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​A World War II Memory - Sam & Glen Merrifield Part 9
 We continue with ``Brothers Two Dressed in Blue,’’ the recollections of Sam and Glen Merrifield who were stationed in Yorkshire, England with the Royal Canadian Air Force 405 Squadron of 4 Group, Bomber Command. In this installment, their good friend Stoney contributes to the story.

We enjoyed the ground when we got back onto it. I received a few anecdotes from Russ ``Stoney'' Stonehouse, an AEM, now a resident of Digby, N.S., in January 1981 and recount them here as they tell their own story.

A few more of Stoney's remembrances follow... As time went on the squadron continued to become a more seasoned unit and started to receive recognition. We then moved to Topcliffe, Yorkshire the peacetime drome. We were proud of this base because it was one of two bases of the RAF that Herman Goering visited in the early part of 1939.

We had converted to Halifax Bombers by then and the old squadron was really developing a name for itself. The thousand bomber raids on Cologne and Essen were history and the first Canadian Bomber Squadron was coming on strong. We were adopted by the City of Vancouver and I believe Len Fraser was our C.O. at that time. I remember being on the famous control tower duty one day and this Halifax Bomber taxied to runway position and took off. A great scurry from the control occurred and we were asked to find out who had taken off in the Halifax... Fraser's groundcrew reported that he had  forgotten his laundry at Barmby Moor and had to fly to Pocklington to pick it up. Typical 405 Commanding Officer.

In January 1989 I had a phone call from Jack Hart, 405 Squadron Armourer Sergeant who now lives in West Vancouver. He had found the brothers Merrifield name on the Association roster and was making contact. He remembered me being shot and remarked how lucky I was to be struck by an armor piercing bullet as all other types in the belt ( 4 out of 5 or so) would have mushroomed and I certainly would have been killed. It is strange to learn after more than 46 years that you were luckier than you knew.

Topcliffe as well as being a permanent base had the added attraction of a workmans train  that left in the late afternoon and proceeded through Harrogate down to Leeds. It left in the early hours of the morning and returned in time for both the workmen and the airmen to be to work on time . Early in the war the British had moved some 5000 young female clerical staff to Harrogate to get their Government Departments out of London. To say that the military descended on this city as a result was an understatement and our train was a very great asset. There was a problem as Harrogate had only one very small military hostel run by TOCH people and I have a memory of spending one night there, on the floor, sharing a blanket above and one below with two French Canadian WAGS from 425 Squadron Dishforth.

Another memory is entering the ballroom at the 425 Squadron Hotel and seeing a hall full of young lovelies and one solitary male. A British soldier. This was prior to the pubs being closed when most of the other males arrived. Being a non-drinker I got there early and  enjoyed changing partners every few steps in the ladies "Excuse me" dances. Harrogates problems with hostels could be overcome by continuing on down to Leeds and spending the evening on the town and then going to the Leeds railway station, purchasing your ticket back to Topcliffe Station. and convincing the station guards to let you go the spotted train and sleep in the cars until morning. This was not always possible and dozing sitting up in the first class station restaurant for six or seven hours was no fun but we were young and it beat staying in camp on your day off.

Stoney recalls the night we had a sneak raid on Topcliffe with the flare path on and two chaps at a dispersal point on the far side of the drome took shelter in the Bomb Dump. The lads who were permanently attached to one aircraft, such as Stoney, were often included in the crew parties and if a new commission was granted they joined in the new hat being kept filled with "half & half" at the local pub. Having received my corporal stripes at Topcliffe I was chosen to be the W/T NCO for a partial squadron move on October 25, 1942 to a drome in Southern England to help 18 Group Coastal Command with a problem for a couple of weeks. The aircrews flew down with their kit in their aircraft and a Harrow took we 


25 or 30 maintenance characters with our kits. Now we had all decided as kits were strictly limited, to take no razors and all grow beards.
The Harrow was a high wing fixed undercart, vintage aircraft and I remember it banked so slow coming in to land that we had to hold on to keep from falling off our seats.

This move was to Beaulieu airdrome in the middle of the New Forest between Bournemouth and Southampton. The drome had an RAF Squadron of American built Liberators which they could not keep in the air. The blokes had no experience for spares so guess it was an administrative goof. We must have proved satisfactory as the rest of the squadron arrived before the two weeks were up and we were sent back to get the rest of our kit. So no beards.
Our original Task was to patrol the Bay of Biscay during the convoys to the Oran Landings in North Africa to guard against the German subs.
Beaulieu was a nissen type drome but worse than that, it was only half built. No hangars, electricity only in the messes and none in the huts or ablutions. Mud

The Beaulieu Mud
 everywhere, if you stepped off the pavement it was bad and Sam slid into a ditch and had to remain there until a passerby helped him out.

When May Kearns joined our section as our driver, I do not recall but I do remember she was with us as early as Beaulieu if not earlier. The job done by the WAAF's and May in particular will always stand out in my mind. Our section Chiefie at this time was Tom Cranston and he was a benevolent task 0                                            master. He was a liberal and gracious with days off but only if the one's who stayed                                    behind worked harder to see the aircraft got the very best possible attention. Now                                    the section driver was a very important part of this routine and when we had male d                                 rivers I can recall many frustrating times, Tea time would be approaching and                                              much work remained to be done and the damn male driver would be wasting time p                                 phoning for a replacement, which was rarely available, for fear he missed his tea. N                                 How many of us had RAF drivers licenses, but once May took over, no one drove                                         "her" van, regardless of the hour, and replacements were needed only when May                                       went on leave. A vast improvement over the previous situation, Hats off to the                                             WAAF's (Women's Auxiliary Air Force).

May Kearn and her van.