And both barrels on my 50 cal were gone, couldn’t use it anymore, and that was the end of the battle, by then, anyways. It’s a terrible thing to have to stand up and fire when everybody can see you.
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Things got a little dicey there, the radio traffic was pretty heavy and all of a sudden, about two weeks, about middle of June, got a call from 1 Troop. The sergeant, Sergeant [Peter F.] Elwood, had been wounded by shrapnel in the neck and he was badly wounded. And Corporal [Richard W.] Graville was wounded. I remember, because I was on the control and got all this information and had to write it down. And then they took Elwood away and never saw him again, he was gone, to Japan probably, to the hospital there. Graville came back two or three weeks later, he wasn’t badly injured. A couple of the other guys were splintered with pieces of shrapnel but not badly injured.
That was the first casualties and lost one sergeant right off the bat and he was gone. And 1 Troop, I think they were on [Hill] 159 in those days. A few weeks later, things went along fairly smoothly; an engineer stepped on a mine along the road beside us, killed him. Canadian engineer. And that was another little thing that kind of disturbed us. Then I was looking after the guard as well at the headquarters there, squadron headquarters. We had to have guards posted because we weren’t that far from the frontlines and you didn’t know who the, who was walking around in those hills. So I had to look after the guard. And I went in the tent, in the middle of the night, I’m not sure what time it was, and I had to wake up this trooper Conroy, he was a World War II type and he was in bed. We had some bunks there, little American army bunks that you could sleep on and I kicked the bed a couple of times, you know, and told him, “Wake up, Conroy, it’s your turn, you know, and you gotta get up.” He come out of the bed with a Sten gun [submachine gun] and he was going to, like he was going to kill me, and I just took my Sten gun, I had it in my hand, I just took him and cold-cocked him right there, clunked him on the head and knocked him out. Sergeant-major never said a word, when he found out about it, he said, “Well, that serves him right,” he said.
We went back in the lines in August of, this is interesting, 1952, and we pretended we were Americans, we wore American army steel, not steel helmets, but the liners, they looked just like the helmets. And American tops, shirts, tops, things like that. Anything they could scrounge for us. So we looked like Americans and as soon as the troops went in the line, they opened up, the Chinese. Just opened up on them. And that’s when Elwin was, no, Elwin wasn’t injured then, it was before that but, we got in the line and we had casualties, 2 Troop went up I think on [Hill] 210 or somewhere, I’m not sure where they were, they were, about half the troop was shrapnel-injured. And the one guy got it in the backside and we always teased him about it.
Then, a few days later, I went up to 159 and it went terrible there with the Vandoo [“Vandoos,” the Royal 22e Régiment] and I only went up there to get used to the frontline and we were shelled every day by the Chinese and we were sniped at with 50 cals [.50-calibre machine guns], it was really tough there. A few weeks or days later, sergeant-major came up to me and said, “Pack your gear, you’re going up to Call Sign Three Charlie to take it over, the crew commander and two of his crew have been shell-shocked or wounded with concussion,” their ears are bleeding type of thing. Anyway, I’m in a jeep and up there with my gear in about 15 minutes and up to the front, take over this tank, and it’s sitting there, bare bones in the middle of nowhere and the troop officer is right next door. And we had, getting shelled every day there, too with 152s [Russian-made 152mm howitzer]. I mean, you get shelled with 152s, that’s a six-inch gun with 100-pound projectile that makes a fair bang when it comes in, especially when it lands beside your tank. I lost the gun off the tank a few weeks later, shrapnel scratched it, scarred it so bad that it had to be replaced, the gun.
And we packed up our gear like a gypsy caravan, you know, got everything loaded up. And we go out and we start to get out of the hole we were in and then there’s a little bit of a trail going down the hill that we came up, that the tank came up, and we start to go down, it’s a straight slide, and boy oh boy, the damn thing’s frozen underneath but greasy on top, the sun had been shining and it was greasy. And then she started to slide, and Joe the driver’s in second gear, on five-speed transmission, and he’s going down there and she starts to slide, well, what can you do, pull on the tiller bars? Can’t stop the tracks, they’re already stopped, you know, because they’re sliding, and the gear’s too low for them. And so he dumped the clutch anyway and that did it. We started to roll and we rolled. I mean, it’s a 35-tonne tank with no brakes. You go down a hill, it doesn’t take very much for you to roll fast.
Anyway, we got about three-quarters of the way down the hill and the front end unit reversal, right beside the driver - engine in the rear, transmission in the front - flew apart and pieces were flying around the turret, inside the tank, through the packs, but nobody got hurt, that’s the funny thing. I’ll never forget that either, nobody got hurt, out of the five of us, in that bloody tank.
The next thing I know, I barely got to sleep and the guy from the turret, which one of the drivers, I don’t know or gunner or radio guy, came running in down the hill and into the bunker and got me up, he said, “The Chinese are attacking.” He didn’t know much about it but he knew they were attacking, so I beetled my backside up, got my boots on and rushed up the hill. It wasn’t very much of a hill, only a few feet, about 30, 40 feet, and into the tank, got the gunner in there, got him organized and he, the infantry was on the 300 set [SCR300 backpacked radio]. We had numbered targets out in front, we called them DFs, Defensive Fire targets.
Infantry was saying that, they said, “They’re all over the place.” I said, “Well, fire on all the DFs, put three rounds gunfire on everyone.” So we did that and sat there and pounded away with the old 76 [76mm main gun on M4A3E8 Sherman tank]. And then the next thing I know, there’s a little infantry officer alongside the turret, God knows how he got there, I don’t know, it was not that easy to do in the dark. He said, “The Chinese are coming up that little draw in front of your tank,” he said, “you’d better put some fire down there right in front of your tank,” he said, “they could be on top of you.” So I got busy, got up on the 50 cal, I couldn’t get the big 76 millimetre, I couldn’t make it depress far enough. We could depress it but not far enough to ensure that we could use it if they got really close. So we thought we’d better, I thought I’d better get the gunner to pepper it with the 30 cal [.30-calibre machine gun]. He could use the traverse for that. And I would take the 50 cal and see if I could see anything out there in the dark. We had artificial moonlight on the clouds, the Americans had these great anti-aircraft searchlights shining on the clouds above us and it made it like daylight almost down below. Like moonlight, anyway. So I got busy and burned out both my barrels by the time I finished. We had lots of 50 cal ammunition, the Americans had left a big bunch of it in a bunker beside us there. And we were using that by the time we finished. And both barrels on my 50 cal were gone, couldn’t use it anymore, and that was the end of the battle, by then, anyways. I was kind of glad they were gone because I didn’t have to fire it. It’s a terrible thing to have to stand up and fire when everybody can see you.
The FOO [Forward Observation Officer] had called in corps artillery. I have no idea how many guns that is. That’s three or four regiments of artillery firing. On a company position, one grid square would do it, you know. 1,000-metres squared. But they fired and I’ll tell you, there was a lot of rounds going over our head. We had them pre-igniting over our head, some of those contact, proximity fuses they were using, World War II types that been invented. And they were exploding overhead, the odd one. And you’d get some of the shrapnel down around you, it didn’t matter where you were, they just spread it out, you know, because there’s nothing there to stop it from going. And we had that bizarre thing there, the Chinese did fire at us with small arms but I guess they were afraid to come up too close to that tank of mine. Because we had the 76 and we had the 30 cal and we had the 50 cal. I mean, that’s pretty heavy duty for infantry to come against with nothing but two-inch mortars. That’s all they had.
That battle of 187 [Battle of Hill 187, 2-3 May 1953] was the last battle that the Canadian Army fought up until they got in Afghanistan or maybe Bosnia they did a little bit there, too. But that was the last battle, although they don’t make much of it, although 3 RCR does, they still understand what it was.