Section of 9 Platoon, C Company, 1 Battalion, Royal 22e Regiment taking break from improving reserve defensive position. Korea, March 1953.Frank Jefferies
Soldiers of 9 Platoon, C Company, 1 Battalion, Royal 22e Regiment getting breakfast while in a reserve position. Korea, March 1953.Frank Jefferies
Sergeant Lafresnaye (9 Platoon, C Company 1R22eR) (left) and 2nd Lieutenant Jefferies outside the entrance to platoon headquarters dugout. Korea, May 1953.Frank Jefferies
9 Platoon, C Company, 1 Battalion, Royal 22e Regiment in a reserve area showing Korean soldiers called KATCOMs (Korean Augmentation to Commonwealth) incorporated in the platoon. Korea, April 1953.Frank Jefferies
"A shell would land, and then the next one might be down in front of it, maybe say about 200 metres and then the next one would be about 100 metres up, so we knew they were registering from the way the shells were coming in."
And, when I got up to the line, the fluid battle that had been going on, between the North Koreans and South Koreans, with the United Nations, as well, had stabilized to a certain extent and was in defensive positions. And where the Canadian unit was there, the Canadian brigade [25th Canadian Infantry Brigade], was along this, what was called the Samich’on Valley, with our forces on the south side, and at that time the Chinese had been involved, and we were facing Chinese forces on the north side of the river. So that, when we got up and we found that it was almost similar to what had happened in World War Two in the trench warfare, as that we had the slit trenches, but these were all connected up. And, so they provided protection as you might say, going from one point to another. The only big difference between that and World War One was the distance we were apart. We were – the way the line went, we were on the hills south of the river, and it went back slightly at an angle so at one area we were about 300 yards, or 300 metres from the Chinese and the river, and in other places we were about 15-1800 metres. It was quite a long way back from the river.
And so this is what we find, but it was still that the troops had made dugouts and had scrounged enough material to make kind of makeshift beds in the dugouts. They had been busy on putting mines across the front, and also barbed wire around all the positions. And so it was, as I said, it was a similar situation to World War One and we were continually harassed on, shellfire, sometimes quite heavy and other times just the odd round would come in just to, keep us alert that there were enemy across the river.
I found that at that time, because we were in the defensive position, our main activity was patrolling. And these went from anywhere from a small reconnaissance patrol of probably of three people with – and I took quite a few reconnaissance patrol - I’d have myself and two of the men with me, and of course we had radios and if it was on a reconnaissance patrol, usually I used to carry the radio myself. But then sometimes if we were trying to – finding out where some of the Chinese were operating, we might send fighting patrols out which could be anywhere up to about 30 people, about 30 soldiers.
I did one which was called an infiltration patrol. We were trying to ascertain for sure on whether Chinese were operating a couple of hills. And, I checked out a patrol report which had been from a patrol which had been across the Samich’on River and there was an area on the Samich’on where the water was quite low, and it was easy to cross there and I checked and the last report showed that the water was ankle-deep. So, for the three of us that were on that patrol, I ordered up some boots, some waterproof boots, which went up almost to the knees. But, when we went across – and at that time it was in wintertime, and was quite cold, it was about -10 Celsius about the time I did that patrol. But when we hit the river, we found that the water was up above the top of our boots so, we had to – as soon as we got across the other side, we had to dump the water out of the boots and try to dry them as much as we could. And then we proceeded on with the patrol and laid up in an area where I could watch these two positions and found out, in one of them there was Chinese activity. But, when we came back, again, we had to come back across that river and dump our [boots] – that, and the thing was that we were lying there that, even though that we’d dumped the water out, there was some - our socks would get wet, and one of the soldiers with me unfortunately did get frostbite and had to be evacuated after we got back into the [defensive] position.
As is mentioned before, that we did get some harassing fire, and at times, sometimes we would, there must have been new units of artillery would have been brought in on the Chinese side and they would be registering various targets in our location. Sometimes that would get quite annoying, to say the least, but we’d always know when they were registering because you’d get a – a shell would land, and then the next one might be down in front of it, maybe say about 200 metres and then the next one would be about 100 metres up, so we knew they were registering from the way the shells were coming in.
And, we used to, during the daytime, we could send back what we call “shelreps,” [shelling reports] and we had – the shell would come in and then we’d hear from the [enemy] gun where it fired and we used to be able to take – using your compass – to take a bearing on that sound, and then we would report this back to – through to battalion headquarters, and then from other units doing the same thing, we were able to triangulate exactly where the guns were firing from. So that was one thing that did keep us occupied during the daytime.
Every Remembrance [Day], I remember especially two of my platoon. One was killed by a direct hit by a shell. Young kid, he was just 19 from Québec. And, during the morning inspection, I told him, I said, “After breakfast…” – cause what happened, during the inspection I found some rust in some of his magazines on his light machine gun, and I told him after breakfast to come back and get these cleaned. And that’s what he was doing when a shell came in right on top of him. And, it really upset me at the time.