I was the platoon signaller with 6 platoon B. Coy on the 13-14 August 1952. We were the assault platoon in the operation. I and Lt. George and Sgt. Frewin were platoon H.Q. My task was to keep contact with our company H.Q. and some fire tasks with the Centurion tanks and Mortars. Also, I was to take over the flame thrower if Sgt Frewin became a casualty. So you see I was well and truly loaded up with a few tasks if things went drastically wrong.
We crossed the Sami-Chon valley through the burnt out village of Song-gok to our forming up area at the bottom of the hill to assault. As Zero hour arrived, we commenced our assault with 2 sections forward, H.Q. in the centre, and one section behind.
We ran into problems right from the start, as the Chinese had a listening post with 2 men manning it. The lead section on platoon HQ right dispatched the 2 Chinamen into the land of their ancestors.
At this stage, after we jumped over the first lot of trenches, our artillery started to come in onto our objective in front.
We continued the assault. Platoon H.Q. had lost the flame thrower, but we continued the assault anyway.
Lt. George may have realized that without the flame thrower we were going to have a hard time trying to get the Chinese out of their underground bunkers. Anyway, at this stage I saw Lt. George was on fire from phosphorous.
We were assaulting at a fair pace, and I was chasing after the Lt. I managed to tackle him with a good rugby tackle and started to throw dirt all over him trying to put out the flames and he was calling me all the names that he could think of. I don't think he realized what I was trying to do.
It didn't take more than a few seconds to get the flames out and brush the phosphorous off and he then got straight up. He didn't bother to say thanks, and was off to catch up with the lead sections, and left me to catch up with him. This is when things started to get a bit hairy for me.
There was artillery and mortars and tanks firing from our side, and now the Chinese mortars started to get stuck into us.
At this time I could no longer see the platoon commander, so I continued to move to the top of the hill and still couldn't find him or any of the platoon. I then went into this small saddle and came across a few bodies of Chinese dead and wounded. I think a few had been killed and wounded by our shelling, maybe some by our assault. Any way, I decided I wasn't in a very welcome place so I moved towards our lines off the saddle.
As I staggered off, I fell into this very deep Chinese trench.
As I picked myself up, I was just in time to see this group of Chinese coming out of this large bunker. I had only one magazine left, so I pressed the trigger and let them have the whole magazine, and started to run along the deep trench. I hoped to God that the Centurion tanks had collapsed the trench somewhere along the way.
My prayers were answered. They had done a good job and I was able to get out and continue down the hill.
Nearing the bottom, I came across one of our wounded. I helped him up, he was in a terrible state. Phosphorous was burning into his scalp, and both legs.
I got him down to the paddy field and took off my flak jacket, and then my shirt. I doused my shirt into the paddy field muck, ripped my shirt into pieces, and wrapped it around his head and legs, and it calmed him down a bit.
We continued along the valley floor until our faithful stretcher bearers arrived.
Daylight was just breaking when we reached our mine field and listening post, and through to our own lines. It was great to be back.
Another incident worth mentioning is Ron Cashman's encounter with three Chinese soldiers. He can tell that story.
The withdrawal was an outstanding success, when all things are considered. We got all of the wounded back except one. Poor old "papa" Jacobs was unconscious and we couldn't find him, but all the other 24 wounded were got back safely across the valley to our own lines. One of our wounded that we got back died later in hospitol. Trevor Dick was his name. Also, Racer Hill died as a result of his wounds.
The Canadian flak jacket that I wore that night and morning without a doubt saved my life. After removing it to help my mate who was wounded, I had put it back on. Back in our lines, when I took it off again and looked at it, it was completely shredded with shrapnel and bullets. But all I got was slight bruising and welts around the midsection and back.
The Lord was with me, I reckon.
December 31, 1999.
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