Ron Carruth in front of his tent at "A" Echelon, 1st Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry.Ron Carruth
Soldiers splitting rations at "A" Echelon, 1st Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry. Korea, 1952.Ron Carruth
A soldier identified as Vizna with a captured Soviet or Chinese PPS type sub-machinegun.Ron Carruth
Photograph of a sunset taken from Canadian lines during the Korean War.Ron Carruth
A Korean civilian with two Canadian cooks. Circa 1952.Ron Carruth
A portrait of Sergeant Ron J. Carruth (Retired).Ron Carruth
"Walking down this trail, which could have been mined, we didn’t know. It could have been trip bombs or trip wires set on it."
Now I know it’s going to sound very politically incorrect, but we called the guys on the other side either Chinky, because they were Chinese troops, or Gooks. I don’t know where the word came from but that’s what we called them. And you can’t rewrite history, that’s what it was. So we called them Chinkies and he was over there and he never attacked during the daytime from what our information was. I know that earlier in the 2nd Battalion [of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry] tour, there had been a lot of daytime warfare, but by the time we got there it had been reduced to night time activity. And so we would spend the first part of the day, the morning when we came out of the slit trenches from overnight, sleeping. Around noon we’d get up, have some lunch and do whatever chores we had to do, do our washing, clean up our clothes, get our kit ready and have dinner, something to eat later at night or in the evening. And then towards dark we’d be – we’d pick up our weapons and out we’d go to the slit trenches and we’d jump into them. There were two men to a slitty and we’d be ready for whatever would happen during the night. We went in as I say, two at a time, but you didn’t both stay awake because you were allowed one man to sleep for an hour and the other man stood watch and then you traded off. And that’s how your whole night went through.
You weren’t supposed to smoke because the other guys were known for their ability to see your little spark from your match or lighter and also to track the cigarette butt and they were known to take shots at you if they were in the neighbourhood. What we used to do is we’d get a tin can, a juice can maybe, and we’d punch a round hole in the bottom. Our bayonets were ideally suited for that since they were simply long spikes. We’d punch a hole in it, we’d hunker down in the bottom of the slit trench with a blanket over our head, light our cigarette, put it through the hole in the tin can so the ember was inside the can and then we could stand up and smoke until the cigarette was finished and just push it through and let it drop and die out inside the can. And supposedly there was no danger of being seen. None of us ever got shot at or hit so I’m assuming that it worked.
I went out on an Advance-to-Contact [patrol] one night and they went out fairly often, maybe once a week or so. And we really had our hearts in our mouths for that. Walking down this trail, which could have been mined, we didn’t know. It could have been trip bombs or trip wires set on it. But we’d go it for a ways until the NCO [non-commissioned officer] was satisfied that we’d gone as far as we dared and then we’d turn around quite gratefully and come back home. But there was one night, there was a patrol went out from some other regiment, a Canadian regiment went out through our line – I don’t know, we had a position that they wanted to gather – it was right in front and some information that they wanted to gather. So they went out through our lines and they met an enemy patrol out there and there was a bit of shooting. Our boys came back. They’d picked up some shots and there were some hurt fellows there I tell you. But it was funny because this other regiment came from – with the RCR [The Royal Canadian Regiment] and they were what we called enemies, if you can believe that. We traded barbs back and forth regularly in Canada, but when we got over there, their spit and polish record showed up because even when these guys were going out to patrol, their brass was polished and they were wearing whitened running shoes. And we thought that was hilarious. We couldn’t get over it.
We snuck in at night and nobody knew we got there. And before I knew it I was in Ontario and on my one month rehab leave after an overseas tour. Nobody knew we came back except our own families. There was no reception, not for us. Maybe the previous units had, but not us. We learned when we got home how unaware a great many people were. You were still able to go out on the road in your uniform, your Canadian uniform, and hitchhike and get a ride very quickly. Because this was still only 1952 but the general population, they knew about the war. They would get a little bit of news on the radio. Television was just making its daybreak so to speak here. So there wasn’t a whole lot of coverage about it in the newspaper and the radio and maybe Maclean’s or something like that. So they were not knowledgeable about it.
Well other than the name it is Remembrance. It’s honouring those who have gone before you and who lost so much so that we can have the things that we do have in this country and other countries. It was a strange thing in a way, when we first landed in Korea, at one point we had a drum-head service with the minister, the Reverend; the Chaplain Corps put it on. And that was fine but I was – shortly after that we had a recreational night and it was a film and there was a film which portrayed the German army in the First [World] War. And they were holding a drumhead service. So here were the two armies praying to the same God to kill the other guy. And that kind of took a lot of the sense out of it. But as to what Remembrance Day itself means, as I say, it’s honouring and remembering those who have gone, who are still with us who are in trouble or not in trouble, like myself. My wife and I, we’re quite happy, living quite comfortably. But there are a lot of people out there who aren’t and they need to be remembered too.