Veteran Stories:
Francis Bayne

Army

  • Mr. Bayne's halkftrack which rolled down a hill, no injuries. Korea, June 1953.

    Francis Bayne
  • Korean children catching minnows to eat. Mr. Bayne provided them with rations. Korea, June 1953.

    Francis Bayne
  • Plotting and firing the 25 Pounder artillery guns.

    Francis Bayne
  • In front of the officers' mess in Korea (left to right): John Hall, Francis Bayne, and Reg Redknap.

    Francis Bayne
  • Bayne giving orders to his guns from the command post.

    Francis Bayne
  • A propaganda leaflet.

    Francis Bayne
  • A propaganda leaflet.

    Francis Bayne
  • Francis Bayne in Winnipeg, Manitoba, August 2011.

    Historica Canada
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"So our guns fired steadily all night, the barrels got red hot and we were throwing water on them to try and cool them down. So we fired right through until dawn, until the Chinese withdrew."

Transcript

One of the other things that happened is we had propaganda around, that we would stick leaflets in and fire these propaganda leaflets at the Chinese [at the frontlines in Korea]. So the shell would go over, over their lines, the base plate would blow out and the propaganda leaflets would come down. Now, we were on American rations for food and thank goodness we were on British rations for booze, so the American rations, you got a package of cigarettes every day and on Sundays, you got Kool cigarettes. Now, our fellows didn’t like the Kool cigarettes so they used to, that’s a Kool menthol cigarette, so they used to load them in the propaganda shells and fire them at the Chinese and say, "Let them smoke them."

Now, I went up to the latrine one day and found two of our soldiers up there with a couple of propaganda rounds and they were digging things out of the latrine and putting them in the propaganda rounds and I said, "What the hell are you doing?" And they said, "Well sir, just think, the Chinese are looking up and suddenly the round goes off and splat." And I said, "Knock it off, you can’t do that sort of thing." So I put a stop to that.

Now, ammunition was always a problem because at the end of the Second World War, they stopped making 25 pounder ammunition [rounds for the British Ordnance QF 25 pounder field gun]. So we were running short of 25 pounder ammo and they found a ship that had been sunk by the Japanese in Hong Kong Harbour [in 1941, during the Second World War] loaded with 25 pounder ammunition. So they raised that ship and shipped that ammo to us. So when we received the ammunition, we would open the box for the shells and seawater would come out. So we had to take the rounds out and take emery cloth and clean the rust off the rounds and then put linseed oil on so the rounds wouldn’t rust. And the charge bags, the propellant, we had to put out in the sun to dry. So that made the ammo kind of unreliable sometimes because the propellant wasn’t used to being handled that way.

So there were some drop shorts, there were some prematures. We had one gunner in another battery that, he went to load the shell and he hit the nose cone on the breach and the shell exploded in the gun pit and killed some of the people there and wounded the others. And it wasn’t supposed to explode until setback or twist when the round started to go through the air but because of the unreliability of the ammunition, that sort of thing happened. So the ammo was a little tricky to handle.

Because everybody was dug in and so there was mostly a lot of patrolling, the Chinese used to do a lot of attacking. And their methods were to shell an area for a while and then during the attack, and they always attacked at night because of our air superiority, they would rush through the minefield, blow it up, lay on the wire and then the next wave would come through with grenades, throw the grenades, go to ground, the next wave with burp guns [Type 50 Chinese submachine guns] and so on, and just keep coming in waves. And as we had single shot rifles, not automatic rifles, though we had machine guns, you couldn’t fire it fast enough to stop them. So the only way to stop them was mass artillery fire and often on your own position. The infantry would call down fire at their own position with VT fuses which is a variable time fuse, a little radar set in the nose of the fuse that would explode above the ground and the shrapnel would all go down.

So the night, the 2nd/3rd of May [1953], on Hill 187, 3 RCR [3rd Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment], which is the battalion that our battery that I was in supported, they were overrun and the order, the first order we got was DFSOS [Defensive Fire ‘Save Our Souls’], drop 200, fire until told to stop. And of course, DFSOS was as close in as you could get for safety. So we questioned the order and we were told, bloody well fire it and so we kept getting drops and drops, drop 200, drop 400, drop 800, until we were right on the RCR position. So fire until you’re told to stop, so we kept firing all night. We fired all night, in my troop alone with four guns, we fired at least 1,200 rounds. And so the whole regiment plus part of the division [1st Commonwealth Division] was firing on top of it.

Now, [Lieutenant] Ed Hollyer, from the RCR, won the Military Cross [a British military decoration awarded generally to officers for an act of exemplary gallantry] that night and our forward observation officer, [Captain] George Ruffy, also won the Military Cross. His observation post received a direct hit by a Chinese shell and it killed his radio operator and one of his batmen and his assistant, his technical assistant, by the name of Bombardier Walsh, carried on and he was mentioned in dispatches. So his radio was destroyed but he got a small radio that he was able to relay to one of the company officers that was able to relay to the artillery net, to direct the fire that night. So our guns fired steadily all night, the barrels got red hot and we were throwing water on them to try and cool them down. So we fired right through until dawn, until the Chinese withdrew. The Chinese were bundling up their dead and rolling them down the hill. They wrapped them in wire and rolled the down the hill and took their wounded out. They also took several prisoners from the RCR and several RCR were killed.

We did fire often in support of The Hook and [Hill] 355 [two hilltop positions in Korea defended by Canadian troops at that time] for the same sort of thing during attacks. And the patrols now, two of my very good friends were killed that night, Lieutenant Gerry Meynell was out, he took a patrol out that night and ran right into the Chinese that were getting ready to attack. And he was shot in the head and his corporal brought some of the wounded back and Lieutenant Doug Banton went out to indicate where they could come back in through the wire and he was telling them, come this way, come this way and, and he was shot. So two very good friends were killed that night.

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