A photograph of Ken Soper taken at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in January 2012.Ken Soper
"I had a new set of teeth in, false teeth. And I couldn’t stop chattering. The guys and I decided, you’ve got to do something, take them out. But as I say, when you’re in that situation, my God, you’re under stress and you can’t help it."
One of the most interesting jobs I did have was to go between companies, this was when we were in kind of a defensive position but still, the enemy wasn’t far away, gathering ration statistics. We had five companies and they were scattered and the headquarters has to know each day how many mouths there were. And so I did that for about three months. And this took me, this was quite interesting because I often got out at nighttime out in no-man’s land almost.
But I spent the latter part of my period in Korea in the, what we called the BOR, which is the battalion orderly room. And the battalion orderly room is situated about up to three miles behind any fighting that’s going on and it’s commanded by what they called the assistant adjutant. The adjutant is further up and the assistant adjutant works out of this BOR and they have two or three clerk type people. And to some extent, that’s what I did for the last part. As I say, I was the teletype operator, so I could fill the job with typing if they had typing. But I didn’t do a lot of personal fighting myself but I was in the line and the enemy was there and there are battles going on.
There was fighting going on behind us, well they were warned of the patrols coming through, they got through and all hell broke loose and it was my first experience. And I had a new set of teeth in, false teeth. And I couldn’t stop chattering. The guys and I decided, you’ve got to do something, take them out. But as I say, when you’re in that situation, my God, you’re under stress and you can’t help it.
Our first experience was perhaps a couple of weeks after we landed, where they put us in, in fact, it was Turkish troops, that was withdrawing and our battalion replaced them in a defensive position. And they were all up the hills because everything was pretty well fought on the hillside and this is where we were, we had the Sten gun or we had some Sten [submachine] guns but it was a Bren [light machine] gun mainly and our rifles. And this is our main defense. Now, as I say, I wasn’t really involved in the fighting other than a few hundred yards along, it was going on and mortars were coming in. The first morning, I was in that position, I took my blanket out and put it up in the back of the slit trench, because we hauled the soil up and camouflaged it. But anyway, I put the blanket up and this shows inexperience and it wasn’t long, the mortars started zeroing the old blanket and the officer see this and the sergeant comes roaring down, you’re giving the enemy an object. As simple as that.
Well, we saw casualties but we didn’t see a lot. Because a lot of the casualties were taken out at nighttime and in bags. But I did see two or three that MO [Medical Officer] had to look at. But you know, near where we were. But I didn’t see, there was lots of Chinese mind you. Bodies, there was quite a few of those sticking out in various areas where they hadn’t been properly buried, that type of thing. So I didn’t really see a lot of the viciousness, if you know what I mean.
I was worried about my own reaction. I wasn’t sure how I’d react and I was pleased in a way that I did what I did. Now, there were people who broke down and couldn’t go on and I had two or three close friends, that it was too much for them.