SEOUL, South Korea, Nov. 11, 2011/Troy Media/ – The guns along the Western Front fell silent on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, when a defeated German army called for a peace settlement. The ‘Great War’ was finally over after four long years and this day became Armistice Day – the day of remembrance of those who died in the First World War.
Shortly after the Second World War ended in 1946 the name for November 11th was changed to Remembrance Day to commemorate all who fought and died for both World Wars and other conflicts.
Canadians fought for their countries with a valour that is noted in battles such as Passchendaele in Belgium, or the Battle of Ortona in Italy. When we remember our veterans we think of those battles. Lest we forget.
The Forgotten War
But do we ever think about the Battle of Kapyong? Do we ever think about the Forgotten War?
It was June 25, 1950 and the Korean War had begun. Canada, with post-war defenses still in place, sent three Royal Canadian Navy destroyers – HMCS Cayuga, HMCS Sioux and HMCS Athabaskan.
Shortly thereafter, the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, PPCLI, a component of the Canadian Army Special Force was sent to Korea and became part of the 27th Commonwealth Brigade. They endured months of bitter cold weather and rugged country while forcing the Chinese to withdraw to the north.
By mid-April 1951, it had descended into Kapyong Valley where it met a large-scale offensive attack.
The PPCLI held Hill 677, the 3rd Royal Australian Regiment, RAR, was to the east on Hill 504 and the 1st Middlesex Regiment was far to the west. The 6th Republic of Korea Division was forced to retreat and it was up to the PPCLI to hold open a withdrawal route through Kapyong Valley, blocking access to the Chinese invading from the north. Such access would have cut a deep gash into the UN defensive line and would put the city of Seoul into dire circumstance.
The battle continued relentlessly for the two days and nights of April 24 and 25. The 3rd RAR was also forced to retreat through the PPCLI defensive line, yet the Canadians still held their ground against the Chinese assault.
The PPCLI and 3rd RAR were surrounded at one point during the battle, and it is said that it managed to hold the lines by firing on their own positions.
Recipient of the Distinguished Unit Citation
The valour displayed by the members PPCLI was honoured with a Distinguished Unit Citation from the President of the United States. It is a blue streamer embroidered ‘Kapyong, Korea,’ which is proudly displayed on the pike of the 2 PPCLI Regimental Colour. Members who participated in the battle wear a blue ribbon on each shoulder of their uniforms.
Ten soldiers were killed and 27 were wounded in the Battle of Kapyong. Of the 26,791 Canadians sent to Korea, 1255 were wounded and 516 were killed. Their names are inscribed in the Korea Book of Remembrance. Lest we forget.
The 2nd Battalion PPCLI is still functioning to this day. It is stationed at Kapyong Barracks, Canadian Forces Base Shilo, in the heart of Manitoba. It has continued to participate in peacekeeping operations such as the Medak Pocket in Croatia in 1993, where it earned the Commander-in-Chief’s Commendation.
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