The horrendous battle at Moreuil Wood on March 30th, 1918, was followed by an equally bloody battle a couple of miles away. See ARCHIVE #176.
I reviewed this excellent book in late 2022 on Amazon. Here is what I had to say:
“Three battles, and only one a victory
I found this a great read, describing as it does three battles that took place in Korea in April 1951.
A British brigade suffered a brutal defeat when caught off-guard by a Chinese force, while a Commonwealth brigade brought the enemy to a halt and turned it back. Canadian and Australian battalions on opposite sides of a river valley faced overwhelming odds and overcame them.
This photo has haunted me for years. The three young men here are first cousins. They are all Mackays. Their fathers were brothers, each of whom served in World War I’s Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians). From left to right they are Thomas Colson Mackay, William Bruce Mackay, and James Birch Mackay.
As near as I can make out, the photo was probably taken in or close to 1937, perhaps at Lac du Bonnet, Manitoba, where at least one of the older generation had recreational property.
The boys were all 16 or 17 years old. My guess is that the photo may have been snapped on a Friday, late in the day, after driving from Winnipeg. Quite the sharp dressers: Tom appears to sport two-toned shoes in the full-length photo, Bruce with his tie. Or, who knows, perhaps they were off to attend a local dance.
Tom, who was my half-brother, joined the RCN; Bruce (as he was known) the RCAF; and Jim the Canadian Army, so between them they covered all the bases.
It’s my intention to go deeper into the careers of each of them in future blogs and editions of Forces With History; I hope you’ll come along for the ride.
Seventy years ago this week the men of the 2nd Battalion Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry came down from the Korean hills and relaxed for a few days’ break from the fighting.
They had initially landed in Pusan in December 1950, then spent six weeks familiarizing themselves with new U.S weapons and training on the steep Korean hills. Since mid-February they had been in almost continuous action, pursuing a withdrawing People’s Republic of China army northward.
Baseball, tugs-of-war, and beer were the order of the day in welcome warm spring weather. Instead of sleeping in holes in the ground they luxuriated in tents in their rest area just north of the town of Kapyong.
Everything changed on April 22nd. Republic of Korea (South Korean) forces sent to block Chinese troops advancing southward were overrun a few miles north of the rest area. An Australian battalion was assigned to defend a hill on the right of the Kapyong River Valley, while 2PPCLI was ordered to occupy Hill 677, a massive hill on the left. The Australians were forced to withdraw after a fierce fight.
Now the Chinese turned their attention to the Canadians atop 677.
The night of April 24th was the Patricia’s sternest test. Their force of 700 was up against an estimated 5,000 Chinese. The Chinese came on in waves, hurling themselves at the dug-in Canadians. At times they got right in amongst the defenders, occupying the Patricia’s positions for a heartbeat, only to be thrust back again. Light, medium, and heavy machine guns and mortars hammered at the attackers. Long-range artillery courtesy of a New Zealand field regiment roared. Through it all 2PPCLI held fast.
Dawn of April 25th saw the Chinese efforts lessen, and when an airdrop provided desperately needed food, water, and ammunition to the defenders, the fight was virtually over.
There are many stories of heroic action on Hill 677. For the battalion, recognition came quickly in the form of a U.S. Presidential Unit Citation—the only one ever issued to a Canadian formation.
The survivors of the Battle of Kapyong, like their other Korean War comrades, struggled for years to be properly recognized by the Canadian government. Those few who remain remind us of a bitter war bravely fought.
March 30th, 2019, fast approaches. Time for a glance back at the centennial celebrations of a year ago. Here is a shot of the Lord Strathcona’s Mounted Troop forming up, preparing to re-enact Flowerdew’s Charge of a hundred years before. The scene is where Brigadier Seely led the Canadian Cavalry Brigade and from whence he detached Flowerdew’s Squadron of Lord Strathcona’s Horse to sweep around the end of the Wood. The regiment celebrates March 30th every year to mark the occasion with sports days, lunches, and dinners wherever Strathcona’s gather.
Among other notables at the 100th were Brough Scott (Seely’s grandson) at left with me and John Willoughby. John’s great uncle of the same name died at the scene, with his remains only discovered in 1986. Brough lives in the UK and, like his grandfather before him, continues to ride virtually daily, having made his living as a jockey and racing commentator.
In the two photos below are another Seely grandson, Patrick Seely, who is holding up a copy of a painting depicting the battle that raged in the Wood itself.
The last photo shows George and Andrew Flowerdew, flanking me at a reception staged by the village of Moreuil in honour of the occasion. I consider it a real privilege to have been able to meet the families of men who shared the terrible events of March 30th, 1918, with my father.
It’s been 50 years since HMCS OKANAGAN, the third of Canada’s O-boats, sailed from Gosport for workups. And in November this year, the Submarine Association of Canada (West) will celebrate the anniversary of her commissioning in the Chatham Dockyard.
The occasion, November 2-4, will also mark HMCS RAINBOW’S 50th. More about her in a later post.
OKANAGAN went on to an illustrious career in the RCN, most of her operations taking place in the Atlantic out of Halifax. Along with her sister boats, OJIBWA and ONONDAGA, her life was extended by a major update of periscopes, sonar, torpedo tubes, etc in the late 1980s that kept her operating until the late ’90s.
One of OKANAGAN’S last tasks was the search for and locating of the flight recorders of Swissair 111 which sadly crashed off Peggy’s Cove in 1998.
Many of her crew, now known as “The Crunch Bunch,” will no doubt reminisce about an unhappy day in 1973 when the OKANAGAN had a run-in with the propellers of Royal Fleet Auxiliary Grey Rover.
HMCS OKANAGAN was paid off in 1998, and sold for scrap. Both her sister O-boats, though, are museum pieces in Ontario and Quebec. They can be toured by the public, and will give an idea of life in what some have called “the last and best” of the O-boats.