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Patrolling – May to June 1952

During May and June 1952 the units of the Commonwealth Division patrolled vigorously. A policy laid down by 1st Corps Headquarters required each forward battalion to carry out one strong fighting patrol per week against known enemy positions. At least one prisoner was to be taken every three days. This difficult and costly task was later discontinued.

Lord Strathcona's Horse B Squadron

While the details of these patrols are too numerous to be recounted here, there were certain similarities in tactics and contacts. The raiding group varied from a 20-man patrol to an entire company and heavy supporting fire was provided by artillery and tanks. In the Canadian sector patrols first crossed their own wire and minefields at known gaps, then crossed the valley to the hills opposite. Firm bases were established as close to the objective as possible for defence and artillery. The actual raiding party then moved on to the enemy-held objective where it usually came under mortar and small arms fire. The objectives themselves were characterized by a maze of trenches which were often connected to tunnels through which the enemy could readily move. In this maze it was possible to inflict casualties, but the patrol itself was subject to attack and found it extremely difficult to take prisoners.

One such patrol was carried out by the 1st PPCLI on the night of May 20-21. The party of 33 was divided into a firm base group, a covering fire section and a fighting section. Supporting fire was provided by a troop of Lord Strathcona's Horse, a troop of the 1st Regiment RCHA, and the unit mortar and machine-gun platoons. A firm base was established on the floor of the Nabu-ri valley at 11 o'clock; the main body passed through at midnight. The covering fire section then took up positions at the base of the hill below the enemy's trenches. As the fighting section continued up the slope the enemy opened fire. The patrol group was outnumbered and had to withdraw. The patrol sustained one killed and four wounded; enemy losses were estimated at seven wounded or killed. No prisoners were taken.

In addition to fighting patrols directed at enemy territory, the Canadians also carried out a number of other types of patrols. Ambush patrols, standing patrols, and reconnaissance patrols were carried out in formidable numbers to seize prisoners, detect enemy movements, and serve as sources of intelligence about the location of enemy weapons.

At the end of May 1952 the Commonwealth Division was ordered to furnish two rifle companies – one British and one Canadian – to undertake guard duties over prisoners of war on the island of Koje. A Canadian unit of the RCR served on Koje until June 10.

At the end of June the 25th Brigade went into divisional reserve. In addition to the normal activities of reserve, working on the defences of the Kansas and Wyoming lines and refresher training, they engaged in an operation known as "Noah's Ark." The monsoon rains of July and the consequent rise in the Imjin River placed the bridges Teal and Pintail in danger of collapse. In spite of their efforts, Teal was washed out. However, by mid-September, when the flood abated, Pintail was still in use. Teal was being restored.

The Canadians, meanwhile, had returned to the line on August 10. The return to the line was marked by an important change in the overall situation. During the summer of 1952 the enemy had gradually become more aggressive. He moved into no man's land, sent out patrols, raided forward positions and increased the volume of shelling on the forward positions. This increased activity was to reach formidable proportions in October and November.

The brigade front lay between what had been the villages of Paujol-gol and Kojanharisaemal with the R22eR on the left, the PPCLI on the right, and the RCR on Hill 355 in the centre. During the next three months the 25th Brigade was to experience heavier shelling and mortaring than in any other period in the line. Torrential rains would silence enemy artillery, but the water caused bunkers to collapse or become unserviceable. When the rain stopped the shelling would resume. Occupied with improving the defences, the Canadians did not patrol in any strength until the end of August when PPCLI and RCR fighting patrols crossed the valley.

During the first part of October heavy fighting took place on the American front to the east, but the Commonwealth Division remained comparatively undisturbed. This was not to last. Hostile shelling increased and resistance to patrols intensified. A raid against Hill 227, by "B" Company of the RCR on October 12-13, was ambushed short of its objective. Three nights later a 25-man patrol of the Patricias, clashing with a Chinese platoon in the area of Hill 217, suffered two killed and eight wounded. The increased enemy activity, particularly in the vicinity of Hills 227 and 217, indicated that the Chinese were up to something in that sector of the front. Their intentions became quite clear a week later.

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