August 26, 1943 – Merton’s War Diary

Aug 26, 1943
Gave eskimo woman a suit of long underwear and two cakes of soap to do my laundry.

An Inuit family (1917) – “AN ESKIMO FAMILY. Tenderness and responsibility in their treatment of children is a virtue of the Eskimo which binds them closer to the brotherhood of civilized peoples.” [1]National Geographic Magazine, Volume 31 (1917), page 564 – Wikipedia Link

In reading this entry of Merton’s journal, I could only picture the poor woman leaning over into the frozen river with a washboard.  Probably a far cry from the truth but good for those ‘cold wash only’ items.

This is an interesting case in how learning about the past brings an ‘Ah Ha’ moment to the present.  There are a few ‘chores’ that if I could avoid them, laundry would indeed be one of them, though I believe that my wife would think that I would choose to avoid ALL of them.  Perhaps two chocolate cakes might do the trick.

The flip side to this argument however, is that my Mother loves to do laundry… and ironing.  I guess I take after my Grandfather more than Mom.




Notes   [ + ]

1. National Geographic Magazine, Volume 31 (1917), page 564 – Wikipedia Link

August 22, 1943 – Merton’s War Diary

Aug. 22
Slept ashore for first time in sleeping bags on the rocks.

I can remember as a kid missing out on Cub Scout camping trips for one reason or another but to make up for it, Dad and I would ‘camp’ in the slightly wooded back yard.  There was a slight hill and the sleeping bags would slowly slide down the plastic tarp we would place on the ground to keep the moisture out.  We didn’t have a tent and it was just open air.

View on Scoresby Sund, East Greenland – by Hannes Grobe, AWI[1]  Interestingly, the metadata for this photograph shows that it was captured on August 25th, 2007 so we are looking at the same time of year as the diary entry.

Later in life, Sue and I would go camping on some of our reenactment trips.  I used to enjoy the experience a lot and we had many convenience items such as air mattresses hidden away in our very non-authentic tents.  Sleeping on ‘the rocks’ sounds like it would be the opposite of fun.  Well, it just so happened that one night in July (possibly August,) while on a camping trip in Wahnapitae Ontario, Sue and I learned just how uncomfortable the air mattress could be when a cold front came in.  Like a Thermos, the air mattress retained all of the cold air and ‘insulated’ us from any warmth the ground could offer.  The remainder of the weekend we ended up in a hotel with the hopes of warming our bones.  I do hope for my Grandfather’s sake, the rocks and bag provided some form of comfort.

In 1943 and 1944, my Grandfather, Merton Young, traveled to Greenland while working for the Merritt-Chapman & Scott Company. He wrote a brief diary of his journey and this is a piece of that story.

Notes   [ + ]


Old Colony History Museum, Taunton Massachusetts

After attending the 2016 26th Annual Pro Video & Lighting Trade Show Thursday, Sue and I found ourselves 30 minutes North of Taunton MA, birthplace of my father and his father. I have many other ancestors from the neighboring towns in Bristol County as well. The Old Colony History Museum is the local historical society and sounds like a place we just had to explore.


We were greeted by a wonderful woman who took us for a tour of their amazing collection as well as a bit of the history of the building.  Pro-Tip #1 – ask about the museum’s photography policy at the beginning of the tour and not at the end. I suppose that not taking photographs of every little thing did leave me less distracted.

The first floor gallery and meeting room was much larger than we had expected I think.  Among the items on this floor there were a couple that stood out for me.  The first of which were several grandfathers clocks made in the area by local tradesmen.  They looked amazingly similar to one that stands in my Mothers house right now, handed down by my Grandfather, made by his cousin William Davis.  The other item, a writing desk, also bears a resemblance to a piece in the front hall of her house as well.


Clock made by William M. Davis of Taunton, 1907. Photos by Claire Young

The second floor was simply amazing with what must have been thousands of objects to see and discover.  Everything from dolls to clothing to furniture.  Some amazing old photographs, cameras and paintings.  Taunton was home to many cast iron stove makers and several were also on display.  They had an old pump fire wagon, a descent sized multi harness loom, and a display of Native American finds.

Of the many items in this room though there was a lone daguerreotype of a steam engine from the late 1800’s.  My 2nd Great Grandfather Leonard Ivy Young used to work for the railroads in this area and of course this made me wonder if I was looking at something he himself had seen – or even worked on.

A separate room holds military artifacts and for my re-enactor friends several articles of clothing, hats and, accouterments.  Our tour guide told us an amazing story of a slave who fought with the Continental Army in the revolutionary war as a part of a cannon crew.  When he returned he was granted his freedom and gifted a cannon by General Washington himself or at least that is what the rumor and town lore told.  I learned more about Camp Myles Standish mentioned briefly in one of my Grandfather’s WW2 Greenland diaries.

Old Colony Historical Museum items

Sue managed to remember to take a couple of photographs before we left (with permission of course)

In the last room an amazing display of locally made silver goods. Among the normal items there was a silver handled and ebony sock darner, a small silver clad pencil, an elaborate silver and glass pickle jar and my favorite – the Ketchup, Mustard and Relish containers – appropriately etched just in case you forgot which was which.  One name stood out in this room, Albert Pitts, a local silversmith that I will have to keep in mind as my research continues.

The last stop on our tour took us into the William T. and Mary L. Hurley Library also located on the second floor.  Wow.  That’s all.  Wow.  Now, I know I didn’t come here prepared to do any research – nor did we have the time really however I will now offer out Pro-Tip #2.  Have a genealogical travel kit.  I’m not sure how – but I am going to get working on one.

From the Old Colony Historical Museum website about their library:

 Our research collection, which includes more than 7,000 volumes in our non-circulating library and over 400 linear feet of archival material, embraces a wide range of topics.

Some of the largest collections include:

• Family histories (published and unpublished works)
• Family papers
• Diaries
• Unpublished manuscripts
• Cemetery gravestone transcriptions
• Local church and municipal records

Primary Records:
• Proprietors’ records for the Taunton region
• Military records and accounts from the 17th to 20th centuries
• Materials related to prominent local industries (textiles, machinery, locomotives, stoves, iron, pewter, silver, pottery, nails, tacks, bricks, shipbuilding, etc.)
• Collection of maritime records including diaries, papers, ships’ logs, etc.
• Account books of local merchants, businesses, and citizens
• Selected Bristol County Court records (17th to 20th centuries)
• Newspapers: Taunton Daily Gazette (1848-2001) on microfilm; other newspapers on microfilm and in bound copies as early as 1824

Published Records:
• Vital records for the Commonwealth of MA and the State of RI (prior to 1850)
• Maps and atlases for Taunton and Bristol County
• Taunton municipal records, dates vary (Fire Department, Police Department, Public Schools)
Taunton City Directory, 1850 to 2002
• Yearbooks from Taunton High School (1891-1990, incomplete), Msgr. Coyle High School, Bishop Cassidy High School, St. Mary’s High School, St. Anthony Parish, St. Jaques Parish

I am looking forward to returning, taking some photographs, and of course delving into the library but first – I must prepare.

Our thanks again to the Old Colony History Museum for a wonderful afternoon.

Old Colony History Museum
66 Church Green
Taunton, Massachusetts 02780

Open Tuesday – Saturday
10 a.m. – 4 p.m.




August 13, 1943 – Merton's War Diary

August 13, 1943
Started first building on mountain for weather station.

Weather stations on the East Coast of Greenland were very important installations.  This was the day before Doplar and Satellites.  The weather fronts from Greenland would routinely make their way on to Northern Europe and these stations could report and forecast so that the troops stood a better chance on the front.

The weather station Knospe in operation during World War II. (Image: Svalbard Museum)

It seems as if the German’s also had stations on Greenland and there were numerous expeditions to find and secure them.

This fascinating short documentary on ‘The Sledge Patrol’ by Sandra Skibsted can shed more light on the subject and is the tale of Greenland’s first ‘Army’

If you are at all interested in the current weather in Kulusuk Greenland, follow this [Link] to The Weather Underground.  This year on August 13 it was a balmy 47 °F (8 °C).

In 1943 and 1944,  my Grandfather Merton Young traveled to Greenland while working for the Merritt-Chapman & Scott Company. He wrote a brief diary of his journey and this is a piece of that story.

Next Entry – Aug 16, 1943

August 5, 1943 – Merton's War Diary

August 5, 1943

Arrived at #2, met Capt. Shriffin who was stationed in Hyannis for long time.

Bluie East Two was a minor United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) airfield at Ikateq, East Greenland. It was operational from 1942 to 1947. ¹

I would be curious to find out who Capt Shriffin is.  Did Merton know him ahead of time or was the simple fact they were both in Hyannis the common denominator.  When researching Merton’s history on the cape, be it newspapers or other items, I will keep a look out for the Captain.

In 1943 and 1944,  my Grandfather Merton Young traveled to Greenland while working for the Merritt-Chapman & Scott Company. He wrote a brief diary of his journey and this is a piece of that story.

Next entry – Aug 10 ²


² Note – I will catch up soon – I promise

Aug 3, 1943 – Merton's War Diary

Aug 3, 1943
Worked cutting a new door opening into radio officers room on the Iris.

Just the journal entry for today I’m afraid. I will leave you pondering as I am, how thick are the interior walls of a ship?

In 1943 and 1944,  my Grandfather Merton Young traveled to Greenland while working for the Merritt-Chapman & Scott Company.  He wrote a brief diary of his journey and this is a piece of that story.

Next entry – Aug 5

July 31, 1943 – Merton's War Diary

July 31, 1943
Went into #7, loaded coal, saw more Eskimos, and a man being taken off a ship in a strait jacket.

#7 was the base at Kangilinnguit, right near Ivigtut.  Merton last mentioned that he was awaiting transfer to #7 on June 6th.  It surprises me that it took this long.  Perhaps it took the other man even longer which is why he ended up in the strait jacket.

In 1943 and 1944,  my Grandfather Merton Young traveled to Greenland while working for the Merritt-Chapman & Scott Company. He wrote a brief diary of his journey and this is a piece of that story.

Next Entry – Aug 3, 1943

July 2, 1943 – Merton's War Diary

July 2, 1943

Went to work in mess hall and had to shave off beard.

It has been almost a month since Merton’s last entry and I have to imagine that nothing important happened.  I believe that I read that the U Boat patrols have decreased due to the high number of Allied patrols searching for them so I believe the waters to be safer.

We all picture soldiers peeling piles of potato’s but what were they really eating?  While not Greenland specific – this short and informative video about the WW2 Mess hall produced by the U.S. Army Heritage Education Center gives an idea of what it may have been like.

In 1943 and 1944, my Grandfather Merton Young traveled to Greenland while working for the Merritt-Chapman & Scott Company. He wrote a brief diary of his journey and this is a piece of that story.

Next Entry – July 8, 1943