sergeant sometime later told me to go down to the 'drome with one of the male drivers in a refuelling tender (gas truck) and he would show me how to operate it.' A bit of panic set in but I went -- orders were orders. After refuelling two or three planes (Harvards), I was on my own. From that day until mid-October 1943, I was driving down on the 'drome at No. 2 hangar and loving it. Sometime after I started this job, with airmen being posted out, eventually the other two hangars had W.D.'s driving the refuelling tenders . I had a great group of ground crew to work with at that hangar.

In October 1943, my overseas posting came through as well as one for the W.D. driver at No. 3 hangar. We were posted to Halifax after embarkation leave, spent about a week there, then sailed on the liner Mauretania, November 24 , 1943 for England. We landed at Liverpool on December 1, 1943 and travelled by train to Bournemouth. arriving on the morning of December 2, 1943. I don't think I was ever so cold before or after that first day, finding out that it was the dampness which made it feel so cold. There were roses blooming in a park, so we said that if the roses could survive, so could we.

From Bournemouth, we were sent north to No. 6 RCAF Bomber Group Headquarters at Allerton Park, in Yorkshire on the 15th of December 1943. After a driver's test on a very small Bantam truck, we were given Hillman cars to drive. As M.T.'s at 6 Group Headquarters we drove the senior officers of all sections to the various stations of 6 Group, plus other stations. I even had a run to Bomber Command Headquarters, outside London at High Wycombe.

One day I had a run to Linton-on-Ouse and upon arrival there found out from the Service Police that I had driven over an unexploded bomb under the village street, which should have been barricaded off but wasn't. Another run I have always remembered was my first one to our station at Eastmoor. When we first arrived at 6 Group Headquarters we were sent out with drivers who had been there for a while and knew how to get to the stations, there being no road signs in England during the war in case of invasion by the enemy and the local people were told not to give out directions just in case it was an enemy agent in our uniform. It was a foggy day, no other driver available, so I was detailed to pick up a Sergeant at Station Headquarters at Linton-on-Ouse and take him to Eastmoor. Apparently he knew the way to Eastmoor but I didn't. As ! had been to Linton, that was no problem. It was a very quiet ride from Linton to Eastmoor as I tried to memorize every turn, reminding myself I would have to reverse them coming back. I did make it back and had no trouble getting to Eastmoor from then on many times afterwards.

Another run that I shall not forget was to Middleton-St. George, the northernmost of our stations, at noon hour to pick up two officers from the London office of the Advocate-General. They had been there for a Court-Martial and were heading back to London from York on the 2 o'clock train. Our legal officer was to accompany them and after they caught the train in York, I was to return to Group with him. Time seemed to be hurrying by but the two from London were not. Finally, we started for York and I drove as fast as I could with the car governed at 40 MPH. York was just coming into sight, when there was a loud bang from the rear of the car, a Humber station wagon. I thought that a tire had blown and finally managed to stop. When we got out, to my horror I found that a wheel had snapped off. It was now very close to 2 o'clock - train departure time! The two officers from London were quite shaky but didn't seem to realize that we were not going to make it into York. Luck was with me when a van from Group came along. The two were bundled in to it and the driver told to get them to the station by 2 o'clock. As it was wartime, thank goodness, trains were very seldom on time and they did get there in time to catch the last train of the day to London. Meanwhile, the officer from Group and I went on a hunt for the missing wheel, which we found in a field. About that time a local lorry driver that some of us had met at one of the local pubs came along so I asked our officer to go with him and let the MT section know what had happened and where I was. He was most reluctant to leave me there alone but I finally did convince him that I would be alright and if he went back to Group he could get help while I stayed with the car. It seemed hours before help arrived but they had had to go to Linton to pick up another axle with wheel attached to repair our wagon.

The rest of the time, one might say was routine more-or-less. I was repatriated home on May 13, 1945 and received my discharge on June 29, 1945 having served 3 years, 158 days with the best service - the RCAF (W.D.).

I still hear from two surviving W.D's from 6 Group - one in Prince Albert, Sask . and one in Sherbrooke, P.Q. Not many of us left now. I met my husband, Arthur Woodland at 6 Group and we were married there in February 1945. He passed away in 1998.

There are so many stories that could be told of those days, the characters we met, the places we were sent to and the many sights we saw as well as all the good friends we made. Some have left us but I am still in touch with a few after all these years. There were a lot of laughs and there were some tears but I would not have missed my three years as a WD MT driver.

LAW Rosalie B. Woodland
Nee R.B. Cutliffe
Brantford Ontario

 LACW (Leading Aircraftwoman) Rosalie Woodland submitted this account of her time in the Royal Canadaian  Air Force to the CATP Museum in 2001.  She died on January 31 2017 in her 97th year. She was the beloved wife of the late Arthur Woodland and mother of Paul (Blossom), Eric (Barb) and Ann Woodland. She was predeceased by her friend John Wright.