From: Ralph Swift
Date: 1/5/2004 7:20:33 AM
To: Colin Handy
Cc: Pete Porter;;
Subject: Re: Merryfield History
Hello Colin,
 I wrote to both Mac Hawkins and Jack Frith just yesterday, perhaps this prompted your interest and this mornings mail. I have not yet heard from either one but hope to at least establish contact even on a casual basis.
 I had not gone back to the site for some little time and was surprised to see that Jack Frith had posted in July. Jack went on to become a QFI whilst I was posted to Egypt after my OCU and served on 213 fighter Squadron (Vampires) and we went our different ways never to meet again, that was in December of 1952, over fifty years ago now. I know also that "Paddy" Campbell was to finish up in transport command for I met him many years later when he flew an Andover into Bait Al Falaj in the Oman where I was serrving as a contract pilot in the Sultan Of Oman's Air Force (SOAF)
 The advanced flying course was only about three months so my aquaintance with the area and the field was somewhat limited. We were number 15 course at 208 AFS and commenced in September of 1952 and I had just come from No 6 FTS at Ternhill in Shropshire where I had done my flying training on Prentice and Harvard aircraft and Merryfield was to be my conversion onto Jet aircraft.
 We were, of course, just impecunious P/O's and our pay was something like seven pounds a week or less if I recall (paid monthly) so transport was mostly an old motorcycle. I had a pre-war Triumph Speed Twin but "Paddy" had a newer AJS Twin and the plutocrat among us, Travers-Smith, actually had an old two seat MG (PB I believe). The only night life was to be found in Taunton and since we mostly saw it by night I cannot honestly recall much about the town except for a general impression that it was a pleasant little market town. The local dance hall was our most frequently visited venue in Taunton if we ventured much beyond the bounds of Ilton village. There was a little pub in Ilton where we would sometimes go for a Cider, though all I remember about it was that it had a biscuit tin instead of a cash till, a far cry from today's electronic cash machines. I recall Jack Frith nearly always had cycle clips around his ankles so I suspect that his main mode of transport was a bicycle but he may have had a car of some sort since I believe he was the only married man on the course. We were young for the most part and I was but 19 (just)  years old.
  I do have one or two photo's of that era but not many and wish I had taken more and would be happy to copy them for you when I can find them, I especially wish I had taken one or two of the Navy Wyverns that operated from the field. I have a picture of the Gannet in my minds eye but cannot honestly say if there were any there in those days.
  My pal Johnny Gillard is buried in Ilton churchyard, we interred him one rainy morning somewhere just to the right hand side of the church if memory serves me, he had lost his life in a crash at Curry Rivel one stormy day, probably lost control whilst instrument flying was my conclusion. The instrumentation on the Vampire was pretty rudimentary and it was very easy to topple the artificial horizon which just left you with primary instruments and we were just novices at jet flying, little in the way of let down aids and no fuel endurance to speak of. Just a minor lack of concentration could spell disaster.
 I now live in America and am over 70 years old so there is little possibility that I shall ever revisit the site of my youthful exploits except in my mind. A lot of water has passed under the bridge and I have lived to see many other good pals go to their doom and in view of my own life style, it is a miracle that I have survived to even talk about it .
 I eventually quit flying in July of 1984, my 51st birthday, having aquired about eight thousand hours, a good deal of it in the fighter ground attack and tactical re-supply role as a contract pilot (mercenary) for various outfits but mostly SOAF. I have over 460 operational sorties, not necessarily being shot at on every trip but certainly within range of the opposing guns. I also have an Airline Transport Pilots licence and have flown four engined Viscounts and also Fokker Friendships during my less aggresive years with Gulf Air. I was destined to serve mostly in the desert environments of the Middle East and Africa.
 Some abbreviated accounts of these adventure can be found in the "britains-smallwars" site.

Kind regards,
Ralph S. Swift. (aka "Speedy" and "Vampire9")
----- Original Message -----
From: Colin Handy
To: ; ; ;
Cc: Strings
Sent: Monday, January 05, 2004 5:53 AM
Subject: Merryfield History

Dear Sirs,
Fascinating to read all about the history of Merryfield on your wonderful web site.
I am currently the "Admin Chief" serving there. The Boss and I are trying to gain as much historical data as we can in order to preserve the soul of the place. It seems to have had an important role to play in so many lives.
I was just curious, if any of you chaps are local to the place, please feel free to pop around and see us. The Boss and I are more than willing to show you around the old place and let you see what we do now. (Just ask at the gate for the Boss or the Chief) You will be allowed to take photo's and with any luck, there may even be a cup of tea!! (Staff dependant!)
Anyway, I hope you can help us, (any spare old photo's or information would be fantastic), and we can help you. I look forward to hearing from you in the future.
CPOAC Colin M Handy
RNAS Merryfield