Veteran Stories:
John Gillis

Army

  • Canadian artillery guns being fired in the Korean War.

    Sidney Fox
  • Explosions on hills during live action in Korea.

    Ron Carruth
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"You don’t really get to know what you’re shooting at or why you’re shooting at it or whatever."

Transcript

Camp Shilo [Manitoba] in 1950 wasn’t the way it is today. Today it’s quite a modern camp, but, when we were there it was what we called H-huts, which are huts built in the form of an H with living quarters on two sides and in the middle of the two living quarters, is washrooms and laundry and what-have-you.

Well, we had to do foot drill, and because I was in the artillery we did gunnery, on the 25-pounder gun, and also on the 4.2 inch mortar. And, that was basically our training – we did a lot of marching and foot drill and what-have-you and a lot of classroom work and a variety of, you know, on the ranges with the .303 rifle and the Sten gun. And, it wrapped up into a period of eight weeks.

I didn’t find out then – as a matter of fact, I was told that I was going to – because I was too young to go to Korea – I was going to go to the Winnipeg Flood, work on the Winnipeg Flood, which a lot of the soldiers who didn’t go, or prepare to go to Korea – came to Winnipeg and worked on the flood, which was a very bad flood in those days in [May] 1950. Anyway, later on I guess they changed their mind and a sergeant major told me that, “You’re going to Korea,” and I said, “I’m not old enough,” and he said, “You will be by the time you get there.” That was pretty well how it worked. And, we were sent off to Fort Lewis, Washington for advance training, before we went to Korea in the spring of 1951.

Well, it was mostly Canadians. There were some – I mean there were Americans there as well, but, most of our training was with and by Canadians, some of it with Americans. But it was really the same thing that we took in basic training, except at a more accelerated pace and probably a lot deeper in depth than what we had in basic training.

There was fighting all the time. We were out every day, like it wasn’t a day out and come back for a couple of weeks or something. It was – we were gone every day. During the artillery – and they tell you, give you a grid reference, and then tell you what to shoot at and you’d shoot at a grid reference. You don’t really know – you’re in a vehicle with ruddy boards and radios and what-have-you and you don’t get to know – and the guys out on the guns – you don’t really get to know what you’re shooting at or why you’re shooting at it or whatever. Find out a lot after, after you come back, than what you knew there actually, or at least in my case, anyway.

The thing is that, as I said earlier I believe, that you make these friends in the military and 60 years later they’re still your friends and you’re still meeting with them whenever you can, and help them, and they help you, and it’s the old comradery. It’s very, very important. It’s one of the things that in us ex-military personnel and veterans, it stays with you for all of your life.

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