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Platoon Commander on Fighting Patrol

Heroes Remember

Platoon Commander on Fighting Patrol

I was part of a fighting patrol in the early part of October, the 3rd, 4th, 5th of October in 1952 with another officer, whom I still see and we still golf together. We both live here in Victoria. His name is Dusty Roads. Dusty had the fighting component and I had the firm base component. It was my job to take my part of the patrol, about twenty men, out and set up a firm base, clear the way out, set up a firm base in which Dusty and his patrol of about, I think he was slightly larger, maybe 25 men, could pass through me, do their trench raid and attempt to get a prisoner, which is what his part of the patrol was, gather what they could, get back through me. It was my job and my patrol's job to stay there and make sure they exited okay, that if anybody was following it up they would have us to deal with before they could get to him. He ... I led out, he passed through He did the raid. They didn’t get a prisoner. They took at least one casualty that I can recall, a badly wounded man. They came back through us. I stopped him on the way through and said, “Are you all clear?” And he said, “Yeah, we’ve got everybody.” And I said, “Okay, we’ll stay here until you get well clear then and then we’ll start to move back.” So he moved back through us and at that point I began to sense that there was some movement behind him and I knew it wasn’t him. At least I took his word for it that it wasn’t any of his people. So we were disposed in three groups on this very small feature which had this trail along which Dusty came back through it and waiting for him to get well enough clear so we could vacate. I began to thin my group out and send them back along the same trail with the instructions to set up a spot for us to pass through so if we were being pursued we would hopefully pass through our people, then they could fire and get rid of or deal with whoever was following us. In the process of thinning out it became quite obvious to me that on either side of this small little salient that we were on there was shuffling and movement and some talking going on. I couldn’t understand it and quite understandably so, I don’t speak Chinese, but I could hear the whispering and various things going on and what they were attempting to do was get around it and flank Dusty’s patrol. Well my job was to prevent that. So I called down on artillery fire further out on the trail which dealt with anything in-depth, thinned out everybody except a machine gunner and a signaller with me, and I told the machine gunner to take his three grenades and I took my three grenades and I said, “Pull the pins on yours and throw them all down on that side and I’m going to throw my three down on this side and then we are going to high tail it out of here as fast as we can.” Well, that was done. We threw the six grenades and got a response of some small arms fire, a hell of a lot of yelling and screaming and we just vacated the feature. I ran back and got through my firm base, so to speak, and said, “Let’s get the hell out of here before they recover from this and catch up to us.” So we ran back another two or three hundred yards and started to catch up to Dusty’s patrol. So we said, time to put down stakes again and let him get clear cause he was carrying a casualty at this point and it was ... their movement was slower than ours. In any event we did this another couple of times except we were not faced with any further difficulty. That turned out to be a successful patrol from my point of view. In other words, we had done what we said we were going to do and what people were counting on us to do. Dusty, I think, was a little disappointed in that he did not get a prisoner, but the job that he was given was a pretty tough one and they only took the one casualty which is, I think, quite remarkable in what I could hear and see of the fire going on in those trenches in front of me. ‘Cause I could see his position, where he was going, about 400 yards ahead of me and the sky was lit up by flares eventually and it was a nasty bit of work that he was asked to do and I think they did a good job of getting into the position to do it. Unfortunately they didn’t bring any Chinamen home, but they brought their own fellas back, which was important.

Mr. Pitts explains the responsibility of his patrol in making sure that the other patrols were protected and the challenges faced in protecting their own men.

Herbert Pitts

Mr Pitts was born in Nelson, British Columbia in June of 1929. After graduating from high school, he entered a four-year program of the Canadian Services College at Royal Roads, graduating from the Royal Military College in June 1952. He was commissioned as a Lieutenant, in the Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians). On arrival in Korea in July, he served for a year as an Infantry Platoon Commander with 1st and 3rd Battalions of Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry. He was awarded the Military Cross for Gallantry and Leadership with that Regiment. Mr. Pitts remained in the Forces serving with The Queen's Own Rifles of Canada and the Canadian Airborne Regiment. He traveled extensively during his service, retiring as a Major General from National Defence Headquarters in 1978.

Meta Data
Veterans Affairs Canada
Person Interviewed:
Herbert Pitts
War, Conflict or Mission:
Korean War
Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI)
Platoon Commander

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