Veteran Stories:
Gerald Thompson

Army

  • Gerald Thompson
  • Gerald Thompson
  • Gerald Thompson
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"Generally they came over with fairly large amount of guys and worked their way around through the valleys and then try and penetrate up the hill and find out what you had going there."

Transcript

We were taken up to, I guess, “A” Echelon and then of course “B” Echelon, then you were chosen to go to the various companies that, where you were needed.  I ended up going to support company with the mortars.  And, of course, my job was communications, telephones which we had, they strung hard wire lines out for telephones and had small portable telephone exchanges at each of the subunits that were all hooked back into the whole system.  And that was my job there.

Well, we got there, they were moving north pushing the Chinese back at the time.  And there was action.  And, of course, we saw our first wounded and, well, that’s quite, I mean, it becomes very real when you see this.  Before that it was all training and what have you and that’s when it came home that this was, I mean, we knew in our minds it was very real but when you see the first ones that have been actually wounded and that, that’s a little different.

And there were reconnaissance patrols to go out and see what was going on out in front of our hills and go across the valley.  And sometimes they were, they’d go up and do, draw fire.  I guess the purpose of finding out where they had their weapons, heavy equipment, like their heavy machine guns, what have you.  And, well, they were mostly, like I say, reconnaissance patrols that I was involved with.  I never got out there on a big fighting patrol myself.

And, well, it’s you had to make your way through the mine fields but these were all marked off.  They had people that did reconnaissance through there and cleared and made way for us to go through.  And, of course, these were cleared paths where it just a big wide swath through it but they went up and across and down through barbed wire so that the enemy wouldn’t be able to just simply walk through.  They didn’t know where these paths were and so we had the safe path through where the mines were and the barbed wire.

They [the enemy soldiers] did fighting patrols and sometimes quite large and I guess it was always when they were trying to penetrate and then they did at times, there was times when they launched good sized stuff.  They surrounded the, on occasion they did surround some of the forward companies but they were repelled and, I mean, it’s all history there, Kap’yong and these places where they [the Canadian regiments] got a battle honour for holding out there.  And that was a real big one.  I mean, that wasn’t just a patrol, that was heavy duty fighting.

And, I mean, there was, you never knew when they were going to be coming over on a reconnaissance patrol such as our own.  And generally they came over with fairly large amount of guys and worked their way around through the valleys and then try and penetrate up the hill and find out what you had going there.

When I went as a reinforcement to the Second Battalion [of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry Regiment] from the First Battalion, I went to the Support Company to the Mortar Platoon.  And one night there was shelling and that and we lost the telephone line between the mortars and A Company, Able Company, yeah.  And so the guy in charge there, I think his name was Kelly, Kelly Bowser, I believe, B-o-w-s-e-r, if I’m not mistaken.  Anyways, Kelly got this other fellow his name was Redden, R-e-d-d-e-n.  We called him Whitey because of the, his very light hair.  And Whitey came from Nova Scotia.  If I’m not mistaken, I think it was Kentville, Kentville, Nova Scotia.

Anyways, Whitey and I were sent out to repair this telephone line and Kelly told us where it ran because he had been out there and put it in.  And so we went from our hill down into the valley and across this long path that went by the rice paddies.  And we followed the telephone line by hand and it came to a tree where they’d made an overhead crossing.  And the wires were dangling there so it had been cut by shrapnel from mortar bombs probably or shelling of some sort.  And because it was an overhead crossing between trees, that tree and a tree part way up the hill going up to Able Company, the wire had sprung back when it was severed.  And we couldn’t find the other part.  So I, we attached a phone when we got there, of course.  And rang back and I got Kelly on there and told him where we were and told him we couldn’t find the other end.

And so we said, well, how do we go up the hill?  Where do you think it would be?  And he says, well, stand there and look at the hill and the highest part on your left, he said, if you’ll go up there, you should find it.  So we said, okay, and we rang off and took our, we had a portable field phone with us.  We took that.  Whitey and I and was a bit of a cornfield there.  We went through it and we couldn’t find anything.  So we thought we’d work our way up the hill and get into Able Company and get the line and trace it back the other way so we could repair it.

So we stumbled along and we, of course, it was all black and you don’t have any lights of any kind.  We were going through a Chinese, the Chinese had been pushed back out of there just not long before that up this old trench that they had there when they were in there in their fortifications.  Passed an old bunker and we got up to the crest of the hill at the top and just as we got over the crest, didn’t machine guns open up from our right, the tracer bullets going across in front of us and then we returned fire from our left down the hill a bit.  So the Chinese was shooting up at our people and our people were shooting back and we were kind of in front in-between them.

So Whitey and I said that’s enough of that.  We traced ourselves back and decided that we better stay put.  They were shooting away at each other and we went back and got in that vacated Chinese bunker and hunkered down and, well, we stayed overnight.

In the morning, in daylight, we went back up again and sure enough we were out in front of the Able Company.  And then as we wandered up the guys said, oh, we knew you were out there somewhere and nobody was too concerned.  I guess they felt we were fine.  And so we had a bit of breakfast with them.  Walked down and sure enough we found that the line was back in the cornfield there and we repaired it and went back.  So we had a pretty uncomfortable night there.

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