2nd Regiment, Royal Canadian Horse Artillery bombarding enemy positions in Korea.ID #21003 Credit: P.E. Tomelin / National Archives of Canada / PA-128280
"There was a whole bunch of them running at me, screaming and blowing bugles, “Canada boy, you die,” you know, and all the rest of that. So that was a bit scary. We laid down artillery and took it from there."
I joined the army in 1948 as an officer cadet and I was commissioned in 1950 and I was posted to 2nd Regiment, Royal Canadian Horse Artillery. They went to Korea and I went with them. We gave artillery support to the Royal Canadian Regiment and the PPCLI at various times and were there until 1951, 1952, just about the end of 1952. We came back to Canada, at which time we converted from the old World War II 25-pounder [gun]* of British origin and we adopted the 105mm howitzer of American origin.**
In the spring of 1951 is when the unit, the 2nd Regiment, Royal Canadian Horse Artillery, was sent to Korea and we went with it. I was pretty young at the time and I must confess right now I was serving under an assumed name and birthdate because I was underage. But that was normal at the time, a great many men were underage.
Most of us seemed to assume that it was some sort of big adventure, which it was of course. But it was more than that. Actually I was very lucky. Most of the unit went over by the old Liberty ship*** and they were seasick and everything else, it was ghastly. But I was actually part of an advance group to set up the camp for a Canadian unit and I flew over.
Basically we landed at Pusan [Korea] and set out where the unit was to be camped at Pusan and later further on. But anyway, that was later. So we just set out the boundaries of the camp and equipment and so forth and carried on from there. At the time Korea had a lot of rough roads, dirt roads really, and it was a bit of a bumpy ride up to the sharp point. But we did it and that's the way it goes.
The 25-pounder is divided into batteries of six and there's three officers in each unit, the battery commander, the gun position officer and the third, which is usually the junior officer of the group, which is me. That's where I was, I was not in direct command of the unit but assisting so to speak.
The only time I was really afraid, felt fear, was the time I took my turn at being Forward Observation Officer, which means to say that you go forward out where the infantry is, even in advance of them sometimes, and while I was there, the Chinese began one of their human wave attacks. There was a whole bunch of them running at me, screaming and blowing bugles, “Canada boy, you die,” you know, and all the rest of that. So that was a bit scary. We laid down artillery and took it from there.
We called back for some resupply of ammunition for the 25-pounders but what the trucks brought us in exchange was ammunition for a 17-pounder anti-tank gun, which we were not. It wasn’t very good for the tubes really. They had to be pulled out and rebored afterwards, after you fired a few rounds of that because it was too small for the bore of the 25-pounder.
Let's say the Forward Observation Officer observed something happening on the Chinese side and he’d call in a troop target and we would fire about “N” number of rounds that you wanted, not in those words, a round of one gun battery or several. The guns would be firing and then we'd stand down for a while.
They were using Russian origin, I think they were 125-pounders[sic], I don’t know for sure. But anyway, they were not that accurate. Most of the counter-battery fire landed at our left. They seemed to have very poor sound ranging and it always landed on our left, except for one time when they did get a few rounds down on No. 6 position and one man was killed and another one injured. That's the only casualty I can remember.
One thing they did do, the Chinese are very good at infiltrating our lines, and I remember one time somebody started sniping at us and we called ahead to the infantry unit in front of us and said send somebody back and take care of these guys because it's only a matter of time before they get somebody. An infantry officer appeared with a couple of men with him and they went up into the hills and soon enough the sniping stopped. So there was one Chinese that was killed on our side.
*Ordnance QF 25-pounder field gun
**105mm M2A1 howitzer
***U.S.-built Second World War cargo ships converted into troop ships for the Korean War