by Don Kerr
As a corporal in the PPCLI I spent the spring of 1952 in
as part of a training cadre helping to
raise and train a company of Seaforth Highlanders. Two of us, a
sergeant and myself went all over town nailing up recruiting posters
on telephone poles and in several weeks had a enough men to form the
company. After some basic training, mostly in the
area, we were soon on the way to
Valcartier to join up with the rest of the Highland Regiment. I then
left them to return to
and my Regiment.
I received the bad/good news. The 1st Battalion was going to
and as we were going over as infantry
there were too many NCOs. As an airborne unit we had section sergeants
and as infantry we only needed platoon sergeants—that made a lot of
sergeants revert to corporals and that left me hanging. At first I
thought I was pretty lucky, then after a couple of days watching
everyone getting ready I began to feel left out.
I got myself paraded up before the company commander of Support
Company and announced that I heard they needed a Corporal driver
mechanic for the mortar platoon. I got the job, waited several days
until it was posted on the bulletin board and took a copy home to show
it to my wife.
About a week later the company, I would say at least several
hundred of us, boarded City of
buses at Currie Barracks and headed
for the train station downtown where we loaded onto antiquated
passenger cars circa 1920s. The train pulled out almost immediately
and a day or two later backed onto a pier in
where we climbed the gangway of the General
Hugh J. Gaffey, an American troopship already loaded with about
two thousand American soldiers. We
were there long enough to watch an American army band made up
exclusively of black soldiers with white helmets and white webbing
marching up and down the dock playing 'Do the Hucklebuck'. A couple of
hours later we were rolling in the swell off
with more than half our passengers sea sick and plugging up the
latrines. Lucky for me I had been a seaman and it didn't bother me, as
a matter of fact this was my second trip to
, I had been there in 1947 on a
Canadian freighter, Harmac Westminster. We felt
sorry for those Yank draftees as they were all reinforcements and not
one of them knew the guy next to him whereas we had been together for
several years. Lots of them looked pretty slovenly and unshaven. We
made quite a show doing pushups on deck in groups. Hard to believe now
but I remember our group did one hundred. Amazing what you can do with
About a week later we arrived in
where we unloaded directly onto another
train backed up on the dock. Wasn't the same band, just looked the same
and played the same 'Hucklebuck' as we left the ship. The train headed
out on the main fine and we were all amazed, there must have been five
sets of tracks with trains whizzing past us in both directions. I think
it took us a day or so to reach Sasebo and climb aboard another troop
ship, a 'something' Maru only this time no bunks, only reed mats and no
blankets or pillows. We did have however, another rendition of 'Do the
A quick trip across the
Sea of Japan
and there waiting was another train on
the dock and another band playing the march of the month. This train was
really something different, it even beat the Canadian one that we
complained about both on our trip to
and a trip to the
flood of '51. These cars didn't have any
seats at all, only planks that were placed like bunk beds. A person
couldn't sit on them but had to either lay down or sit in the aisle.
However, the toilet was the big topic of conversation, just a six
inch hole in the floor. The train left the dock as soon as we were
loaded and the next day we were somewhere near
where we off loaded onto trucks for the
rest of the ride to 'B' Echelon. We finally stopped moving even though
it was only for one night.
I can't say we rested very well—all we could see and hear was
artillery firing up ahead in the line. It didn't make for a peaceful
sleep but at least we had stopped moving— until the next day when we
moved into the line. But that's another story.
* * *
In 1944 at age 15, Donald Kerr signed on a merchant ship as galley boy and
was appointed sight-setter on a four-inch gun.
He joined the Seaforth Highlanders reserve in 1947 and then the
Permanent Force in 1949. After
, he was posted to Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry.
He left for
with headquarters platoon (mortars). In
early 1952 he was promoted to sergeant.
After being wounded in
, he was discharged from the
and was appointed Sergeant of the Guard at 25 CRG
returning home he took his discharge from the army.
In 1963, Don Kerr moved with his wife and children to
. They have a son and
whom they visit several times a year.