Veteran Stories:
Harold Toth

Army

  • Mr. Harold Toth, June 2012.

    The Memory Project
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"But I had the privilege in April [2012] to go over to Korea and I went and visited [Lieutenant Milton Cameron Vipond's] grave and it’s so odd that day that I went to visit it, it rained just as hard as the day we buried him. [...] But it did my heart good to go back to see his grave and to see the rest of the soldiers that are over there from Canada."

Transcript

[Serving with the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada in Korea] At the time when we got into our position, each company went to their own part or area, and at the time I had – my two officers at that time were [Lieutenant Milton Cameron] Vipond and [Lieutenant Charles] Belzile [who will retired later with the rank of Lieutenant General], both wonderful guys and both were junior officers. They had a sense of humour which our major didn’t think much of at times but we got along very good. Harrington was our major at that time and our CO [Commanding Officer] naturally was [Lieutenant Colonel W. H. V.] Matthews. Most of the officers were pretty good. They were all young. I never had too much trouble anyway. Training over there was quite severe. We had to take up positions up to see the 38th parallel [determining the border between the two Koreas]. Of course we’re all eyes the first time to see it and we kept our noses down to the earth because we didn’t know what was going on. I remember one night when I was on guard duty on the 38th parallel there was a rustle in the leaves not too far from us. We thought naturally it was a North Korean coming over, but it was a deer. After that we were sharp. Any noise we heard we took notice. The training in Korea was more day training. Don’t forget we were peace-time keepers [The Queen’s Own Rifles were deployed in Korea following the armistice of July 27th, 1953]. We were not in the war and we also had to work with the people more than what the other people that were in the war had to do. I remember one night they had brought in quite a few who had tried to get out of North Korea and we had captured them and we had them – of course it was our first attempt at something like this and how grateful they were to be in South Korea and that has always stuck with me, to see just how thankful those Koreans are for the life that they have in South Korea. It’s changed my whole attitude towards the Korean people themselves. Even now I would do anything for a Korean and I’m sure they would for me too. I think the worst part was to see the children coming through with their parents. Ninety percent were not their parents, they were a friend or something that brought the children with them and the children were all mangled. They had arms broken off or cut off from injuries. Some just had one leg. And how many there were, just baffled you to see this. I didn’t really work with the medical corps but Vipond and I were attached to the education area of the Queen’s Own, which meant that we had to set up classes in the battalion for the guys to go to school. Don’t forget a lot of these people were from the Maritimes. They didn’t have the education that the people have now for joining up. But boy, they sure were eager to learn. Sometimes I couldn’t believe what you heard, what classes they came from and that. I thought how did you get in? But they got in. They got over there. In Korea you lived a different life. We lived in tents when we first got over there and then we moved from our tent area to what was called Maple Leaf Centre. Maple Leaf Centre was a Quonset Hut area which we practically built or helped build [the Quonset Hut is a lightweight prefabricated structure with a semicircular cross section]. The officers had their quarters up higher on the hill and they had Quonset Huts too same as we did. Well that’s when I transferred to headquarters and once in headquarters, you were sort of – any job that came along, that was your job. You just did it. It got you out of a lot of parade square work but when you went to NCO [Non-Commissioned Officers] school, you needed that parade square work to pass your course. Well I didn’t do too good on that. I didn’t make my NCO course the first time. The second time I finally made it. But it was hard because working in headquarters you didn’t know what was going on out in the field. Qualification for rifle range was no problem. You always made that. If not you stayed out there until you did. Okay at the end of our course, we had been promised that we were coming home after eight months I think it was, over there, but our colonel came and told us bear with me, we have to stay another six weeks. I think he came through with that three times, which was very discouraging for some of the guys. Well it didn’t matter to me. I was ready to stay as long as – once I got back to Canada, it wouldn’t be too long that I was going to Germany [with the Canadian Army occupation forces]. That’s what I wanted. That never did happen. I got out before that happened. But anyway, the rest of the time in Korea was pretty well all the same. We went through all the seasons, the hot seasons and the rainy season and then shortly before we left, we had a Quonset Hut fire and in this fire my friend Vipond passed away [in March 1955] and it was very hard to go to the cemetery to see that we were leaving him behind. But I had the privilege in April [2012] to go over to Korea and I went and visited his grave and it’s so odd that day that I went to visit it, it rained just as hard as the day we buried him. It just teemed with water. It just came down in buckets. And I – just as if I was talking to him – I said to him, I said, “The last time I saw you it was raining and this is the next time and I’m still raining,” and kind of laughed to myself about it. But it did my heart good to go back to see his grave and to see the rest of the soldiers that are over there from Canada.
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