The PPCLI and the Battle of Kapyong

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 Fountain of Loyalty graces the entrance to the National Cemetary in Seoul, Korea. Photo by Barbara Webb.

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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2 Responses to "The PPCLI and the Battle of Kapyong"

  1. Hildergarde Hammhocker   March 15, 2017 at 2:41 pm

    Your article about The Battle of Kapyong is incorrect.
    1. The Australians were attacked FIRST with NO Canadian involvement at that point
    2. The Australians had NO artillery cover OR Air Support in this battle, but the Canadians did. The Australians had to fight with what they had in their hands, mainly ammunition and rifles. They had NO resupply available to them due to them being engaged earlier that the Canadians and in a geographically more dangerous area for air support. So the Australian fought without either of these. The Canadians fought with both of these.
    3. The Australian withdrawal took place because they were running out of ammunition and were NOT being resupplied. This withdrawal at no stage went through Canadian lines and it took place by crossing a river even before the Canadians had BEEN engaged. The Australians then set up in FRONT of the British Middlesex Battalion to prepare fighting defences, with the Chinese attacked them all the way and BEFORE the Canadians were even ENGAGED.
    After the Australians had been resupplied in their new positions, and with the Middlesex Battalion also there, the Chinese turned and wheeled up the valley to attack the Canadians. These were the same Chinese who had been fighting constantly for 16 hours against the Australians, who had no artillery or air support.
    As the Chinese surged UP the hill towards the Canadians, New Zealand artillery only then engaged the Chinese. If not for the artillery the Canadians would have been overrun. The Canadians also called down air strikes. The Chinese were worn out and shattered at that stage and fell to bits.
    I am not trying in any way to dispute the gallantry and hard fighting which the Canadians displayed. But your article paints a vision that distorts what really happened.

  2. Troy_Media   February 14, 2012 at 10:47 am

    I just read and enjoyed Barbara Webb’s article in Kapyong. It may be of interest that I have just had a book published on Kapyong (with forwards by Adrienne Clarkson and Peter Mansbridge) and write a blog on Kapyong and the Korean War at http://kapyongkorea.wordpress.com/

    Dan Bjarnason