Veteran Stories:
Arnold Cockburn

Army

  • Safe Conduct Pass dropped by Chinese forces over Canadian soldiers, especially at Christmas time.

    Arnold Cockburn
  • A Safe Conduct Pass that guarantees the holder safe passage to a prisoner of war camp, security of life, retention of personal belongings, safety from physical abuse and medical care if needed.

    Arnold Cockburn
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"After the first wave – we beat them off – the second wave came in. They didn't have weapons but they picked up the weapons from the fallen comrades in wave one. We were running down on ammunition."

Transcript

I'm Arnold Cockburn. I served in Korea with 2RCR [2nd Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment].

We left Canada the fall of 1950 to Fort Louis, Washington. Spring '51 sailed to Korea, and 21 days later landed in Pusan. We were poorly equipped – bolt-action rifles, one pair of summer pants, and no helmets – but we were blessed with World War Two battle-trained and well-decorated company commanders, commanding officers, and brigade commander [25th Canadian Infantry Brigade] General [John] Rockingham.

Short training took place just before we were attached to the British 27th Brigade on the Han River. We advanced north of the 38th Parallel and halted at the foot of a formidable mountain barrier, Hill 467. We were attached to the US 25th Infantry Division. We attacked Chail-li [30 May 1951, 2RCR sought to take the town of Chai-li and Hill 467]. My company was to capture a hill between Chail-li and Hill 467. We attacked in heavy rain and visibility was very poor. When we were told that the Americans were withdrawing, we found out that they had never attacked in the first place. Our first indication was that there was a mass of troops moving up towards us, and they kept on telling us, "That's the Americans withdrawing." When number 7 Platoon reported back, one of the men dropped his poncho, and he had putties right up to his knees. These were Chinese, so we were told to fire on them.

After the first wave – we beat them off – the second wave came in. They didn't have weapons but they picked up the weapons from the fallen comrades in wave one. We were running down on ammunition, so we were told to withdraw. 7 and 8 Platoon went over to establish a head over across this valley and we came out last, running along the dikes of a paddy field across this valley. We were mortared and machine-gunned as we did, and as we came out of the paddy fields and into a bush, we ran into… there was a barrel of a gun sticking out. We thought this was it, but it was General Rockingham and our company commander waiting for us. Now that's the kind of a general he was. We had six killed and fifty-four wounded.

After that we moved to the Imjin River and took over patrolling the Ch'orwon Valley. Ch'orwon was a huge valley, and the div [division] commander wanted to have a prisoner taken every day, which was impossible. Then the peace talks began, and also it was good news that we were leaving the American 25th Division and became part of the Commonwealth Division. It was really a big change.

We then formed up and crossed the Imjin River. We were well up into North Korea when the peace talks started again, and we withdrew and were ordered into reserve. We had spent four and a half months in the line. February '52, I was rotated back to Canada to take over a Canadian airborne role.

 

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