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A World War II Memory - Glen and Sam Merrifield Part 15

In this final installment of ``Brothers Two, Dressed in Blue, In World War II’’ Glen Merrifield recounts his, and brother Sam’s, final days with 405 Squadron in England, their trip home to Canada and final days in the RCAF. He also discusses the achievement and honours earned by his Pathfinder Squadron.

In 1944 we were once again offered a return to Canada which for the earlier stated reasons we declined. The pressure was greater now however because the Commonwealth Air Training Program was winding down. Would career RCAF types who had spent the war fighting the Battle of Brandon or similar battles felt they needed some overseas time to give them a chance to remain in the service. To make a place for them someone needed to come home. The bait they offered was to go home, get an early release which is available, and get into University ahead of the crowd. After a pep talk by the Engineering Officer we felt this was too good to pass up so we accepted.
Leaving the squadron was not easy and while our service in Canada thereafter was short and the food and housing was superior, nearly everything else does not bear remembering. Because our war really ended with the parting from the squadron let me tell you what it meant to me. I was very fortunate to be associated with 405 Squadron. I consider it a high honor and a great privilege to have served with so many fine people. Paramount among those were our aircrews, whose fine record placed them first among all Canadian Squadrons in the Second World War. Because I was not part of the flying duties I feel free to boast about the exploits of my fellow squadron members who were.
Our squadron awards as listed in the book "RCAF" by Kostenuk and Griffin are; 9 DSOs (Distinguished Service Order),  24 bars to DFC (Distinguished Flying Cross), 161 DFCs, 38 DFMs (Distinguished Flying Medal) 1 CGM (Conspicuous Gallantry Medal), 2 BEMs (British Empire Medal), 11 Mid (Mention in Dispatches). Our Battle Honours are; Fortress Europe 1941-1944, France and Germany 1944- 1945, Biscay Ports 1941-1945, Ruhr 1941-1945, Berlin 1941; 1943 - 1944, German Ports 1941-1945, Normandy 1944, Walcheren Rhine, Biscay 1942- 1943. That's eight, the maximum allowed on a Battle Honors Flag.

The Bomber War Diaries on page 763, states under POINTS OF INTEREST: First Canadian squadron in Bomber Command and the only Canadian Pathfinder squadron, carried out more bombing raids than any other Canadian Squadron. Carried out most Wellington bombing raids in 4 Group. Carried out an unusually high proportion of bombing raids throughout its career and suffered heavy causalities the only long-serving heavy squadron not to have flown any mine laying operations. The 9 DSOs will take their rightful place when I state that Canada had 46 squadrons overseas in WW2 and they won 44 DSOs in total .. two other squadrons won 4, less than half our number. Canada's 16 single engine fighter squadrons won four between them. This glory did not come without a fearful price. The same book shows an operational loss of 167 aircraft. More than nine times our full squadron compliment of 18 aircraft.
We sold our civvies, packed our kits, said our goodbyes and took the train to Houghton Green on November 15, 1944. There we met several of the group of 50 who had gone overseas with us in 1940 . Jack Duller our Wolseley pal among them . We were sent on to Damhead on November 22 and boarded the "Aquitania" to sail from Liverpool to New York on November 25. Our trip back across the Atlantic was slow because the ship was being sent to the USA to have a bent propeller shaft repaired. We sailed by ourselves, out of convoy, because the U-boat threat was nearly over at that point of the war. The word 'nearly' caused us some concern but the dispatcher knew his business and we landed in New York on December 4, 1944.
My memory of food has stayed with me and I have often stated that my first meal on the  Aquitania as the best of my life . It was far from fancy but we could have ALL WE WANTED, of wieners, white bread, butter, jam, sugar and ketchup. After four years and two months of disciplined eating it was a highlight.
We entrained in New York for Ottawa where we arrived at Rockcliffe on December 12. Our father was in Ottawa and came to Rockcliffe to pick us up. The next day Jack proceeded on to Vancouver where his family had moved during his time overseas. Sam and I remained in Ottawa with Dad through Xmas and took the train to Wolseley, our Saskatchewan hometown, for New Years. The Citizens Committee who had sent us parcels all through the war were planning a homecoming, which they gave all vets, and we gave them mid-January as a date to plan towards. We proceeded out to the west coast and visited relatives in Nanaimo. When we met Jack Duller in Vancouver he informed us he had a telegram asking us to remain at the west coast and report to Jericho Beach Station. This spoiled the Wolseley plans so we somehow lost the telegram and entrained back to Rockcliffe where we arrived on January 13, 1945, our month's repatriation leave at an end. The repat depot had been moved to Lachine so we carried on and arrived there on January 15.
They gave us tickets back to Jericho Beach and we headed west, stopping in Wolseley for a couple of days to enjoy our "Homecoming". It was quite a "do". A sit down dinner for most of the town, followed by a dance with speeches by the local MP, MLA, and Mayor, and a letter of thanks for our service. This committee planned to buy all the returning vets a gold commemorative ring but we declined and asked them to give their substantial surplus funds to a worthy charity. I cannot speak too highly of the support this town gave its service members. Our local cenotaph lists 16 names from the Second World War, More than ten times the Canadian average. In a small community where everyone knows everyone else by name and family these losses are very personal.
We proceeded on out to the coast to Jericho Beach and were put on charge for being two days overdue. The first and only charge of the war over something that would have rated no more than a blast from your chiefie overseas. We attempted to pursue the early release promise and found it fell on deaf ears. We were reminded to be sure and observe the "attention zones" etc., etc. and we were kicking ourselves for coming home when we learned our friend Rev. Stewart still in the Air Force, was living in Vancouver. We looked him up in the phone book and found him listed under Wing Commander Stewart, and he invited us to his home for Sunday dinner. We explained our problem to him and his position ensured our release which took place for Jack and I on February 21, 1945 and Sam on the 22nd his records arriving later than ours. Our service ended with my still being the senior in military terms, (I had joined ten minutes earlier) and Sam being the longer serving by one day.
In 1970 my wife Eve and I attended the Battle Flag presentation at CFB Greenwood N.S... My list of attendees from that reunion allowed me to raise funds and have our squadron crest placed in St Clement Danes Church the following year. Many of us got together in 1980 in Toronto for the 40th Anniversary Reunion of the Battle of Britain. Sam and I attended the Allied Airforces Reunion in Toronto in October 1987 which featured 405 Squadron.
As I write these closing lines my second wife Rose and I are a little over a month away from leaving for the UK to attend the Memorial Window Presentation at Gransden Lodge. I salute any who have the patience to read through to this point. May your life be filled with as many pleasurable memories as mine has been.
Glen Merrifiefd
March 18, 1989
Medals and Honours

Distinguished Service Order – awarded to members of the armed forces who gave ``Distinguished services during active operations against the enemy’’ Over 15,000 awarded since September 1886, from Queen Victoria’s reign to the present, Britain and all Commonwealth Nations, generally awarded to senior officers (Major and above) but sometimes given to junior officers.

Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) – awarded  to British Commonwealth and allied forces for ``exemplary gallantry during active operations against the enemy in the air,’’ established in June 1918 under the reign of King George V, 32,844 awarded to the present day.

Distinguished Flying Medal (DFM) – awarded to British, Commonwealth and allied forces for below the commissioned rank, for ``exceptional valour, courage or dedication to duty whilst flying in active operations against the enemy, initiated under reign of King George V, discontinued in 1993.

Conspicuous Gallantry Medal (CGM) – awarded to British, Commonwealth and allied forces for ``gallantry at sea or in the air, for ranks below commissioned ranks, discontinued in 1993, established in July 1874, Queen Victoria’s reign, 359 awarded.

British Empire Medal – awarded for meritorious service or military service worthy of recognition by the Crown, established in 1922 to current day, 2015 awarded.
Mention in Dispatches – awarded as an official report written by a superior officer and sent to the high command, in which gallant or meritorious action in the face of the enemy is described. May or may not be associated with the award of a medal.