A photo of Phillip Leigh taken at the Korean Veteran Association's "Last Hurrah" In Winnipeg, Manitoba in August 2011.Phillip Leigh
"You form a comradeship with the guy – well, as we had right here – with your comrades. And it’s a bond that stays forever."
The Medical Corps school in Camp Borden [Ontario] was as all the schools were really basically. And while I was there, I went on the para[trooper] course and got my jumps and was posted to the 37th Field Ambulance, which was the medical airborne unit at the time. And then of course, they started looking for candidates to go to Korea, so they posted some of us from the 37th to the 25th FDS [Field Dressing Station] and away we went.
It was in late June or early July 1951 and, as I said, I was with the FDS setting up a base hospital in Seoul [South Korea], took over the University of Seoul actually, it was all bombed out and we set up the hospital there. And, then eventually in the late winter of 1952, I went to the FDS, the field ambulance for 10 days and then from there went up to the 1st Battalion, PPCLI [Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry Regiment], as a medical assistant.
Well, it’s altogether a different thing. I was in the RAP [Regimental Aid Post], we had an RAP sergeant, they promoted me up to a corporal, and there was two of us there. And of course, in the battalion, each rifle company had one medical assistant, RCAMC [Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps], and then of course they had stretcher bearers as well, so. And, while I was there, the RAP, I couldn’t remember how long but one of the fellows had to be relieved in Charlie Company and I went up to Charlie Company as their medical assistant.
The one incident I can remember, and this again deals with a civilian. The RAP sergeant tells me this old Korean farmer is going to come around and he falls in with the sick parade with the other guys. And, he had gangrene in his arm and it should have been amputated, you know. But he would come in – and he [the sergeant] says, “Just give him saline soaks and give him some ABC&Cs and he’s happy” – and I can still remember every morning he’d come in, let him soak his arm, and get him. And yeah, the look of appreciation in his eyes, I still remember that. And of course, as I say, I went to a rifle company after that, I don’t know, I don’t think he lived too long.
It was sort of a stalemate and you were just, and it was different again, so, basically all you’re doing is first aid, any injured come through, and you look after them. They had a patrol out and I had to go down with the stretcher bearers and any casualties coming through – this is at the bottom of Baker hill Company and those guys thought we were Chinese had come in behind them, so they started throwing grenades at us, and I gave them a little bit of shit over that. But anyway, no, I went out in one patrol one time – they don’t normally take a medical assistant, they take a stretcher bearer with them – but they thought, “[we’ll] give him a little dose of what it’s like to go on patrol” and so they gave me the radio to look after. And, I remember lying down and trying to keep my voice down and this big bloody rat ran up my leg and across my chest and I just about yelled out, I thought, oh geez, we’ll end up being prisoners instead of trying to capture one.
Well, I would say relying on your buddies is a big factor, you know. You form a comradeship with the guy – well, as we had right here – with your comrades. And it’s a bond that stays forever.