Terry Meagher is one veteran who hasn´t forgotten.
At 18, Mr. Meagher was working for the railway when he was persuaded to join the Army by the promise of a university education. A year later, in October 1952, he was deployed to Korea with the 25th Canadian Infantry Brigade, a part of the 1st Commonwealth Division. He served as a rifleman and radio operator. While training in Japan, he was wounded in the deadliest accident of the Korean War. The incident claimed the lives of two soldiers and wounded 18.
The Canadians, along with other members of the Commonwealth, patrolled and engaged in trench warfare. Beyond a mortal enemy and one of the harshest winters in Korean history in 1953, troops faced exhaustion during evenings of guard duty. Water was scarce and improvised heating often lead to fires in bunkers containing live grenades.
The Chinese attack Hill 187
The battle of Hill 187 occurred on May 2-3, 1953. Mr. Meagher was there and recounted his experience. Two officers he knew, Lieutenants Gerard Meynell and Douglas Banton, both of The Royal Canadian Regiment, were killed during the engagement on May 3.
"I was in my slit trench at 2130 and it was pretty black. I heard our Able Company patrol, led by Lt Meynell, patrol get hit. There were about 20 of them out there by the Sandaecheon River. I heard bursts of gunfire which meant the patrol was ambushed. And then I heard the staccato sound of a Sten gun, our light machine-gun. And then I heard a soggy grenade go and that was it. Our patrol had walked into about 400 assault troops that were headed to assault Hill 187 and Charlie Company.
"Lt Banton, who had been my platoon commander, was a gun-ho guy who always got to places first and he felt he could win the Victoria Cross. That´s what he told us back in Canada. He headed down into the minefield gap, put up his arms and said "Come through me, come through me!" to the patrol that was scattered and wounded. He lasted about two minutes. There is a rule in the front line that you never stand up when you can sit down and never sit down when you can lie down.
"After the patrol got hit, a bombardment came in on the Princess Pat´s to the right of us. A bombardment means that you can´t distinguish one shell from the other. The sky lit up there and I thought there was an attack coming. They lost two soldiers in it. Then, there was artillery, mortar and machine-gun fire coming from the Chinese all over the place. They had massed their guns for the attack. The telephone lines linking the battalion were destroyed by the guns.
"At exactly two minutes to 12, on May 2, there was a 20-minute bombardment of 20 rounds and everything was shaken. The place lit up; it was brighter than day. Grassfires broke out all over the valley and all over the hills, the minefield, wire and trenches were destroyed, the bunkers caved in because the bombardment was so heavy. And the Chinese came in under the artillery barrage."
Seeking recognition for comrades
One such hero is Corporal Douglas MacLean, of the 3rd Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment. A native of Nova Scotia, Cpl MacLean was killed on May 3, 1953, during the battle of Hill 187. Another man he knew carried a wounded platoon commander back to the trenches on his shoulders under heavy artillery fire during the same engagement.
Mr. Meagher feels these and other Canadians made a huge impact:
"When I went there, the people were eating out of garbage bins and begging for food. When I went back two years ago, the population was robust, well fed, well educated. It was a democracy that had problems but it was working and I consider it my second country," he said.
At the end of the war, Mr. Meagher was promoted to Lance Corporal.
Of the 516 Canadians killed during the Korean War, 378 are buried in the United Nations Memorial Cemetery at Tanggok, South Korea. Twenty-four Canadian soldiers are also buried in the British Commonwealth Cemetery in Yokohama, Japan. They were evacuated out of Korea to hospitals in Japan for treatment but later succumbed to their wounds and were interred in that country.
The Korean War Book of Remembrance lists the names of Canadians killed during that conflict. It is accessible online at:http://www.vac-acc.gc.ca/remembers/sub.cfm?source=collections/books/bKorea
Article by Alex Burke, Army News, Ottawa