"99 percent of the time, we were on our belly, crawling through the field with a bayonet in our hand digging in the ground to find the mine."
I joined the forces in June 1951 and went to Halifax [Nova Scotia] where I was sworn in as a member of the Canadian Forces. And then I joined the Royal Canadian Engineers and went to Chilliwack [British Columbia], did my basic training in Chilliwack, did my corps training in Chilliwack, and then I went to Korea in April I think it was 1952. And of course, I did my year, I come back from Korea in August 1953.
And while we were there, our jobs were in some ways I guess simple jobs compared to the infantry. We didn’t get too involved with the actual fighting although we were involved with the enemy shooting at us. And our main job was roads and airfields and mine warfare. Basically roads. And I was stationed with the Patricias [a nickname for the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry Regiment] for three months on Hill 355 and our job there was digging undergorund bunkers on two thirds of the way up the mountain. And I kind of enjoyed that except we had to stay there at nighttime. And I didn’t enjoy that, staying in those bunkers at nighttime, Chinese on the other side, we didn’t know what was happening. And that was kind of scary.
We did pick up mines. Picking up mines was not quite the same as laying the mine. Although in some ways, they’re more risky. The mines that the enemy laid were never marked. We knew there was a minefield there but we never knew where it was or how it was, nothing, we knew nothing about the minefield. So 99 percent of the time, we were on our belly, crawling through the field with a bayonet in our hand digging in the ground to find the mine. And that was the hard part of the dismantling the mine. And of course, after we found the mine, we would mark it and we figured the mine was totally cleared and marked, then we would leave the minefield and two or three other guys would come along behind us and they would take the mines and disarm them. And that was a dangerous job for those guys because sometimes they didn’t know where the minefield was booby trapped, we didn’t know it was booby trapped. It was just one of those things, the way the Chinese did things. Now, I was in Korea in April this year on a revisit. And some of the areas that we drove over, on the sides of the roads, the highways, little red triangles hanging on a piece of wire, the mines are still there.
We once went out on patrol with the Patricias and it wasn’t much of a patrol. We were only gone probably four or five hundred yards from our base and we sat there listening to what was going on for probably an hour and then back to the base again. So it wasn’t much of an experience except I could say, well, I was out on one patrol.
The last week I was there, we working on overhead camouflage. We had a new lieutenant just come to Korea, I have no idea what his name was, I did know at the time but now. And of course, the North Koreans started shooting at us and we were up on top of our trucks of course and on top of a mountain so they could see us. So they started shooting at us and we just jumped off our truck into a little hole we dug in the ground, right fast. And about 20 minutes later, the lieutenant said, “Okay, let’s go back to work.” I said to him, I said, “No way, I’m not going back to work.” I said, “See what I just picked up? A piece of shrapnel about six inches long and as big around as my index finger and about six inches from my head.” And I said, “If you think I’m going back up there today, you’re crazy, I’m going home in a week’s time and I’m going home in one piece.” I said, “You can go if you want to but I’m not.” And I didn’t. And of course, he didn’t say much to that, he just kind of shook his head, you know, being the new lieutenant, didn’t really know the score and that’s basically it.