"Real Soldiers…David and Spike," Korea, 1951.David Crook
"Spike," Korea, 1951.David Crook
"Spike and Dave on way home," Korea.David Crook
"It was a harrowing three days, I guess. From sheer boredom to sheer terror. At times it didn't stop."
This is David Crook. I served in the army with the 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, in Korea in 1950 to 1953. I joined the army when I was 19. I was probably about the median age, except for the World War II veterans that joined at that time. They called for a special force and a lot of them rejoined the army. We were waiting for the Canadian government to make up their mind whether we were actually going or we weren't going, because at that time it looked like the war was over. But then again, the Chinese entered and it had changed into a new phase and the Prime Minister decided he had to put something in place, as a show of solidarity, and he sent the 2nd Battalion, which I was part of.
Although I didn't go by boat, like the main body of the troops, I flew, fortunately, both ways, coming and going. And I was very fortunate in that respect because the people on the boat really didn't have a good ride. They were pretty badly beat up by the time they got to Pusan.
I joined the battalion in Miryang just before we started towards the front lines. The Chinese tried to come down in great force and we were inserted into the line at Kapyong [22 to 25 April 1951]. The Australians on one side and the British on the left. In the ensuing action the Gloucestershire Regiment was virtually wiped out. I think only 56 people got out alive. The rest were either killed or captured. The Australians fared better but they were strongly hit as well. They were forced from their position or risked being annihilated where they were. We could see them across the valley. They were on a hill a little bit lower than us. They finally had to concede the position, and the Chinese, after losing about 56 people and then the Chinese turned on us. We stayed for three days. We blocked the road to Seoul because right behind the hill turned out to be very flat land and it would have just been a straight run to Seoul and the Chinese would have had no trouble capturing Seoul. And our staying there for three days allowed the allies to re-group and change the course of the battle. And we also saved Seoul in the process which was, I guess, the reason we got the Presidential Citation from United States [Presidential Unit Citation].
It was a harrowing three days, I guess. From sheer boredom to sheer terror. At times it didn't stop. And then you'd get lulls where the enemy would be regrouping for another attack so we'd get a bit of a breather to think a little bit. But, most times it was just non-stop. Fortunately we were able to hold out to a casualty rate of only ten killed and about nineteen wounded, which was quite light considering the losses that we inflicted on the enemy. The estimates run as high as two thousand. And I have no doubts that it was in the teens somewhere. Sixteen, seventeen hundred wouldn't be out of line at all. I think we did a very good job there.
There's a number of people that were conspicuous there. Captain Wally Mills who was the commander of C Company. He called an artillery fire down on our own positions, which really saved our bacon because the Chinese were caught in the open and after two hours they broke off the attack. Otherwise we'd have been overrun just like the Gloucesters were. But, fortunately, he had enough presence of mind to do that and consequently won the Military Cross. Battalion commander Colonel [Jim] Stone fought the battle very well. He was a distinguished soldier from World War II and was used to the fighting in the hills of Italy. He fought a good battle. My company commander, Major Vince Lily did an outstanding job as well. Private Mitchell won the DCM [Distinguished Conduct Medal] there for his outstanding work on a Bren gun. Ken Barrwise... And there's a lot of people that were involved in that action that didn't get their due. The fact that they just stayed and fought for three days, completely surrounded and being supplied by air, is no mean feat. I think there's a lot of people need more recognition.
Never be ashamed wearing a uniform. There's nothing wrong with being a soldier. I think it's a noble aspiration to be one and then they should never take a back seat to anybody that accuses them of anything other than doing what they think is right for their country.