Veteran Stories:
Phillip Burke


  • Philip Burke in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, September 2011.

    Historica Canada
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"When we go over to South Korea, we meet somebody from South Korea, they’re all over us, they’re so proud of us."


I had left school and at the time, there was very little work in Halifax [Nova Scotia]. So I went up to the recruiting depot, which was at Windsor Park and I joined in January of 1951 and I came home and told my mother and she almost killed me and my father had just worked on the waterfront, he had come home and he said, “That’s good for him, good for him, you know, to get experience.” So anyway, that was on a Monday, and Wednesday, I was on my way to Calgary [Alberta]. So then I went to Calgary and I took, I joined the Princess Patricias [Canadian Light Infantry, 2 battalion] and I took my parachute jumping there in Rivers, Manitoba and then we went to Korea in 1952. And I came back from Korea and went to Germany. I could say the weather over there, you know, it might seem like it’s a hot country but it’s very cold in the winter. And it’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter, Korea is. But if you were to see the Korea that we saw at the time, like the city of Seoul was nothing, it was just like a burned out thing. But if you went back there now and saw it, it’s one of the most thriving cities in the world. If you were on the lines up in the trenches, you would be, 5:00 you would be up. You would have a trench for two people, your buddy and you would be in the trench and you’d dig the trench. And lots of rats, always rats in those trenches, always. And like I say, it was very cold in the winter and the atmosphere was quite good. Like your meals sometimes you would get them in a jerrycan and not all the time were they hot because you realized the trucks had to get up there and you couldn’t blame them, the facilities were bad. So you’d be sitting there, eating soup that was probably ice cold and it was cold in the winter and you would have coffee that was not coffee anymore, it was ice cold. So things were not good. But however, you braved it and you got through it but that was a normal day and it wouldn’t end sometimes until 8:00 or 10:00 at night, so you had a long day, from 5:00 in the morning until 10:00 or 11:00 at night. Like I said, it was a tough old time. I’m glad it’s over. I wouldn’t go back again if it ever come to that, I would never want to go back again. It was hell. It was not a pleasant thing so I would not enjoy going back. They think of us Canadians in South Korea as the people in Holland think of the Canadians who saved them. We’re on the same basis. When we go over to South Korea, we meet somebody from South Korea, they’re all over us, they’re so proud of us. In 1953, after I came back from Korea, I was sent to Germany. We were the first outfit to ever serve in a country after the war in Germany. I was with the 27th Infantry Brigade. In 1953, most of the brigade was sent to Hanover, that was the infantry brigades. I was with the artillery, the 79th Field Regiment, and we were sent to a placed called Belsen, which was the concentration camp where 750,000 Jews were annihilated at that camp. Now, in the camp, there was a large memorial which stands about 200 feet high and in 20 different languages, in English it reads, “The world shall not forget the murderous Nazis who killed 750,000 Jews at this camp.” This is also the camp which would be of interest to a lot of younger people where Anna Frank, who was stored in Holland there and then she was taken to Belsen where she died in the concentration camp. At the time that I served there in 1953, in Belsen, we were approximately 20 kilometres from the Russian zone. At that time, we were dealing with the Cold War as you probably know. There were something like, we had approximately 1,500 troops in our outfit there and the Russians, which were only 20 kilometres away, had 200,000. So if a war had have broke out, it wouldn’t have lasted very long for us, that’s for sure. Also, the British Eighth Army on the Rhine, that’s who we served with and what I said and when I was with the artillery outfit, we had the Royal Canadian Dragoons which was the tank outfit with us, and in the concentration camp when we arrived in 1953, the ovens were still there and the mounds of earth were piled maybe eight feet high and there were little crosses on them and it would say 1,500 buried here, 3,000 buried here, 5,000 buried here. So after we left in 1953 because they moved us out to Soest [Germany] and I went back to Canada, but they destroyed the ovens at that time, the Americans came in and destroyed the ovens.
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