Veteran Stories:
Gerry Ratchford

Army

  • Mr. Ratchford posing while serving with 3rd Battalion, The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada for the presentation of colours for Queen Mother Elizabeth. Montreal, Molson Stadium, 1962.

    Gerry Ratchford
  • Mr. Gerry Ratchford, November 2011.

  • Gerry Ratchford (right) in his sea cadet uniform posing with a neighbour in 1942.

    Gerry Ratchford
  • Gerry Ratchford, 12, posing in 1940 for the regimental march with the Duke of Connaught's Own Rifles.

    Gerry Ratchford
  • Gerry Ratchford (right) posing in the Canadian Scottish Cadet Corps 2136 uniform. Victoria (B.C.), 1978-1979.

    Gerry Ratchford
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"If you go back again today to see what South Korea is like now, compared to what we were there in 1954, I would say yes, it was worthwhile."

Transcript

We knew nothing about Korea, and we knew nothing about Korea that I can recall until we arrived there and once we arrived there, being in the Merchant Navy and being to Shanghai, China and Japan – before I joined the army – yeah, I could take a sigh, say that we were in that country. It was a despair, sanitation was not good, and I knew where I was. But, once we got up into our lines and saw what was going on, we all worked together as companions and mates and everything else. We looked after each other.

While we were there, our first casualty was Ralph Turnbull, on the 1st of January, 1954, he was our first casualty. Although we were not at war, or I should say, we were not fighting at that time, there were a few accidents that had, that had occurred over there. I know one time, we lost three members of Delta Company [2nd Battalion, The Black Watch] in Korea, crossing the Imjin River, I’ll not explain why, at this time. And, some were just through sheer stupidity.

But it was a good tour, it’s a different country. I was back again in 1992 for a revisit and what a difference in the same – a lot of people say, well, was it worthwhile being there? If you go back again today to see what South Korea is like now, compared to what we were there in 1954, I would say yes, it was worthwhile. And the people, the South Koreans are just wonderful people. When you say you’re a Korea veteran, you’re talking to them, they say thank you very much for saving their country. And some people saying it’s, it’s an armistice, it’s not, it was just a truce and a truce is a truce, an armistice is when you cease fire and take and put everything away, take all the barriers down, and then you can reunite your country together, and unfortunately, those two countries are still at war.

South Korea was in shambles. Tin shacks, people just making them, living on the streets. It wasn’t a pretty sight at that time. But now going back, as I say, going back in 1992 for a revisit and seeing all the changes that have been done, yeah, it was worthwhile.

A normal day, would be, we’d be up early in the morning. We would do patrols on the DMZ. Each company had their turn up along the line and did their routines of patrolling, watching what the North Koreans were doing. And there was one night, the whole sky lit up – because it was black out. I said to one of the officers, “What’s going on?” And, he said he didn’t know, we’d find out when we went under –  were doing, the North Koreans were doing something and that was it, I can’t remember what it was but they could see the whole sky light all lit up. And, when you’re in darkness because there’s no streetlights there at that time.

I haven’t been back up to the DMZ, I’d like to have gotten up there when I was there [in 1992], but unfortunately, I couldn’t get up. And I would have liked to have visited the UN cemetery in Busan [Republic of Korea]. A lot of our fellows are still there.

I would like to thank all those members of the armed forces who have served this country and those that are now serving and those that are come, to thank each and every one of you for what you have done so that not only myself, but those that are here now in this world can live in freedom.

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