Donovan Redknap (left) and Ed Hollyer (right) recall the Battle of Hill 187 at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa, Ontario in 2003.George Metcalf Archival Collection, CWM 19970045-002
In front of the officers' mess in Korea (left to right): John Hall, Francis Bayne, and Reg Redknap. Photograph courtesy of Francis Bayne, another officer with the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery.Francis Bayne
Donovan Redknap's medals (left to right): Canadian Korea Medal, Canadian Volunteer Service Medal for Korea, Special Service Medal (NATO), Canadian Peacekeeping Service Medal, United Nations Service Medal (Korea), United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan Medal, United Nations Forces in Cyprus, Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal, and Canadian Forces Decoration.Donovan Redknap
Brigadier-General Jean Victor Allard, commanding officer, 25th Canadian Infantry Brigade (standing, second from right), on a visit to R ("Roger") Battery, 81st Field Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery. Korea, May 1953.Donovan Redknap
Officers of B Battery, 1 Regiment, Royal Horse Artillery. Donovan Redknap (seated, third from right) served as an exchange officer with this British unit from 1961-1962.Donovan Redknap
B Battery, 1 Regiment, Royal Horse Artillery, England, 1961-1962. Donovan Redknap (seated at centre) served as an exchange officer with the unit.Donovan Redknap
The commanding officer of Le Royal 22e Regiment (left) and Donovan Redknap (right) in Cyprus 1969.Donovan Redknap
"We were firing defensive fire around the area, trying to keep the Chinese back. Anyway, the patrols came back in, and the Chinese lifted their barrage and then they swarmed in. The Chinese, they have no regard, in those days, they had no regard for casualties, didn’t matter."
We’d been there a few, a couple of weeks, when the one major battle that I was involved in, and it was the last major battle the Canadians fought in Korea, happened on the 2nd-3rd of May 1953 when the Chinese attacked the 3rd Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment.
Now my battery is called Roger Battery, and the Chinese had been shelling the 3rd Battalion almost constantly for close to 13 days, so everybody knew that something was going to happen but they didn’t know when, or what it was going to be. But on this particular night, the 2nd-3rd of May, the RCR, it’s from another company, it sent out a patrol of 16 men. Now the only way out through the minefields was through 7 Platoon of D Company, which is where the Chinese hit.
And the platoon commander of 7 Platoon, in D Company, was a fellow by the name of Ed Hollyer who I know and still know, he’s still around.* And, anyway, the patrol went out, 16 men, and they hadn’t been out there very long before they were ambushed. They went out to ambush Chinese and in fact they were ambushed themselves, by the Chinese. And their leader, 2nd Lieutenant Gerry Maynell, was killed, and a second patrol went rushing out to try and help get them back in, and the officer leading that patrol was also killed [Lieutenant Doug Banton]. The rest of the patrol managed to get back in.
In the meantime, we [4 RCHA] were firing defensive fire around the area, trying to keep the Chinese back. Anyway, the patrols came back in, and the Chinese lifted their barrage and then they swarmed in. The Chinese, they have no regard, in those days, they had no regard for casualties, didn’t matter. They just attacked en masse. And, they had a drill. The first group would run through the minefield, blowing up the mines and themselves. The next group would throw themselves across the barbwire and the next group would just clamber over them into the position and that was their tactic. I mean, it was something we would never, ever do, but they did it.
And, anyway, what they did, they got into the 7 Platoon’s position and they were overrunning the place. And, so Ed Hollyer, through communications, got back to us and he requested that we fire on the top of his position with airburst. In the meantime he’s trying to get all his men into the bunkers.** So that’s what we did. We fired airburst shells, so that they wouldn’t hurt people who were underground. But it would cause a great deal of shell fragmentation on the surface, on the Chinese who were running around.
Finally, we did that twice, two different times. In the meantime, all the other guns in the [1st] Commonwealth Division were firing in all sorts of defensive fire around the area. And finally the Chinese withdrew. And this was the heaviest casualty count of any single battle that Canadians fought in Korea. And we had 26 RCR dead, 2 gunners from my battery were dead. There were something like 25 or 27 wounded, and the Chinese had taken seven prisoners. They, of course, lost a lot of men, but that didn’t seem to be any regard, as far as the Chinese were concerned. And they went back across the valley, only – they were only about six or seven hundred metres away, across the valley in their own set of hills.
At first light, we sent up an AOP*** and he was a Canadian by the way, Peter Tees. We sent him up, or the division sent him up, and he found that some Chinese were still going back across the valley in daylight. So he called for the whole divisional artillery. That’s like 72 [Ordnance QF] 25-pounder guns plus eight 8-inch guns to fire on these people. He had himself a field day as an artillery spotter.
So by this time, of course, the battle’s all over and that’s how it ended.
*Mr. Hollyer passed away 4 July 2013.
**Hollyer was awarded the Military Cross for his actions.
**Air observation post - military aircraft used for active or passive observations of artillery actions on the ground.