Veteran Stories:
Claude Loiseau

Army

  • Mr. Claude Loiseau, July 2011.

  • Medals worn by Mr. Claude Loiseau. From left to right: Member of the Order of Military Merit; Canadian Korea Medal; Canadian Volunteer Service Medal for Korea; Special Service Medal; Canadian Peacekeeping Service Medal; United Nations Service Medal for Korea; United Nations Forces in Cyprus; Canadian Centennial Medal; Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Medal; Canadian Forces' Decoration (2 bars).

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"We were able to retrieve those four bodies. It's during that patrol that he (lieutenant J. B. Riffou) earned his Military Cross for the perfect execution of the mission."

Transcript

My name is Claude Loiseau. I was born in Longueil on December 12, 1933. I was promoted to sergeant in August. In 15 months, following my enlistment date, I was a sergeant at 18 years of age and a few months. We had several veterans from (19)39-(19)45 at the battalion (3rd Battalion of the Royal 22nd Regiment) who occupied positions such as quarter-master or sergeant-major of a company. Those people helped us enormously. In the formation, we counted on them to give us direction. They received us with open arms. They realized that we were the next generation, that we hadn't come to replace them. They were managers in fact. They were people who had knowledge to help us develop and advance in the military way of life. When you see people with six or seven campaign and war ribbons, you have to grant them enormous respect. There was mutual respect. There were surely some clashes at certain points. But they weren't frequent and they were resolved quickly.

In May of (19)53, we took up a position on the mountain that was isolated from the company, and also possibly isolated from the battalion. But it covered an opening in two positions. One occupied by the “RCR” (3rd Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment, near mountain 187) and Company D of the 3rd Battalion (Royal 22nd Regiment). There was a sort of passway that we had to absolutely keep under our control. It was the position that had been designated to platoon 5 that was commanded, my platoon, by lieutenant (J. B.) Riffou, who became a general as you know. And on that same mountain he was baptized the Butte à moineaux. It's at that location that he earned the Military Cross (the third highest British distinction awarded to subordinate officers for bravery and distinguished service) for his role in the retrieval of bodies left in front of our positions, in front of Company D (of the 3rd Battalion, Royal 22nd Regiment), following a fighting patrol commanded by sergeant Guy Desjardins from Saint-Boniface in the West (Manitoba), who was practically killed in the end (during the fight on May 20, 1953), that involved four dead who were retrieved. We were able to retrieve those four bodies. It's during that patrol that he (lieutenant J. B. Riffou) earned his Military Cross for the perfect execution of the mission. There were two other bodies from that very same patrol that were found a few years later. I can still remember the six young soldiers in question and the sergeant as well, who, incidentally, was my closest friend, a man with whom I got along very, very well. He commanded platoon 6. He had been designated to patrol the fighting. I had left on a reconnaissance patrol four days earlier, two to four days earlier. He had followed a patrol of 11 men a few days later, but unfortunately it didn't...

The name of the patrol commander is written on the task sheet. The choice belongs to the person who is responsible for the patrol. He's the one who will choose his men, whether it's a reconnaissance patrol or a fighting patrol. The patrol that the platoon commander performed to retrieve the bodies was naturally decided by a high level considering the importance of the mission. There were increases in this sense of pioneers (fighting engineers) who accompanied the patrol. There were medical assistants. So the patrol was pretty considerable; there were about 50 or so individuals who formed the patrol. An artillery barricade had confirmed the position where the bodies were resting. Because we had identified the location. There was a cord to protect and retrieve the bodies and to return safe and sound to our location. We absolutely had to go and get them, they had been there for 19 days. So you can imagine... In the sun, the rain, the state of our men. That was what the authorities were afraid of; that an ambush would happen when we went out to retrieve the bodies. Fortunately, it went off without a hitch.

The soldiers held their position defensively after the evening meal before dusk and they stayed there all night and went to rest once the sun rose. After breakfast, an inspection was performed, a personal hygiene inspection. The sergeant performed that inspection and also inspected the weapons. He verified the munitions for those returning to their positions in the trenches the following night. So that was their routine. They had to stay in the trenches. They could even though it was pretty cold at night. They warmed themselves up by walking in the adjoining trenches but they couldn't stray too far. They had to stay be on their guard but that was the responsibility of the section commanders, naturally, with their platoon commander who decided upon their activities during the occupation and their position overnight.

Naturally, it's the platoon commander who receives orders from the company commander. It breaks down to that. Not a lot. But it was to be there and to keep their eyes and ears open for any movement in front of our positions. Fortunately, we were there for two months and we didn't have any incidents aside from one evening. It happened in a funny way; my platoon commander went to rest for 24 hours. So it was me who was commanding the platoon. We had one patrol; what we called an advanced observation position. Maybe 300, 400 meters in front of our positions. There were communications but unfortunately a shell had been dropped during the day on the wire used to transmit the communications. So when the men took up their positions, they had to report to me when they had assumed their positions. So a young 19-year old man is seen with... What do I do? What do I do? I sent out a reconnaissance patrol with walkie-talkies to ensure that the men had taken up their positions. I was assured that the three individuals were in position. So I was relieved.

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