Mrs. Merle Taylor served as a Wireless Operator Ground (WOG) instructor at No 4 SFTS Saskatoon. Her late husband, Fred Taylor, served as a Wireless Electric Mechanic and was stationed at No. 3 SFTS Calgary at the same time as my father Cyril Devaux. Mr. Taylor was ensuring radios were functional while dad was completing Course 106 under the BCATP program.
Thanks to Gerry Madigan, retired logistician of the Canadian Armed Forces (https://madiganstories.com/) Mrs. Taylor graciously added her entry to The Log Book Project.
The following portrait is in large parts based on an excellent interview published by Elinor Florence on her website. This is also, with Mrs. Florence’s permission, the source of all images below.
In 1942 Merle Winnifred McIntyre took the bus into Winnipeg and went to the RCAF recruiting center. Here she carefully studied the list of careers available to women. There were options of becoming a motor transit driver, a medical assistant, a meteorologist or a wireless operator ground (WOG).
The position of WOG had recently been added as a large number of air gunners were being killed in the skies over Germany. These air gunners were being replaced by male WOGs as they were already fluent in Morse Code. In turn, the vacant WOG positions were opened to women.Merle Taylor
Mrs Taylor applied to become a Wireless Ground Operator (WOG) and was given an aptitude test. The main requirement was having the ability to learn Morse code. In October 1942 she is given word that she has passed the test and is accepted as a wireless operator.
28 words per minute
During training at No 1 Wireless School in Montreal she learned how to use Morse code. The requirement was 18 words per minute to pass – Merle was able to send twenty-eight words per minute and receive twenty-two. In her class of 52 students only twenty-seven passed, Merle came third in her class.
Hundreds of WOG recruits, both male and female, are housed on separate floors in a converted mental hospital and share recreation room. This is where Merle one day met a young man called Fred Taylor who asked her to go to a movie with him and the rest is as one says; history.
No 3 SFTS Calgary & Fred Taylor
Fred Taylor would then graduate as a Wireless Electric Mechanic (WEM) on May 26th, 1943. Posted to No 3 EFTS Calgary where his duties includes installation and repair of radios in various aircraft. Mrs Taylor is posted as an instructor to No 4 SFTS Saskatoon where she trained aircrew, mostly pilots, before leaving for England to join the war effort.
On 2 August 1943, on Merle’s birthday, she is married to Fred Taylor by a minister in Calgary and in June 1944 Merle gave birth to their first son Sandy. By this time Merle had already left the military and moved into a rented room in Calgary with Fred as the military did not allow pregnant women to serve.
In April of 1945 Fred receives notice that he is to be posted overseas. The young family leaves on a troop train for Halifax three days later. Merle and baby Sandy heading for Fred’s family farm at Lochaber to spend the rest of the war with Fred’s parents. By the time Fred shipped out for England the was was almost over, however, being the one of the last ones out he was also one of the last to leave only returning in January 1946. Upon Fred’s return they purchase their own 225-acre farm near Lochaber which they operated to 1986 when it was passed on within the family. Sadly, Fred had tragically passed away in cancer 1981 at the age of 63.
Passion never dies
One lasting result of Merle’s air force training is her love for Morse code, in 1986 she passed the exams necessary to become a HAM radio operator – receiving 100% on the Morse code test.
The source of images and references used for this post are in large parts taken from Elinor Florence’s book “My Favourite Veterans”. Chapter 17 covers her visit to Mrs Merle Taylor. We strongly recommend reading the post in its entirety as well as the other twenty-seven interviews published in her book.
Last Updated on 3 February 2023 by Nick Devaux
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