Veteran Stories:
Harold William Curley

Army

  • Lance Bombardier Harold W. Curley, 81st Field Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery. Korea, circa 1953-1954.

    Harold Curley
  • U.S. Naval ship James O'Hara that transported the men of the 81st Field Regiment during the Korean War.

    Harold Curley
  • 25 Pounder gun, 81st Field Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery. Korea, circa 1953-1954.

    Harold Curley
  • Harold Curley standing near the bunker located behind No. 2 gun, Fox Troop, "C" Battery, 81st Field Regiment. Korea, 1953.

    Harold Curley
  • No. 3 gun, D Troop, 81st Field Regiment, who was put out of action because of a shell that exploded in the barrel.

    Harold Curley
  • Harold Curley's gun. Picture taken after the armistice. 1953.

    Harold Curley
  • Harold Curley's gun crew. From left to right: Gunners Surette, Nisbett, Penny, Doucette and Coady.

    Harold Curley
  • Mr. Harold Curley. November, 2012.

    The Memory Project
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"And then later on that evening, the RCRs decided they were going to call down our artillery on them. So they said they're all going to get in the bunkers. And there's Chinamen all over the place. And to start firing air burst over them."

Transcript

The first night we stayed at regimental headquarters.  And got up the next morning and famous Sergeant Major Lloyd, he told us to shoot all the rats that we could see because they carried haemorrhagic fever.  And don’t go near any of the girls because it was all diseased.

And we got sorted out there to -- decided which gun troop we were going to go to.  And so I went to Fox Troop [‘F’ Troop], Charlie Battery [‘C’ Battery’], 1st Horse Artillery [4th Regiment, Royal Canadian Horse Artillery].

There was quite a bit of snow on.  And it was awful desperate cold.  And not much place to stay.  But the bunkers we stayed in, the stoves were mostly made -- we made stoves from the ammunition can.  And we used shell casings for stovepipe and stuff like that.  And a five-gallon jerry can.  We burned gasoline because gasoline was a lot hotter than diesel fuel.  You burned diesel fuel with a thing like that you'd freeze to death.  But we burned all the gasoline when we were staying in the bunker.

The points out in the valley where the enemy used to frequent, we were ranged in all night.  And there was a piece of aluminum -- or maybe plastic on the gun like that there, and you could go down the line range and angle a site for that -- and all four guns there on that hill would have the same thing.  And there was four guns back of us on the hill behind us.  They would have the same thing.

So if anything was going on in that particular area, they'd phone you from the command post and say put that number on your gun.  And gunfire.  And that means they put us on and just start firing and fire until they tell you to stop.

The second of May in 1953 [during the Battle of Hill 187, 2-3 May, 1953], the Chinese overrun the RCRs [soldier of The Royal Canadian Regiment].  And we were firing over the RCRs, not only our gun but our gun got so hot that you could smell the paint.  So we phoned up the command post, told them we had to take the gun out of action and cool it down.

But behind the gun we had two or three barrels of water, 45 gallon barrels.  And we had water and blankets.  You put an empty cartridge in the gun, close the breech, then you get pails.  You elevate the barrel a little bit.  You go up to the front of the gun and you start pouring water down the barrel.  And you have to be awful careful the first two or three pails because it bubbles out so bad.  It just came right out in steam.

But after about three pails then you could fill the barrel full of water.  And it would of course evaporate over a short length of time.  And put more water in the barrel.  Then get the blankets and wrap the barrel in the wet blankets.  And it wouldn’t take very long for the barrel of that gun to dry those blankets right out.

So you'd take some more.  Take a long time to cool the gun down.  More wet blankets on and just keep doing that until you think the gun is down cool enough that you can continue firing again.  And when you get the gun all cooled off you just phone the command post and tell them that number two gun's ready for action again.

And then later on that evening, the RCRs decided they were going to call down our artillery on them.  So they said they're all going to get in the bunkers.  And there's Chinamen all over the place.  And to start firing air burst over them.  And we had some artillery shells there, not too many, but we had some, that were variable time fuse.  And a fuse is about that long.  And it was plastic.  And it was pretty […].

And you could see the springs and you could see a .22 bullet and everything in there.  And that’s the ones we fired first when we start firing on the RCRs.  And that shell would burst 20 feet off the ground, 20 feet.  And then we run out of them.  And then we had to start setting our own fuses.

You have a plain fuse with no numbers on it whatsoever.  And then you have the fuse you can set the time.  But there's a special wrench you have and you set the time.  I think that night it was 32 seconds.  That’s when the shell left the gun it exploded in 32 seconds over the RCRs.

It was quite clear.  They told us over the speakers that we were going to be firing on the RCRs.

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