Veteran Stories:
Roly Soper

Army

  • Roly Soper graduating as a paratrooper 4 August 1953. Mr. Soper completed his training at Rivers, Manitoba. Courtesy of Roly Soper.

    Roly Soper
  • Rest and Recuperation pass issued to Roly Soper for five days leave in Tokyo. The R & R program got soldiers out of the line for five days (plus a day or so for travelling time). Courtesy of Roly Soper.

    Roly Soper
  • Photo taken from The Hook, Korea, November 1952. At that time, Roly Soper was serving with the 3rd Battalion of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry. Courtesy of Roly Soper.

    Roly Soper
  • Roly Soper in a front line position near Hill 355, Korea, October, 1952. At that time, Mr. Soper was serving with the1st Battalion of the PPCLI. Courtesy of Roly Soper.

    Roly Soper
  • Roly Soper returned from Korea aboard the troopship, USNS General W.M. Black. When they crossed the International Date Line (180 degrees longitude) they were issued this certificate commemorating the occasion. Courtesy of Roly Soper.

    Roly Soper
  • Photo that appeared in the "Japan News" 31 January 1953 of the top NCO graduates from Junior NCO School in Ouijongbu, Korea. Roly Soper was one of the top five graduates from the Commonwealth NCO School and received a watch and a promotion. Courtesy of Roly Soper.

    Roly Soper
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"Because of the battalion's front line experience, it was ordered to go into the line in the August deployment disguised as Americans, the idea being that the enemy (Chinese Communist Forces) would assume we were green troops just over from the States, and attack."

Transcript

I went to Korea as reinforcement to the 1st Battalion Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI) after basic training at Camp Ipperwash, Ontario.

First there was a stop at a Commonwealth Battle School near a village called Nipponbara, located near the west coast of the main Japanese island of Honshu. A few weeks later I joined the battalion in Korea and we went into the line on 9 August 1952. Although I was a green reinforcement, the battalion itself had been blooded and took pride in their airborne designation including the wearing of paratrooper wings, jump boots and maroon beret. The battalion did not make para drops in Korea, it was employed in a regular infantry role.

Because of the battalion's front line experience, it was ordered to go into the line in the August deployment disguised as Americans, the idea being that the enemy (Chinese Communist Forces) would assume we were green troops just over from the States, and attack. The Patricia's, because of their expertise and experience, would then clobber the enemy. That was the plan. For the role we wore U.S. helmets, although most of us just wore the lightweight liner. (Normally we wore caps, balaclavas or berets. Helmets and flak vests for Canadians were issued later, during the last few months of the war.) Our signals detachment adopted U.S. radio procedure and practised in a southern drawl using phrases like, "Ah read y'all five by five."

As an individual private soldier I was not impressed with the idea. As it turned out, the Chinese weren't either. No attacks were forthcoming at that time and two weeks later normal procedures were resumed.

Later that August the monsoons hit. Many of our bunkers collapsed and our trench system became rivers. I recall going for days with little sleep and being soaking wet the entire time.

My front line service was during the static phase of the war. Trench warfare. Living in bunkers with rats for company. My recollections are a montage of images—incoming mortar bombs, heavy artillery shells, periodic small arms fire and many, many patrols into no man's land. In the summer and fall of 1952 our battalion was positioned on a ridge off the east slopes of Hill 355 (Little Gibraltar). The main hill was held by the Royal Canadian Regiment. The RCRs were hit heavily by attacking enemy forces on 23 October 1952. My section was closest to a small valley separating us from the RCRs and we received some diversionary enemy action. A tank of Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians), positioned near the end of our trench system was hit. In November the 1st Battalion PPCLI rotated home and was replaced by the 3rd Battalion PPCLI. We then moved into positions known as The Hook. In the interim I had been promoted from private to full corporal (skipping one rank, then known as lance-corporal) and had my own section. I finished my tour of duty with the 3rd Battalion and returned to Canada.

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