Veteran Stories:
Andrew Moffat

Army

  • Andrew Moffat in Korea.

    Andrew Moffat
  • Lieutenant-Colonel Andrew Moffat with his medals

    Andrew Moffat
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"The young Van Doo corporal called the shot. I was doubtful. Guy turned to me and I said, “What am I going to do?” And Guy said, “I'm not out in the black of the night, the corporal is. If he wants it, give it to him.” And we did and they got the whole patrol back without loss."

Transcript

The B Company of The Royal Canadian Regiment, the RCR, was overrun by the Chinese, in a very surprise move, and that meant that immediately the core of the Operations people at Brigade Headquarters, that is, the brigade commander, the brigade major, and the artillery commander, and myself, got together immediately at the Operations van. And, this was a matter of coordinating any support that the RCR required.  From my point of view this was artillery support.

The adjutant at the regiment controlled the supporting fire of the guns of our own regiment, the 25-pounder guns.  I, on the other hand, was responsible for coordinating the support of all the other guns, around, that could be brought to bear in support of the RCR. This is a brand new young lieutenant.  Can you just imagine the scope of responsibility?

Now, my CO [commanding officer], the son of the famous General A.G.L. McNaughton, Teddy McNaughton, was my CO in Korea.  And, I learned one of life’s great lessons that night.  Because he just turned to me and said, “Monty, deal with it.” And he sat there and watched me.  And, through the entire battle, I was controlling the fire of the guns of the rest of the division. American 8-inch guns, even naval guns that could reach from the shore, and, all of this, and providing the supporting fire.  He left me to decide – our fire was not, sort of close in to the RCR.  That was left to our regiment to do. But it was, to pick the areas in the middle of the night, from the map, and from my knowledge that the Chinese were probably using as their routes in and out, where their supplies were, where their reserves would be located, and to fire on those, to try and isolate the battle position.

That went on for probably five, six hours.  And throughout that entire time, Colonel Teddy never interfered once.  Never gave advice once.  He watched.  He listened.  And, his silence was approval of what I was doing. Can you imagine what that does for a young officer?  It was an amazing experience.  But a huge step in military education: how to command, how to treat your subordinate, how to monitor and run a battle, it was a fantastic experience.

Now, the other side of the coin, in the OP [observation post], the forward observing role, here it was a matter of being entirely on your own.  Your only connection with other artillery personnel was via radio, sometimes landline if it was operating. But you were the sole individual responsible for the supporting fire, both pre-planned and spontaneous – when required, to support a company of 150 or more men, in probably the most dangerous and exposed period of their lives.

Again, this was – you look back on this and realize how much responsibility it was.  At the time you don’t look at it that way. An example, Guy and I were sitting - actually we were playing a little game of dominoes.  The two of us lived together, in a hole in the ground.  And, with a lantern, we were playing dominoes, a very famous Van Doo [Le Royal 22e Régiment] game. And, there was a patrol out.  And the patrol - a young corporal radioed in that he was in trouble, he’d been surrounded by the Chinese.  He’d been caught in an ambush.  And, he wanted some supporting fire to help get out of this loop. And so he called for something and I put a couple of rounds down.  And, he came back and said, “No, no, that's too far away.  Move it in here.” And I knew where he was, because Guy was able to point on the map exactly where he was.  And, so, I actually made the decision to bring the fire down to less than 50 yards from where he and his patrol were.

Now, the error of the fall of artillery is greater than the 50 yards.  So, the decision had to be, do we take a chance on injuring our own people, or do we take the chance and get them the hell out of there safely?

The young Van Doo corporal called the shot.  I was doubtful.  Guy turned to me and I said, “What am I going to do?”  And Guy said, “I'm not out in the black of the night, the corporal is.  If he wants it, give it to him.” And we did and they got the whole patrol back without loss.

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