Pat Patterson's medals. From left to right: Order of Military Merit (Member), Canadian Korea Medal, Canadian Volunteer Service Medal for Korea, Special Service Medal (NATO), Canadian Peacekeeping Service Medal, United Nations Service Medal (Korea), United Nations Forces in Cyprus, Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal, Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal, Canadian Forces Decoration with two barsPat Patterson
Pat Patterson in Nanaimo, British Columbia, November 2011.Historica Canada
"The whole thing was hinged on taking a hill outside of town which was the dominant feature. And the RCR battalion we were working with, they couldn’t take that hill, so we got chased out of the town. I remember we withdrew with wounded soldiers on the back deck."
Along came the Korean War and nothing happened. And we sat around Petawawa [Ontario] there for months waiting on the government to make up its feeble mind as to which way it should go. And finally, they decided they would send a brigade over there but they would recruit it, which they did. So we spent most of the summer of 1950 training these recruits to go to Korea.
Then, one day on parade, they said, “We want to stiffen this brigade [25th Canadian Infantry Brigade] up a little with some regular force people, who wants to go?” And here was my big chance to get at the war that I wanted. We went to Fort Lewis [Washington, USA], spent the winter there, done some good training. Fortunately, our squadron commander was a decorated soldier from the Second World War. It’s to these guys, our training there that I give the credit to, that held our casualties to a very low level during war because they trained us for the war that they had just seen and their training was good. There were a lot of good people. We spent the winter in Fort Lewis and then boarded a ship and off to Korea.
We came to a place called Chai-li* and that was the first blooding for the brigade. Our 2 Troop [Lord Strathcona’s Horse] went into Chai-li with the infantry, the whole thing was hinged on taking a hill** outside of town which was the dominant feature. And the RCR [Royal Canadian Regiment] battalion we were working with, they couldn’t take that hill, so we got chased out of the town. I remember we withdrew with wounded soldiers on the back deck.
So what we used to do, we used to do long range patrols upside, up one side of the Chosin Reservoir or the Ch’orwan Reservoir and the Americans patrolled up the other side of it. And these were patrolled in force, probably two troops of tanks, a company of infantry, a section of engineers, a troop of artillery and off we’d go. Occasionally, you’d bump something, a little bit of small arms fire. Mines were the worst thing. It was up there that we hit a mine. We didn’t know what had happened, the terrible explosion, we all bailed out on the ground, having no idea what had happened to the thing. Most of us were bleeding at the ears. The centre suspension on our tank had landed about 200 yards off the one side. The ARV [armoured recovery vehicle] came up, threw out of a section of track and said, “Fix this thing.” We fixed the track but the explosion had warped the hull and we couldn’t traverse the turret anymore, so it was gone.
We became part of, or not part of but we supported the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry, a British infantry unit. And we took Hill 222. And after we took it, we had quite a bit of return fire. We took a hit on the front of the tank, our driver was wounded, fairly badly. We backed off the hill and we patched him up and he was laying on the turret floor. And there was still these rounds going over, screaming. And this was our first experience with the shellfire. And our gunner was also from the [Royal Canadian] Dragoons, he had been there in Petawawa with me. He was a pretty high strung guy. And I was reading my book and the crew commander’s hatch was open and he was sitting in the gunner’s seat. And so he said, “Boy, if a round ever hit our 50 caliber [Browning machine gun], our turret, we’d have it.” So he closed his hatch and I opened mine so that I could still see to read and he attacked me. So he had to be evacuated that night along with the wounded guy. Never seen him again. But we couldn’t get rid of them until after dark, the ARV came and picked them up. So we had to set in there listening to him sob and moan and listen to this casualty sob and moan, it wasn’t a very pleasant evening.
It was kind of a funny trip on the way home. None of the places where we stopped, we stopped and dropped people off all the way along, and there was basically nobody there to meet those guys except their families. Even in Calgary, nobody met the train and there was a couple of ex-Strathconas getting off there. I think it was in Manitoba, probably in Douglas or, anyway, the little town that we stopped at there and there was one guy got off, there wasn’t a soul to meet him there. He just shouldered his kit bag and walked off down the platform. And I thought, “What a homecoming.” Fortunately when I got home, my family was there to meet me but nobody else. And it was such, it’s often been called the forgotten war. And I remember going into town with my dad after I got home and they say, “Geez, where have you been, you’ve been away for a while.” Nobody even knew there was a bloody war on. And yet, we left over 500 people buried there in Pusan [at United Nations Memorial Cemetery].
*30 May 1951 – 2nd Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment offensive to take town of Chai-li and Hill 467 to gauge enemy strength in advance of UN Operation PILEDRIVER on 3 June 1951
** Hill 467 or Kakhul-bong