"I went to retrieve a rifle from a dead Chinese soldier, and I stuck it into the ground in front of me with the bayonet, it went in well. And then I said: “Come and get it!”"
Because all three of us were involved in the famous battle of 355 (the Battle of Hill 355 where the 2nd Battalion of the Royal 22e Régiment distinguished itself in Korea, from November 22 to 25, 1951). All three of us were involved; Hubert in platoon 11, Yvon in platoon 12 and I in platoon 10 (from “D” Company. M. Albert Gagnon served with his two brothers, Hubert and Yvon). They were on the hill in a horseshoe position. We were on the left flank. The Americans, when they (the Chinese) attacked, they weren’t able to break through us. But they made it into the valley, where there was a bracket (a counter-flank position). We couldn’t see them.
They made it into the valley and the Americans escaped. So, during the night, they came back down on us. That was very hard. It was hard. I could tell you about some of the exploits that happened there, but it wouldn’t be of much use. Beside me was Sergeant Lapierre. He had earned the MM (Military Medal). So he was beside me and the lieutenant (Walter) Nash (from Ottawa) who won the DCM (Distinguished Conduct Medal), I believe. It was only the three of us who were defending the back of platoon 10. We had two Bren machine rifles (British light machine guns). Because when I arrived on the Vickers (British machine gun), I was number four (servant no. 4). There were four people; one, two, three, four. The fourth was the Bren Gunner (Bren machine gunner). He gave the munitions to the number three and the number three covered the (…) then he gave that to the number two and the number two fed the Vickers.
So the number one was injured at the beginning of the battle and Sergeant Lapierre said: “Hey! Send us some reinforcement because we’ve just been attacked from behind!” Because they (the Chinese) were coming up through the valley. They were far. They had almost made it to the hill. We were firing at their backs. But during the night, they came back down on us. It was hard. It wasn’t pretty. Sergeant Lapierre thought that I was dead. They were firing with tracers (phosphorus bullets) that were coming close to us. So between one tracer bullet and another, there were four bullets. I was the Bren Gunner. Sergeant Lapierre thought that (…), he was to my left. He thought that I was shot. He exclaimed: “Damn!” I was on the Bren.
I said: “I know where the enemy is.” I said that to Lapierre. He didn’t fire again. I fired about 25 bullets in the enemy’s direction. The next morning, I came out of the trenches, it was very calm and the enemy was gone. I went to retrieve a rifle from a dead Chinese soldier, and I stuck it into the ground in front of me with the bayonet, it went in well. And then I said: “Come and get it!” It had been 24 hours since we had slept so Sergeant Lapierre said to me: “Go get something to eat. It’s calm now, they’re gone.” The Americans had started coming back up the mountain so he said: “Go get a meal in the back.”
I arrived at the back of the Echelon B (the area behind the battlefront) as they called it. It was about eight kilometres behind the lines. They already knew by radio that I was coming. I went down the hill with the injured. I said: “What I am doing here?” He said: “Go to the little kitchen, there is a tent where you can have a nice meal. You can go sleep in a bed a bit further away.” I slept for about ten or twelve hours. I went back to the office and I said: “What I am doing here?”
I wanted to hear about my two brothers. I didn’t know (what had happened to them after the battle). That’s why I left. Otherwise I would have said to Sergeant Lapierre: “No, I’m staying here.” I wanted to hear about my two brothers, so that’s why I went down the hill. They had said: “If you want to go back up, your two brothers are fine, they were never here, they weren’t injured.” So I went back up to the “C” Company with Sergeant Floris. Sergeant Floris said to me: “Apparently you know how to work a Vickers?” I replied: “Of course, I received the entire training.” Because the Canadians, the team from the 22 (Royal 22e Régiment), the 2nd Battalion, when they went to be trained at Fort Lewis in the United States (Washington State), they trained with American weapons, with the .30 (Browning M1919 calibre .30 American machine gun). And when they got to Korea, the Americans said: “We won’t be providing you with weapons.” They said: “You’re part of the British army.” So there were given the Vickers but they didn’t know how to use them.
One of my brothers was killed, and the other one was seriously injured. He was killed on June 7, 1952. Yvon was injured for the first time in January (1952) in the back with shrapnel. And then afterwards he was injured in the front, in his bladder. He was a guinea-pig his entire life. He died three years ago. He wore catheter, bags, and all sorts of things. Every year, he had two or three operations. In the end, it affected his blood and everything else.