Veteran Stories:
Eric Roy Merkley

Army

  • Eric Merkley during the Occupation of Germany, when he was charged with patrolling the grounds of the Canadian Hospital, 1945.

    Eric Merkley
  • Eric Merkley (right) with his brother Ralph who was a Wireless Air Gunner (WAG) with Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF).

    Eric Merkley
  • Rubble left behind after fighting in Caen, France.

    Eric Merkley
  • Training as a Stretcher Bearer in Peterborough, Ontario, 1943.

    Eric Merkley
  • Eric Merkley's Soldier's Service and Pay Book issued in 1943.

    Eric Merkley
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"And you always put the grave next to the road so that they can dig them up later on and put them in a proper grave."

Transcript

We [17th Field Ambulance, Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps] got up near to Caen, which is big city there. Where we were there, we were in a field, but we could see the city of Caen over the skyline. They sent the [Avro] Lancaster [heavy] bombers over to bomb it before they were going to attack, like the next day. And we seen all that and watched it all. And in the middle of the bombing, there was one plane that just out of nowhere, it just went up in the air and flipped over and come down and you could hear the bombs falling; I guess the crew and everything was killed. And we found out later that it was, our postmaster was a chap from down around Windsor [Ontario] and it was his son that was killed in that crash. He got a message the next day. In Caen now, they brought in some wounded when they took off, when they’re starting their new, like attack, they brought quite a few wounded in there. And they brought in, and three of them died before they even got there. I had to bury them with… My friend; and I, we had to dig their graves and bury them, and handing over the dog tags to the officers. But you had to wrap them in a blanket and sew the blanket up, and then go and dig a grave and put them in it. And then mark the grave so they knew. And you always put the grave next to the road so that they can dig them up later on and put them in a proper grave. Next thing I know, we were way up into Holland. But we were only there one night and then we moved back to Belgium, in Bruges. And there, we were done some like light training and that to kind of build us up because we hadn’t done much up to then. And we were getting ready for to help them go over in Holland there, to the Scheldt Estuary; and we were there for a couple of days. They wanted somebody to go back on the next boat. And they were going to take all the wounded and lay them out on the deck of the boat; and they wanted somebody to go with them because they had to cross the water and go over back to Belgium. We had a whole boatload of guys on stretchers laying all on the deck; and we went across there and a storm come up; and you could see when you went down in the swell, you could see the waves. I mean, one wave would have swamped us in a minute if it ever come overtop. But one wave did come over and splashed, but it couldn’t have been that big or we would have gone down. That upset all the guys on the stretchers, they were hollering and screaming. I stood out on the deck and I talked to them all the way from there until we landed in Belgium. I don’t know how many hours it was. But on the front of the boat, there was a little light, but the captain and everything’ s at the back of the boat, so he has to have this light to see where the front of the boat is. And I kept telling them, well, I can see the lights of the harbour and all that. And I guess it helped because they never had any more problems. But every time the captain used to have to swing the boat to get things lined up where you’re going and you’d hear the wave would hit the front of the boat, and you could just feel it buckle. Yeah, just from the pressure. But they’re just flat bottom boats, there was nothing to them. And we landed in Belgium there, oh, about 5:00 in the morning, it was still dark. But they had the ambulances and everything there; and they cleared all the guys away and yeah; and they took us back to our unit where we were stationed at Belgium. The day the war ended? I had arranged with my brother to meet him in London when the war ended; and I had a leave. I went to London and I went, and he told me the hotel he’d be staying at and it was right in Piccadilly Circus. So I went to the hotel and he hadn’t checked in. So I left the hotel and I come out, and I was just walking around the corner and he was walking up the street. So I met him. So we got together and we went to, there was a Chinese restaurant just toward the way; and we went there and had a lunch. And then we had our picture taken and we sent that home to my mom and dad. And that night, we went out partying around through London; and these people asked us down to a party they had in a basement apartment and I met my wife in there. Yeah. So I met my brother that day and I met my wife-to-be that day. Yeah. I married her and we’ve been married for 53 years. Yeah.
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