By Major Harry Rollo, CD (Ret’d)
25 June 2020
Seventy years ago today, three riflemen from Support Company (Carrier platoon), Al Chapin, Garry Titus and myself were on ” Call out ” to the regular force in Camp Petawawa ( no “CFBs” back then) when the Korean War broke out.
Our delusions of becoming warriors were quickly dashed when it was announced that volunteers had to be at least 19 and we were 16-17.
Our best adventures were confined to roaming the countryside on the weekends in a 1926 Chrysler we bought from an 8th Army veteran whose outfit had captured Rommel’s staff car (after the Desert Fox had abandoned it).
After completing an advanced carrier course, in accordance with army logic, I was posted to a fieldcraft demonstration platoon (and a 4.2 mortar crew on firepower demonstrations every Thursday evening) and the other two went to an artillery unit.
On a hard landing after jumping a ridge in a carrier, I banged up my right elbow and was sent to the infirmary. They wrapped my arm in an elastic bandage. A day or so later, I gave an officer an eyes right and just as I passed he bellowed “Soldier?” When I turned around, he asked me angrily if I had a broken arm. I pulled up the sleeve of my coveralls and said ” No Sir. It’s just a green fracture” He retorted ” carry on” and departed. I know, it’s hard to imagine an officer without a sense of humour but there are always rare exceptions.
In early August, I was assigned to a Brigadier Todd as batman/driver for Exercise Puncher which simulated the maneuvers of a division in battle. His 2nd-in-charge was a Lieutenant Colonel who usually offered my boss a ride in his Jeep, much to the chagrin of his driver. This left me with a jeep bearing the flag of general officer that let me go anywhere I wanted, after picking up his Ottawa Citizen newspaper in Pembroke every morning. Some times I got to race a train on a track that ran parallel to the highway. Outstanding “training” for a young soldier.
During “Puncher”, one of the other riflemen ( no names, no pack drill ) got hammered one evening and drove a 3/4 4×4 carrying his unit’s booze supplies into a ditch. He was arrested, charged and spent time in the “Digger” before being “Returned to Unit” to Toronto. His mother called mine, to share the joy of having the boys back and my Mum almost fainted, thinking I was off to Korea. This was half a century before cell phones and long distance calls were too expensive for teenagers, so I had only kept in touch via the odd letter.
I returned to the QOR on 25 August 1950.
That’s the closest I ever came to becoming a real soldier!