Make Do And Mend

Sherborne Museum

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Supported through
'Their Past Your Future 2' (TPYF2) Programme

Ilminster Memories

Do you remember RAF Merryfield? If so your memories could be valuable to not only our museum project but also the RAF National Service Association South West Group. David Bond, Editor of the Association’s magazine can be contacted on 01460 55967.

Many people have already recalled that work began on the new airfield that was little more than a mile from Ilminster, Somerset, towards the end of 1942. In its early years it was known as RAF Isle Abbots and with three runways built to bomber standard it was an impressive sight. The main runway was 6000ft long with the others 4200ft. and 3660 ft, and after overcoming problems with its construction in the Somerset wetlands, it was formally opened by the RAF in February 1944. By that time its name had been changed to RAF Merryfield, the reason for which is still largely unknown and puzzles historians today. United States Air Force use followed and the airfield played a significant role in D-Day operations and was later returned to RAF control. The Dakota became a commin sight until the aircraft closed in 1946. For a few years the airfield remained empty but it was re-opened as an advanced pilot training establishment in 1951. Canberras were amongst the planes to use the site in the 1950s and the Royal Navy with Sea Venoms followed until 1961 when it appeared RAF Merryfield would close for ever. A decade later part of the site was re-opened for assault helicopter training. David Bond of Ilminster has many happy memories of serving there in the 1950s and since retirement has been putting together an archive of the site and has also accumulated a large number of photographs.