record is for my children and grandchildren so they may understand some of
the horrors of war, strive for peace and perhaps thus ensure wars such as
WW I, WW II, and
act of open aggression was the first in the world since the establishment
of the United Nations and led to intervention by international armed
forces. The war that thus began turned out to be
was the first of many United Nation’s missions in which
Battalion arrived in
kept our weapons handy because we were told we might encounter sniper fire
on the trip north. Infiltrator agents and military personnel usually
dressed as Korean peasants, were the producers of this threat. It was also
important that the trip during the night hours be carried out without
interior lighting to reduce the possibility of being targeted.
we waited aboard the train to begin the journey, hundreds of poorly
clothed children surrounded the coaches asking for food. The weather was
cold at that time of year and those children were certainly not dressed
for it. We felt the chill even though we wore sweaters and battle-dress.
It got worse when the train began moving.
we had travelled some distance, our train stopped. Another train moved
slowly past us in the other direction and pulled into a near-by siding.
There was a strange moaning sound coming from what looked like freight
cars with slatted sides. I left our train and went over. I looked through
the openings and saw many Orientals in padded suits with their arms tied
above their heads and fastened to the side or top of the cars; some with
their feet barely touched the ground. I spoke to one of the railway men
who understood some English and he gave me the impression that these were
South Korean soldiers being sent to the rear for disciplining. I thought
what cruel people.
next day we arrived in Tokchon, the railhead, the point where the railway
ended and road transport began. We left the train and boarded two and one
half ton trucks for our journey to the 1st Commonwealth Division area near
the 38th parallel.
dark we stopped for the night and were just getting to sleep when we were
startled by an ear-splitting roar of guns firing. We were right beside a
U.S. Army 8-inch howitzer battery firing on some target. It was an
next morning when we got up a heavy frost had settled everywhere. But the
field next to us had hundreds of small frost-free dots. Not understanding
what had caused the melting, I asked about this strange sight. It was
caused by homeless children bedding down in that field.
they descended on us asking for food. Not a pleasant sight, but even more
unpleasant for little kids.
The battalion in reserve
and brigade exercises also were conducted with us newcomers experiencing
the height of those Korean hills. A proper handover parade took place with
L Col Campbell of 3RCR taking command from L Col Bingham of the 1st
the ceremony Col Bingham gave the command “three cheers for Col Campbell
and his Royal Canadians”. Col Campbell, not to be outdone countered with
his command: “Three cheers for Col Bingham and his Royal Canadians”.
voice from the crowd was then heard to shout
“Three cheers for Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians”.
Commanding Officers were not amused. Guy Lombardo was a well-known leader
of a popular dance orchestra of the time called the Royal Canadians. Both
Guy and his brother Carmen had served in the Regimental Band before
branching out on their own successful careers.
the meantime, some elements of the Division moved into the line.
Consequently, all newly arrived officers had an opportunity to visit other
battalions in the line. There they could experience for the first time
unfriendly fire and spend time on the positions they were to occupy. They
could get a feel for the situation from those to be relieved. Three of us
junior officers were sent on a brigade patrol course, something about
which I was not too keen.
were quite happy to see the 1st Battalion leave for home, not because of
any animosity, but because there were not sufficient parkas to clo the two
battalions, and we were to be issued the parkas now being worn by the 1st
Battalion. The weather was bitterly cold with a frigid wind blowing out of
Commanding Officer assigned “A” Company to Hill 187 and “C”
Company to the first finger to the west: He placed “B” Company on the
second and third fingers and “D” at the base of the fourth.
Company had two platoons on Point 97; my platoon, No 7, the most forward;
and No 8 on the rise immediately behind 7 Platoon. “C” Company
Headquarters and No 9 Platoon were on Point 123 to my rear.
fighting strength of the company at this time was about l30, including 22
Katcom soldiers. In addition there were 60 members of the Korean Service
Corps, of whom two-thirds were employed at digging, the remainder served
as porters. Katcoms were US-trained Korean soldiers who, at that time,
could not be absorbed by the Republic of Korea (ROK) units and
conveniently filled a void in Canadian Infantry battalions, which were not
receiving sufficient replacements from
Korean soldiers were described as Korean Augmentation to the Commonwealth;
hence “Katcoms”. Most of them could not speak a word of English or
French. They were all integrated into our rifle platoons.
going into the line the Koreans had to be trained to use our weapons.
There were six Katcoms and 21 Canadians in my platoon for a total of 27
we settled in, I confided to my sergeant that I was not too impressed with
the idea of going on patrol. But because we were a forward platoon we
undoubtedly would be spared that duty. He confided that his feelings about
patrolling was like mine and we both breathed a sigh of relief.
the feeling was short lived. Later that morning I was invited down to the
Battalion Headquarters by the Battle Adjutant (the operations officer at
Headquarters) to have lunch with the Commanding Officer. I was indeed
elated, but I was soon to learn that such social niceties were invariably
a precursor to a patrol. That night I and another officer from “B”
Company had the honour of carrying out the first reconnaissance (recce)
patrols of the Battalion.
the morning, Sgt Stone and I toured our position and checked the sighting
of all the weapons. The morale of my soldiers was very high. When we took
over this position from the 1st Battalion Royal 22nd Regiment (R22eR) we
also took over their special weapons. It was to my great surprise that I
found that the company mortars were deployed in my platoon area. I later
discovered that “C” Company of R22eR always deployed their company
mortars with their forward platoon. This was one of the idiosyncrasies of
their Company Commander.
did not inform my Company Commander, but decided to hold onto these
weapons as I had been trained as a mortar officer. I figured that
eventually I would have to give them up; but in the meantime I suggested
to my Platoon Sgt that we have some fun and fired a few rounds behind the
jokingly said to Sgt Stone: “This should let them know 3 RCR is here”.
The Chinese must have been greatly perturbed as a great cloud of smoke
rose from the area where our rounds had landed. We concluded that we must
have hit a small cache of ammunition. However, almost immediately enemy
mortar and artillery rounds started to fall all over our position. We took
cover in our bunkers.
next day the enemy started shelling and mortaring the Battalion in earnest
with the brunt being taken by 7 and 8 Platoons. This harassment Sgt Stone
blamed on me. He said I “stirred them up”. The harassment continued
for 13 days, until the night of 2/3 May when we were attacked.
the devastating bombardments were restricted to daylight hours, nights
were spent trying to restore our fire positions. During this period, a
Chinese lady, over a loud speaker, counselled us “American “ soldiers
to lay down our arms and join the happy Chinese and our buddies to the
north who had been taken prisoner.
the beginning of the broadcast, she always invited us to sit on the edge
of our fox-holes with the promise that we would not be fired on during
this period. I was convinced that this invitation was to allow some
observer to plot our weapon positions. I warned my troops against
complying, that they should be careful not to give our position away. We
were surprised that the broadcast from the Chinese referred to us as
“American soldiers” as this position was taken over from the Americans
by the “Van Doos” some considerable time before.
evening just after last light a recce patrol of three men went out into
the valley. While they were returning, they discovered they were being
followed. They called for smoke to cover their return as they were too
small a group to tangle with (what they considered to be) a large fighting
was listening on the telephone line and heard the Commanding Officer say
to our Company Commander “Mut (that was his nick name) you have mortars
up there? Can you provide smoke?”
good, sir,” was the reply. I then heard some muffled voices presumably
between the Company Commander and his Sergeant Major who should have been
in charge of the mortars.
heard my Company Commander then say: “Sir, we have no mortars here”.
butted in and revealed that they were in the 7 Platoon area and I would
provide the smoke. You can be sure that those mortars were returned to
their proper owners early the next day with some sharp words from my