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Opportunity to Play Hockey in Korea

Heroes Remember

Opportunity to Play Hockey in Korea

We didn’t know when we were sent to Korea, not me but people who were there before me, didn’t know or at least didn’t have the connotation that there would be a possibility to play hockey on the river that froze behind the lines and this happened. And it was not far from, when I got there it had become static so that river was about fifteen kilometres behind the lines. It was within artillery range of the enemy but we never got any shelling on the hockey rink okay let’s put it this way. The opportunity came to play hockey really first of all the troops finding out they could play hockey because that river froze and froze hard enough that it could stand the crossing of vehicles on the ice for a time so we said if it can hold vehicles for surely we can play hockey on it which happened. And it happened that the Minister of Defence who was Claxton at the time, Minister Claxton. Honourable Claxton had visited the troops before Christmas in ’51, yes, and he had promised to send equipment and he did. At the beginning people thought oh well here’s a politician talking but he did. So there was a round robin organized to provide everyone to play hockey, to provide teams from every little unit and whatnot. And if the units were too small they could get a couple of units together and form a team for the competition. In fact, that particular hockey rink was called the Nijmegen Gardens and there are pictures that exist to show that with a big sign on it. That was quite a rally point because there’s always competitions between units especially in a theatre away from home. This is our national sport and we had a chance to play our national sport in Korea. That really was the opportunity to get back home in our minds. It got us closer to home. And although some people didn’t play they assisted to the game as spectators and they cheered for their own units and so on. Some of them had side bets. It was something going because the next day you could hear the troops talking about it and so on. This went on and, of course, the season was rather quick. By mid-February the ice had started to be too soft and started to melt. But also we had to go back on the line. And I recall the finals and the semi-finals for this particular round robin had to be played while we had gone back on the line so the players were back for two hours and back maybe three hours and we were back to our units after that. The question of playing hockey, the main point is that this got us closer back to home.

A sport close to Canadians hearts, Mr. Charland tells the story of how soldiers got an opportunity to play hockey a few miles from the battlefield.

Claude Charland

Mr. Claude Charland was born February 27, 1929 in Montreal, Quebec. As an only child and born during the Great Depression, Mr. Charland was placed in a boarding school in hopes of experiencing a better life. After obtaining a high level of education, he made the choice to join the military. In 1948, he took part in the Canadian Officer Training Corp and underwent infantry training in Camp Borden followed by additional training in Val Cartier. In 1950 the Korean War started and Mr. Charland became an instructor for francophone officer recruits. In 1951, joining as a callout, Mr. Charland chose to be part of the Korean War. He joined with the 3rd Battalion, Royal 22nd Regiment and upon retirement held rank of Lieutenant. Mr. Charland holds great pride for his service during Korean War. In 2018 during the Korean Olympics, Mr. Charland had the great honour and privilege to be the torch bearer as part of Team Canada and carried the torch 100 metres through the rink grounds where he had served and played hockey many years before. Mr. Charland retired from the military in 1982 and remains very active in his community.

Meta Data
Veterans Affairs Canada
May 23, 2018
Person Interviewed:
Claude Charland
War, Conflict or Mission:
Korean War
Royal 22e Régiment
Infantry Officer

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