Sherman tanks of "C" Squadron, Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians), completing tour of front-line duty in Korea, 16 July 1952.Paul E. Tomelin/Canada. Dept. of National Defence/Library and Archives Canada/PA- Restrictions on use: Nil Copyright expired
"I dived down underneath as far as I could go forward underneath there but the shrapnel come and ricocheted it off the turret and hit me in the back of the head. So that was the end of my action days."
We worked at the Big Apple Orchard up there and from there I joined the TH and P Railroad as a section hand. And I was doing that work when the call came out that they wanted men for the Korea [Canadian Army] Special Force, preferably veterans. So I was getting $78 a month, and when I joined up I got $139 a month. So it was a raise in pay for me.
I went to Toronto in personnel six, and done all my medicals and everything. And from there they shipped us up to [Camp] Borden [Ontario] and we were at Borden for a while. I was a gunner, trained as a gunner from a rifle right up to the big 15-inch guns. And yet, when I got to Borden, I found out that they had put me down for a driver. And then there another Elliott in the outfit – he wanted to be a driver, but they put him down as a gunner. So we got kind of mixed up there, but that’s where we stayed. And we went from Borden, we went to Fort Lewis down in the States, down in Washington State.
We were in Fort Lewis and the word came down through the grapevine that they didn’t know whether they were going to send us to Korea or send us to Europe. So we were kind of in limbo there for a week or so. And then finally word came that we were heading for Korea and on the 15th I think it was, 15th of April 1951, we went aboard the Empire – the USS Marine Adder. And then we sailed over to Japan. On the way over we ran into a typhoon. I’ve lived on the water and worked on the water for 30-odd years, and I’ve never seen swells so big as what that was. The wind was blowing and every time you came up on a swell you could see for miles and miles and miles, and then the next minute you’re right down in a trough and all you see is water all the way around you. The swells were higher than the masthead of the ship.
The day we were into Chail-li [30 May 1951, 2nd Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment offensive to take town of Chai-li and Hill 467 to gauge enemy strength in advance of UN Operation PILEDRIVER on 3 June 1951]. We went into Chail-li, and the Battle of Chail-li, the RCR, the Royal Canadian Regiment, just about got annihilated there. And we knocked out an anti-tank gun seven times and it would still come back and fire at us because it was a – it wasn’t rain, it was a misty rain kind of day. We would look at it and we would see it, the shells hitting there. And yet just above them there was a cut in the mountain and we could see these troops coming through and we thought we thought they were the Canadians that went into Chail-li and come around the back and was coming back down towards us. And it wasn’t, it was the Chinamen coming through the gap. But anyway, we got what was left of RCRs out of there and we moved back to the start line.
I was up on Hill 158 and we were just sitting up on the hill. And I’d gone around the back and I had a quick shave and a wash and had some breakfast standing back there. And then I went around to the front and got into the tank and I was talking to the officer standing up in the hatch and all of a sudden we heard these mortar bombs coming over. And he dived for cover, I dived for cover, and with the hatch on the tank, you had to put your finger in a ring and pull the ring and pull the hatch down at the same time. Well I couldn’t get the ring free so the hatch wouldn’t come down. So I dived down underneath as far as I could go forward underneath there but the shrapnel come and ricocheted it off the turret and hit me in the back of the head. So that was the end of my action days.
I landed at Vancouver [British Columbia]. I was on my own. Nobody met me. And I had orders to report to No. 9, a unit down at Spanish Banks. So I went home and then the next day I went down and reported in, but that was it. Nobody talked to us about anything. We weren’t debriefed or anything at all.
When we come back, the same as the guys coming home from Afghanistan, they have this Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome [Disorder], and I had that, and I’m telling you the mood swings were terrible. I would go to sleep at night but I wouldn’t be asleep, I’d be awake listening for a movement. It’s something that you get used to and it stays with you.