Veteran Stories:
William Allan Douglas Yuill

Army

  • W.A.D Yuill of Oakville, Manitoba with the Winnipeg Grenadiers Cadet Corps. Banff (AB) Master Cadet Camp, August 1948.

    W.A.D. Yuill
  • Sapper William Allan Douglas Yuill, Royal Canadian School of Military Engineering. Chilliwack, British Columbia, December 1950.

    W.A.D. Yuill
  • New Lance Corporal W.A.D. Yuill on steps of Hut 7B, Royal Canadian School of Military Engineering. L/C Yuill trained No. 32 Troop, Royal Canadian Engineers and this troop lived in this hut. Chilliwack, BC, April 1951.

    W.A.D. Yuill
  • Class 50/60 self-propelled rafts along the Imjin River, near the Pintail Bridge site. This is the river's south bank the morning after the waters receded fast the night before. As a result, Doug Yuill's raft in front was stranded well above the water line. July 1952.

    W.A.D. Yuill
  • Pintail Bridge, Imjin River (looking downstream), just before the monsoon season. A squad tent sits in the foreground on the river's south side. The piers, where Doug Yuill and his fellow engineers installed shearwaters to keep debris out of them, are visible on the bridge. July 1952.

    W.A.D. Yuill
  • Trials in preparation to counter enemy floating rafts used to take out bridges on the Imjin River; two Centurion tanks (with 20-pounder guns) and infantry-fired 75mm recoilless rifles tried to destroy floating 45 gallon drums. This is a raft before the practice shoot. A man is seen swimming to the left. 1952.

    W.A.D. Yuill
  • Trials in preparation to counter enemy floating rafts used to take out bridges on the Imjin River; two Centurion tanks (with 20-pounder guns) and infantry-fired 75mm recoilless rifles tried to destroy floating 45 gallon drums. A target raft (circled) is visible as shells explode in the water in the background. 1952.

    W.A.D. Yuill
  • Trials in preparation to counter enemy floating rafts used to take out bridges on the Imjin River; two Centurion tanks (with 20-pounder guns) and infantry-fired 75mm recoilless rifles tried to destroy floating 45 gallon drums. Tank shells bounce and hit the cliffs during the tank shoot upstream from Pintail Bridge. Smoke marks the shell explosions. 1952.

    W.A.D. Yuill
  • Trials in preparation to counter enemy floating rafts used to take out bridges on the Imjin River; two Centurion tanks (with 20-pounder guns) and infantry-fired 75mm recoilless rifles tried to destroy floating 45 gallon drums. A near miss by the recoilless rifles with two rafts circled. 1952.

    W.A.D. Yuill
  • Cadet Wing Commander W.A.D. Yuill with the Wing's Military Staff Officers and all the cadet officers. Front row, left to right: Doug Yuill, Major J.H.J. Gauthier, Squadron Leader C. Emond, Lieutenant-Commander B. Thillaye, Captain Y. Gosselin, and Flight Lieutenant D. Gagnon. Le Collège militaire royal de Saint-Jean, Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, QC. May 1954.

    W.A.D. Yuill
  • Doug Yuill and his father, J.D. Yuill, at Doug's graduation from le Collège militaire royal de Saint-Jean (CMR), Quebec. April 1956.

    W.A.D. Yuill
  • Recently promoted Captain W.A.D. Yuill, The Canadian Guards. Petawawa, Ontario, April 1962.

    W.A.D. Yuill
  • Lieutenant-Colonel W.A.D. Yuill, ready to fly (in the back seat of a jet plane). Canadian Forces Base Baden-Söellingen, West Germany, 1976.

    W.A.D. Yuill
  • Visit to Team Tyre, Tyre Barracks. Left to right: Lieutenant-Commander Bill Koch, Brigadier-General W.A.D. Yuill, and Lieutenant-Colonel Don Ethell (future Lieutenant-Governor of Alberta). Tyre, Lebanon. March 1986.

    W.A.D. Yuill
  • Brigadier-General W.A.D. Yuill, OMM, CD(3). July 1997.

    W.A.D. Yuill
  • Douglas Yuill's medals. From left to right, with date of award in parantheses: Officer of the Order of Military Merit (November 1985); Canadian Korea Medal (1953); Canadian Voluntary Service Medal for Korea; Special Service Medal with NATO Bar (2006); Canadian Peacekeeping Service Medal (2000); United Nations Service Medal (Korea) (1953); United Nations Force in Cyprus Medal (1966); UN Disengagement Observer Force Medal with "4" (indicating 4 tours in 6 months) (1985-87); Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal (1977); Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal (2012); Canadian Forces' Decoration with 3 Bars (represents over 42 years of service, 12 years for the medal and ten additional years for each bar - 1962, 1982, 1999); Canadian Corps of Commissionaires Long Service Medal with Bar (represents over 17 years of service - 2000).

    W.A.D. Yuill
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"The plaque said, “God and the soldier we alike adore in times of danger, not before. The danger’s passed, the wrong is righted, God is forgotten, the soldier slighted.” "

Transcript

I was marched in to see him, and it was really quite a procedure; I’d watched it as an administrative clerk while I was – the weeks I was doing duty there. You were marched into his office. You were never asked to stand at ease or anything like that. You stood, you looked straight ahead, at a plaque on the wall, and I have the words to that plaque engraved in my mind. The plaque said, “God and the soldier we alike adore in times of danger, not before. The danger’s passed, the wrong is righted, God is forgotten, the soldier slighted.” And that was what you stared at as you spoke to this captain. So I was marched in the office fully prepared to keep my eyes rigidly on this plaque and only answer when I was spoken to, etc. I was completely taken aback by the captain saying, “Right, you want to be a field engineer? I’m taking you off training and appointing you a lance corporal and putting you in charge of No. 32 Troop. March out.” So I picked myself off the floor and somehow got out of the office absolutely thunderstruck. But what he’d done, he had in fact taken me off after about eight weeks of training, appointed me a lance corporal, which wasn’t a paid rank, and put me in charge of this troop that was just forming to start with their training.

The original [Canadian Army] brigade that went to Korea was specially recruited for that purpose. So they had formed a squadron, a field engineer squadron, called 57. So 57 Field Engineer Squadron* went over with the original Canadian brigade, under [Brigadier John] Rockingham. The replacements for those [original units], were all the first drafts of Regular Force units. So – 1st Battalion Patricias, 1st Battalion RCR, 1st Battalion Royal 22nd. So, in the case of the engineers, the only field unit we owned, was 23rd Field Squadron, so they were the ones in the barrel.

We were going to replace 57 Field Squadron, and they did it a troop at a time. So I went over – my draft went, went down by train as I recall, from Chilliwack [British Columbia] to Fort Lewis [Washington]. Trains went right down onto the wharves, in Seattle, actually in the Port of Seattle. And we detrained, formed up, and marched off and went onboard this quite large, civilian-manned troop transport. There were 5,000 of us onboard. I think most of us as Canadians were amazed – I certainly was – to find when we started talking to the Americans on board, that they didn’t really have any structure as to what was happening to them. In our case, we were going over as part of a troop of field engineers and we had all trained together for a minimum of five or six months, some of them much longer than that. The Americans were going over – they had been given what they called an MOS, a Military Occupational Specialty number. And all of them had two or three numbers. So the first one might have been administrative clerk, the second one could have been cook, the third one was always a combat arms function - infantry, armour, or artillery. But they had no idea, until they got off in Japan, what speciality they were going to be employed in, and even what division they were going to go to. Well the division, their divisions were pretty close to 12,000 men. And it just struck me how, what a difficult morale challenge it must be, to be in that sort of situation. The one we were in, you were going over with people you knew pretty well. You probably drunk with them. You certainly worked with them, and so forth, so you had a pretty good idea who you could trust and who you couldn’t or what each guy was worth. But to go over in this other situation where you’re going over a man-for-man rotation, with – until you got to Japan, not even any idea what job you were going to be given really until you got to Korea, and even when you go back on the ship, the only thing you knew was what, you knew what trade you were going to be employed in and what division you were going to go to. And I thought boy, what a soul-destroying experience that must be.

Got on a bunch of trucks, trucks individually broken up by units, and away we went to join up and we went up to 3 Troop, which was my old troop, and started into the process of handing over from them. And, this was near a position just south of the Imjin River at a crossing that we called – the friendly forces called, Teal Bridge. All of the river crossings across the Imjin or elsewhere were named after waterfowl. So there was Pintail Bridge and there was Teal Bridge and there was Widgeon Crossing and this sort of thing. These were tank fords or bridges. So this was, Teal Bridge, and we were just in behind that and it was very near what became known as Gloster Hill. It was the hill where the [1st Battalion, The] Gloucester[shire] Regiment had been decimated by the major Chinese offensive in the spring of 1951 [at the Battle of the Imjin River].

I think the first job we ended up with - I was, as I say, a section 2IC [2nd-in-command]. The section commander was Corporal Fred Tabb, a British soldier originally – he had come to Canada to join the Canadian Army. And our first job, was to build an aerial cableway across the Imjin River at this Teal Bridge site. And the idea was that, the Imjin River being a tropical river or tropically fed, in monsoon time is capable of just tremendous changes in elevation and depth. Later on that year I ended up working near Pintail Bridge and the river rose 39 feet in 27 hours. Quite steep banks – it’s not like most prairie rivers where the water can spread out. So when there’s additional water coming down, the only place the water could go, is just the levels to rise. So the idea was that if we ever lost the bridge, this would be a way to get at least limited stores and so forth across to the other side and personnel if you needed to. So this was to be a mechanized winch, a gasoline-engine driven winch, which would drive the cable that would haul a structure similar to a enlarged stretcher, in size, but with a bottom and sides on it, and this would be suspended from a cable on pulleys, and then you’d have a haul cable to move this thing back and forth across the river.

It wasn’t very long until we were into laying minefields, in an area facing to the southwest really, in a position above the Samich’on Valley and across the valley from what would became known as The Hook position. So Hills like 182 and 187. Quite a complex procedure; the mines of course have to be laid on a strictly controlled pattern, so that you know where your mines are even if the enemy doesn’t. So in this case you would choose a base point and a marker would be put into the ground, usually two or three stakes wired together with some sort of a tag on it in the grass, something that wasn’t obvious but something that could be found. And then from there on a magnetic bearing, a compass bearing, you would lay out a tape which went straight away towards the enemy, more or less from that basic point, and then to the left or right of it, depending which direction you were going, you would lay out tapes at right angles to it. These tapes were about six yards apart, maybe nine yards apart.

We were laying at that time something that was new to us, it was a, what was commonly called the “Commonwealth Cluster” – you were laying a cluster of mines. You laid a 20-pound anti-tank mine in the middle – these were all American mines. And then around it you would lay at the 9 o’clock, 3 o’clock, and 12 o’clock positions – from that anti-tank mine, you would lay three anti-personnel mines, and these would be either the blast type, which were just a cube, oh, twice the size or about the size of two pounds of butter – which was strictly a blast mine, it would blow your foot off. Or you would lay a bounding mine, one of the ones where when you stepped on it, it ignited, and it projected a grenade-size projectile up, which went off about six feet off the ground after it had left the base plate. So you’d lay these three anti-personnel mines, and the anti-tank mine, and these had to be laid on either side of each tape, a paced distance apart. You started at the outer end of the tape and you laid your way back. So you would – as a corporal you’d go out and guide all this procedure. Your soldiers would lay the mines and you would check to see that they were being properly laid. Once everybody had finished laying them and burying them, the mine would be left with a safety pin, with a little bit of canvas tag on the back of it so you could find it, and then overtop of it would be a small canvas triangle like a little pup tent, sitting over top of it. And that was simply so you could find it in the dark.

You could trade the Americans for anything. You could get anything done. At one stage, late on in the tour, the Canadian brigade was going to come out of the line, completely, so they were going to bring their tank regiment out. Well, a tank regiment is upwards of 60 Centurion tanks. Well, this ford at Teal Bridge, was quite a tricky one because you went into it from the enemy side at an angle, a very shallow angle, and you went lengthways down the river towards the bridge and then you had to do a very hard left turn and come up the hill. And if you didn’t do that, you ended up in about 16 feet of water, which wasn’t very good for a Sherman or a Centurion [tank]. So I was told to go in and mark this ford. Well, in typically Canadian fashion, my resources to do this were a rubber – a two-man rubber reconnaissance boat – you know an inflatable reconnaissance boat. I had lots of 12-foot long pickets, metal pickets that I could drive in to mark it, because the marking had to be high enough for the tank crews to see it, so you had something to follow. But try to drive pickets out of a rubber recce boat, when the pickets are 12-feet high, is quite a challenge I found. So, I spoke to one of my troop officers and explained my conundrum and he said, “Well, what are you going to do?” And I said, “If you’d let me buy a case of beer I think I can solve this problem.” He said, “Yes, you can.” So, the guy gave me the money out of the troop fund to buy a case of beer.

In Korea, there was a daily ration of a quart, a quart bottle of Asahi beer and it was brewed in Japan to NAAFI** specifications, the British canteen organization specifications. So it was very good beer, it was, you know, good British beer. And it was a quart-size bottle, capped bottle, and they came 24 to a case. Well, just towards Teal Bridge from me was a US Marine Corps camp, and they were there, because they’d been breaking up ice in the river, during the wintertime, because they were afraid of, Teal Bridge – the big high bridge that had been there – had been taken out in flood time in 1952, and they had put in – the Americans had put in a low-level pontoon bridge. But with the ice floating in the river, they were afraid of losing that bridge. So they kept this – Marine Corps Unit there, and they had these amphibious tractors that are used to bring troops from the – they can swim. They used to bring troops from the transports offshore onto the landing beaches, so they carry quite a number of men, but they’re quite high, they’re about 10-feet high. So I went down and drove into the Marine Corps camp with my case of beer in the back of the 3/4-tonne truck and saw a sergeant and got out and I said, “Sergeant, I need an ‘amtrac’.” He said, “Oh, no shit man, I can’t give you that...” – he went on and on. I said, “I got a case of beer in the back” – he said, “I’ll drive.” That was the way to get things done.

*57th Canadian Independent Field Squadron, Royal Canadian Engineers

**Navy, Army & Air Force Institutes (United Kingdom)

 

Interview date: March 12, 2013

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