Veteran Stories:
Harley Welsh

Army

  • Picture of Mr. Welsh taken near the frontline next to a jeep around May 1951 and published in the Toronto Star in July of the same year.

    Harley Welsh
  • Picture of members of the sniping and intelligence section of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry taken in January 1951 near Miryrong (Korea) before going into action. Mr. Welsh is on the front row, first from the left.

    Harley Welsh
  • Presentation of Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal to Mr. Welsh by then Lieutenant Governor of Saskatchewan Lynda M. Haverstock (October 7, 2002).

    Harley Welsh
  • Mr. Welsh (right) receiving the Commemorative Medal for the Centennial of Saskatchewan (January 19th 2006).

    Harley Welsh
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"And then about two weeks later, Dog Company [D Company], they had a real bad one where they lost about eight or 10 killed and 30 wounded. They had to pull the company out, there wasn’t enough left."

Transcript

When we went in the lines, I think it was in January [1951], and we were attached to the British 27th Brigade [27th British Commonwealth Brigade]. And there was two British battalions, an Australian battalion, our Canadian battalion [2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry] and the New Zealand field artillery. And we went into the lines and we had several actions working our way up from, until about mid-April was the first time we came out of the lines for a rest. And we’d had several pretty sharp actions. The first one I think, Baker Company [B Company] got in a little trouble there and we had to run ammunition up to them under fire because they were pinned down and had a lot of casualties, four or five dead and 10 or 15 wounded, we had to bring the wounded out after dark because it was under fire there. And then about two weeks later, Dog Company [D Company], they had a real bad one where they lost about eight or 10 killed and 30 wounded. They had to pull the company out, there wasn’t enough left. And they were replaced by I think B Company moving up the next morning and took the hill. That was our initial month before, that was long before Kapyong [the Battle of Kapyong, April 22nd-25th 1951]. It was about the third week of April and we finally come out for a rest and we were only out a day or so before the South Korean Sixth [Infantry] Division [Republic of Korea Army] took over from us. And then I guess they hit with this big Chinese offensive and kind of got overwhelmed and dispersed and whatnot. So they rushed our brigade up to this little junction at Kapyong and said we had to hold it so all the units that were ahead and what was left of this Korean division could retreat through there. And of course, if the units east and west at this junction fell, the Chinese could run through there and get behind them. So it was very important that we held that ground as long as possible. At Miryang, I had been with the, when I was in the reserve army, every NCO [Non-commissioned officer], every unit had to designate somebody for intelligence. So I had taken the course in intelligence for the unit and when they were looking for somebody in Korea, one of the fellows I had taken the NCO’s course with had mentioned my name to the intelligence officer and he asked me to come to the intelligence section. So at Miryang, I went to the intelligence section and served the rest of the time with them. At Kapyong, well of course, everybody had a job to do. I had a .30 caliber Browning [the American M1919 Browning medium machine gun] and the intelligence lieutenant and I and our sergeant, we were a machine gun crew. And in between times, when it wasn’t too busy, we were supposed to log all the calls, that is, record all calls to battalion headquarters, so when we weren’t too busy, when we weren’t under actual attack or anything, one of us was supposed to sit with the battalion radio operator and we had headphones and a writing pad and whatnot and supposed to record the messages, as much as possible, for the war diary. This is one of the jobs of the intelligence section. And during the battle of Kapyong, the radio operator that I was working with was wounded I guess by a sniper or something. He went down. Because we were kind of sitting up exposed, we had […], he was set up on a couple ammunition boxes so we had to kind of sit up, we weren’t down in a trench. But anyway, he got wounded and he sort of, you hear the odd snap of a rifle and whatnot. And he turned to me and said: ‘I’m bleeding.’ Kind of surprised how he was in shock. And then we had to get another radio operator. I was able to operate, I had been in the Reserve Signals, 1942 to 1944, I was in the Reserve Signals. So I had been trained on the 19 radio set [Wireless Set No. 19, a mobile radio transceiver] anyway. Just generally that they knew there was a lot of Chinese forces there and I guess they sort of could anticipate sooner or later there would be something. And they had reserve, like the American First Cavalry Division was in the reserve at Seoul. And after three days, they were able to come up and help us organize a retreat and so on. They opened the road and covered our retreat. But you know, you don’t speculate the exact day or anything, wouldn’t tell you. Yeah, we would get these bullets from corps and we would get these corps bulletins and they would say, you know, they’ve detected this route army, that route army and so on in the area and it looks like a buildup and judge yourselves accordingly and that’s about it. Because we were cut off by supplies there for a day or so, the Chinese got behind us and cut the road. They made an air drop of supplies and of course, we’d been pretty busy for a couple nights, no sleep and whatnot, so during the day, we could get out of the trench if there wasn’t too much activity and lieutenant and the other fellow wanted to dig the trench a little deeper. So I had to get out of the trench and I was sleeping on the flap and I had taken my jacket off and put it over a little bush so the sun wasn’t shining on my head. And unbeknownst to me, the lieutenant and the sergeant had gone on a patrol and they didn’t bother waking me up. And one of the pallets of rations came down and they were pretty heavy. They come down with a terrific smash about 12 feet from me. If they’d hit me, I’d have been a pancake. And there was other guys there, I said: ‘Why didn’t you wake me up?’ And they said: ‘Well, we figured you were dead, what the hell would we wake you up for?’ I come pretty close to getting killed by sea rations.
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