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R. Bruce Wareing

Bogota, Colombia
Korean War Veteran of the Commonwealth Division

"A good China Nights to all those guys who fought the fight and lived in misery in Korea, as well as to all the Americans, British, Aussies and others who served there.  To know them, meet them, be with them was worth all the misery and filth.  We all might not have smelled so great, but we were mates.  The heroes are those who did not make it back."

- Bruce Wareing


[The following short story about Korea was submitted to the Vets of Korea website, which has now shut down.  Bruce, who served with the Commonwealth in Korea in 1952, agreed to allow his story to be posted on the memoirs page of the Korean War Educator in February 2008.]

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Good Times and Bad Times

Trooper RB Wareing SH61672,
H919500 LDSH C and B Squadrons


I was born in a farm house in Rockwood, Manitoba, Canada, and had a dresser drawer for my bed.  When I was very young, I spent much of my time with my grandparents, riding on the tractor with my grandfather.  My grandmother used to tell me about the family history, such as those ones killed in World War I, the Indian Mutiny, the Sudan War, etc.  In search of family history, I found the Wareing name was changed often, but I am related to the Vikings and the Normans who invaded England and then settled down in Lincolnshire, England and drifted all over the world in general.  Some of my ancestors served in the Armed Forces in the USA.

I have a fond love for horses and how they have suffered for their masters at time of war.  My favorite horse as a boy was named Bess.  When I came back from seeing a girl late at night, I would fall asleep and when Bess came to the barn she would not enter until I woke up--or I would have had a bad head bump for sure. When I was about 12 years old, after seeing a film about Gen. George Armstrong Custer, something about that film changed the course of my life.  The film, in fact, did not represent the battle as it was.  The facts in the film were very different from how it was fought in reality.  But I ended up joining a Cavalry Regiment as a trooper--the Armoured Regiment LDSH.

I spent at least ten months in Korea.  I served with the Lord Strathcona's Horse (RC), both in C Squadron and later with B Squadron, in positions such as the Hook, Samichon area, Hill 159, Hill 355, Little Gibralter.  My rank was a trooper, service number SH61672.  I was later in the Reserve Forces and attained the rank of Captain, service number H819500.  I was 21 years old in combat and learned fast how to stay alive and still do my duty to my mates.  I feel guilty about those that died.

When I returned from Korea, I made at least three trips to the Custer Battlefield and stood there in silence with my thoughts.  Sounds weird, eh?  On Hill 355 in Korea, we also were surrounded so to speak, with what at that time looked like the end.  At that time, I reflected on the Little Big Horn and the 7th Cavalry Regiment.   My dreams are now of Korea, but also my thoughts are of Custer's Last Stand.  I have a picture of General Custer and also the Last Stand in my room to this day.

Arriving in Korea

My journey to Korea began by flying from Sea Island, Vancouver, British Columbia, with other Canadian replacements on a Canadian Pacific Aircraft (I believe a North Star).  I was with a great friend, Ron Francis, who was with me on the trip to Tokyo. Japan.  From Japan we went by ship (the E Sang) to Pusan, Korea.  On board, we slept where we could find a place.  We had two 'so so' meals.  I went to the stern of the ship, looked down a set of stairs, and saw an Asian cooking something.  I offered him some U. S. military script to buy a hard bread and meat sandwich, and went on deck to share it with two other guys.  It did not matter that other soldiers were vomiting over the ship's rail--we ate with gusto.

After a short voyage, we arrived at Pusan and were picked up by big trucks driven by colored American soldiers who drove like hell.  We were taken to a holding camp.  What glory to go to the NAFFI and buy a meal of egg!  After a couple of days, we were taken from there to the train for departure  While waiting for the train to leave, I witnessed a sight that remains with me to this day.  There were children in rags begging for food and trying to get water.  We Canadian soldiers gave away the only little bit of food we had to these children along with (oops) some warm clothing.  We slept where we could on the train, carrying an empty rifle.  No ammo had been issued to us as yet.  We were cold as hell.  When the train stopped at some place unknown to me, we stepped off to eat some white snow.  When we arrived at the final stop, we were ordered to line up for food while it was raining and under no shelter.  We ate what soon turned into cold soup, but who cared when we were hungry.  I saw Americans moving some prisoners who were great big, big, big Asians.  I thought, "And we have to fight these guys.  Wow--this is war."   When we arrived at the Strath rear area, we turned in our rifles and gas masks for a sten gun and magazines with ammo.  I never knew why we packed the other from Canada.

Front Line Duty

My first time on the front lines, I was with C Squadron, Samichon Troop.  Our leader was Lt. Hal Kreewin.  We were supporting the PPCLI.  I was a replacement being brought forward by an ammo and ration vehicle.  At last light as I saw the position under shell fire, I knew this was, in fact, war. I stood that first night watch alone and got my first night of what it was all about.  By learning on incoming and outgoing shell and mortar fire, I learned fast to kiss the ground.  While on that position, I saw friendly prop aircraft drop napalm on the Pat's forward position.  I believe that Sergeant Buxton of the  PPCLI won the Military Medal for his action and leadership.

At the Samichon position, we were under heavy mortar and shell fire.  Our tank was in a hull-down position, which meant that the tank was in a fixed position in the ground with part of the tank above ground for a fighting position.  Lieutenant Kreewin (a veteran of the Second World War with the Fort Garry horse) always left the top crew commander's hatch open.  I believe he did this to avoid concussion as near hits on the tank made one think you were in a big bell.  The funny thing is, it was my first time in the front lines and I did not have the great fear I expected.  As we were under fire for some time, we had to fire off one .76mm shell, let the casing cool down, then all took a pee and with care threw it out the pistol port.  I had an old pocket book with no cover, entitled Kitty.  It was about an English prostitute in early England and how she made it through life.  I was reading some of the sexy parts about her legs and milky white thighs to the crew members in the tank.  Each time a near hit came in I stopped and then started again.  It took everyone's mind off the shelling and we all had a soldier's dream of the beautiful woman in the fictional book.  My God, the war and fear brought out the friendship of us all.

The nights were bad.  Four crew members took turns on watch from last light to first light two hours at a time.  I did not like the second shift or the last before first light because shell bursts affected our vision and our mind played games on what we thought we saw.  We didn't dare throw a hand grenade or fire our sten gun and wake the crew up unless we had a dead body to show for it.  We dared not panic.  We alone lived with it and told the next shift what we thought was out there in the dark.

I received the nickname "Flash" while I was in Korea.  I made two mugs of tea--one for me and one for my PPCLI buddy in the slit trench about 100 yards away from the tank.  As we were standing by his trench enjoying our nice mugs of tea, incoming fire came in.  He jumped in his trench slit and I made a dash, running on my knees to get under the tank.  I still had a half of a mug of tea when I got there.  Thus the nickname Flash Wareing.   I also saw an artillery spotter aircraft that was shot down in front of our position.  As he bailed out in front of our position, his parachute drifted over to the Chinese lines.  We tried to cover him with .50 caliber machine gun fire, but he drifted out of sight.  When we heard small arms fire from the enemy, we assumed he had been killed.  Years later, we learned that he was a Cdn and had been taken as a captive of war.  As these spotter aircraft brought down jets to bomb and machine gun the enemy positions, the spotter aircraft could not have been favorites of the bad guys in front.

I remember when the napalm strike came in on the PPCLI.  One of our tank crew (I will not mention the name) went to the .50 caliber gun and was going to fire on the aircraft.  But our crew commander, Lt. Hal Kreewin, stopped him.  (As a side note, Lieutenant Kreewin was in the Fort Garry Horse in the Second World War.  He was a great man and a great troop leader.) The next day, friendly prop jobs let go rockets.  Some were on our left.  After that, orange markers were tied on our tank.  This did not last long, however.  I suspect the bad guys were laughing over their rice at that.  Then some authority had us install search lights on our tanks.  Imagine sitting a tank in a hull-down position, using a light at night.  This idea did not take, so off they came.

I was sent to Hill 159 as a replacement.  Prior to my departure, in the early hours I put up my poncho as a shelter and slept on the wet rainy ground in a forward position before being transported at first light to get to that hill position before daylight.  I had no breakfast, and was wet and cold when we arrived at the base of the hill.  There we started to unload the ammo and water rations and carry them up the steep slope of the hill.  I am certain that many others who have ever packed 5-gallon jerry cans of water up a hill know what that work is like, particularly on an empty stomach.  Carrying two rounds of .76 mm tank ammo, one on each shoulder, seemed like a cake walk after jerry cans of water.  Well, I could have had a chance to be a hero at that time. The five of us stopped halfway up to rest and have a smoke, taking a sitting down position.  Someone yelled, "Grenade!"  I had about two seconds to decide what to do--try and grab the grenade and throw it, or do what the others did--jump in a hole.  I was the last one to jump on the pile.  I lost my chance to be a hero, but in one sense could have protected the lot from flying crap.

The position was exposed to fire, so I sat in an empty bunker all day alone until darkness, when the tank NCO came to get me.  With no food and only looking at an old magazine (with not one picture of a woman in that magazine).  That was one long day. When the tank NCO found me, I could have kissed him.  The NCO was a good guy, and I did the night watch with him.  He brought me a mug of coffee and some food.  It was at that hill position that I learned my best French from the Van Doos R22R.  Let no one say the R22R don't fight.  They are tough guys who learned that in Hiro, Japan.

Hill 355

I was sent to Hill 355 and was there when the Chinese attacked that position on October 23, 1952.  They hit the RCR hard.  I won't go into time talking details--it takes too long.  But on that early evening, all those green flares from the bad guys went up and the incoming shell fire started to come in with a fast "woosh" and "Bang!" Our evening meal of great American cuisine (C-rations) was ruined. I never realized after my stay on the Samichom that my legs had not lost the ability to move and how fast one can transfer ammo, chocolate bars, grenades,  etc. to that slit trench under shell fire.  When the .30 caliber failed in the tank, the .30 caliber from the slit then had to be taken to the tank gunner as he was best able to use it from the turret.  Our task, then, was to pass ammo up to the turret.  That sure as hell beat being in the slit trench when that heavy crap (I believe it was 122 mm) was coming in.  At that time, while not being a hero, I knew of the possibility of being captured.  I was not crazy about being captured after hearing the rumors of prisoners being killed when the bad guys could not get them out.  In view of that, I decided it would be far better to save one hand grenade and take some of the bad guys with me without harming any of the tank crew.  These were my thoughts at the time, as eight clips of twenty-five rounds of a 9 mm sten gun would not last long.  Was this being a hero? Not at all.  Only fear gave me that last choice.  Death is far better than being a coward.

The purpose of the slit trench on the left in front of the tank was to provide covering fire and harass the bad guys in front.  I found this to be great sport until they fired back.  (Those guys had no sense of humor.) On one occasion, when incoming mail landed between our two tanks, it opened up an old ammo dump from previous days.  What a joy to have that exposed.  Then we worked like hell to cover it again.  There was a near hit by a 122mm on the front of our Sherman.  Whether it was because the bad guys thought we were hit and out or it was a fluke shot, they never came that close again. At a rest area position (some rest), I was selected to go on a patrol that was to be a combined effort to search for bad people.  To my joy, I was told to pack the radio. There were about nine of us under the command of an officer in a search for guerillas in the mountain and hill areas.  It was a terribly hot day and we had a shortage of water.  We had to get drinking water from a ditch when we reached the top of a high hill exposed to the direct sun and heat.  I was the unlucky one to draw the long straw to go and get water.  Carrying the water canteens, I made my way to the adjoining road, hitched a ride to a rear area site to complete this task, and returned to the hill top.  Doing a job like that was always done under considerable stress, thinking what would happen if we stepped on a mine or if we were so tired we lost the ability to perform as an effective soldier.  And, it could have been worse.  Miss Marilyn Monroe could have met me.

When some American soldiers were killed while sleeping in their sleeping bags by the bad guys, an order came in to take away our sleeping bags.  We were issued U.S. Army woolen blankets, which only soaked up the dampness in wet bunkers.  It was a bad decision on the part of someone.  Conditions in the Korean War were being hungry, wet, and cold, sleeping in damp wet bunkers underground with only our boots off, wet clothes, and water dripping on us.  When we blew the candle out, rats crawled on us looking for food.


My good friend G. H. Waldner was killed in Korea.  He was a good pal, and I shall remember him to my dying day.  While I did not have that much time with him as his friend, I have thought of him and that great smile he always had.  He was a good guy. At one time when in the rear area, we rigged up a little hooch to sleep in, as the bunkers were too wet and infested to live or sleep in.  We dug a slit trench, covered it with our two ponchos, and made bunks with wood and telephone wire.  This was our short-lived home and friendship.  With sleeping bags, it was great.  We used a wooden box as a table and thought this was Heaven.  He was a good Strathcona and no doubt is now in Strathcona Heaven.

On another occasion while in a rear area, about five or six of us shared a bunker, sleeping on the ground.  I recall Trooper Gray shared the same bunker.  He had been feeling sick for several days and would not go on sick parade.  I remember when he went to the bunker doorway and fell forward on his face.  Another trooper and I were assigned to accompany him in the back of a two and a half ton truck to the MASH unit.  We waited around with the driver, but poor Gray died of hemorrhagic fever.  I will always remember his skin color--a very grey color.  How sad that was.  They then put an Australian type with us to watch and see if we contacted the same.  Funny thing.  We never thought about that possible fate until long after.

I always requested front line duty.  That is were I wanted to be.  I worked hard to be a good Strath trooper.  It was not easy to be a replacement.  I had to win the trust of those there before me and not ask dumb questions of who I replaced.  I was just glad to have the opportunity to be accepted.  On one occasion on Hill 355, we had a one hundred percent stand to.  It was a cold night, so I made hot coffee and threw together whatever C-rations I could.  I swear by God that because there was not enough for five, I passed it to the four crew members, one being a future commanding officer of the regiment.  If I remember correctly, I was the only one not sick.  But, damn, they were great guys, and well worth the trip to Korea.  During the short time the Aussies were with us on 355, I got along great with them.  (My father was from Australia.)  I often made tea for them and sat in their bunkers chewing the rag.  They gave me an Aussie hat and camouflage jacket, which I brought back to my father.  My bad memories are there, but so are the good ones, and I wouldn't trade the good ones for anything.  I wish that I could have been a better Strath, and I feel guilty about the fact that other troopers died and I lived. 

On one occasion in the rear area, I was late for the morning parade.  The poor trooper who tried to help me pull out the stuck pull-through from the barrel of the sten gun suffered the same fate as I did by having to dig a deep garbage pit.  I sure felt bad about that poor guy, but going on roll call with a pull-through hanging out the end of the barrel was a fate worse than death.  When someone yelled out. "Wareing, pack up.  You're going back to the front lines," I remember yelling out,  "Holy f....  I am going back up."  To my bad luck, there was a Padre close who called me over and said I should not say that word.  He said, "What would happen should you be killed?"  I said,  "Yes, Sir.  Sorry, Sir." Under my breath I said I was glad about going back to the front, for the rear areas were too risky.

Bunker life was not very pleasant with water dripping from the roof, dropping on our candles.  We only took our boots off, crawled into our sleeping bag with our wet clothes on, and covered ourselves with our ponchos.   With our boots by our side, we woke in the morning, put our wet boots on, and stepped onto a wet dirt floor that had about two inches of water on it.  Then we stepped outside into more rain.  Yes Sir.  No blood and guts or hand-to-hand fighting in the armoured as the foot soldier had to do.  Just a grunt's misery.

Tank Recovery

On one occasion, I was selected to go as a tank driver.  An M4A1 Sherman had to be recovered. I believe the corporal who was to be the crew commander was named Conroy.  The tank to be recovered had thrown a track on the side of a steep slope.  RCEME had to repair the track.  This meant we would have to sleep by the tank because the process took about three to four days.  The only place to sleep close to the tank on level ground was a grave, so we leveled the ground and slept on top of it.  But it was pure hell for me to bring that tank down that slope, missing big boulders and holding back on the tiller bars to stop any runaway of the tank. Thank God I could look at all the faces of the RCEME guys and the crew commander knowing that I had brought it down without throwing another track, for I believe if I had, they would have killed me.  If you ever had to change a tank track, you would then know--who could blame them?  I remember bringing that Sherman back at dusk and darkness, going through a Korean village and almost ramming a .76 mm gun barrel up the rear end of a buffalo-type cow until the poor thing jumped into a rice paddy.

Prior to it getting dark, some Americans going the other way threw us some beer.  Now I am not a drinking person, but being hot, dusty, and dirty, we really loved those guys for that.  I think we were driving through Gloster Pass when the Corporal yelled into my headset, "Wareing, for God's [modified word] sake, pull over and let a convoy of vehicles with VIP markers pass."  I had a strong feeling they were not pleased about the dust.  With the dim lights that a tank has, I next heard, "Driver, halt!"  For in front was the RCEME wrecker, parked.  The rest of the trip was fine.  We got to the area in darkness.  The only white part of me was my eyes when I took my goggles off.  Anyway, a great Corporal was the top of the line crew commander on that trip.

I remember on Hill 355 when we had a near hit on our tank--I believe by a 122 mm.  I have a good picture of that one.  Anyway, our good mates in the next tank yelled out, "Are you guys okay?"  I expect our great crew commander Lt. P.A. Neatby answered, as I sure as hell don't remember because with the smell of the shell explosion and ringing ears, who needed to change shorts when we were glad to be alive and hear our great tank gunner Pap Ryan check us out.  Ahhhh, the life to be in the troop leader's tank.

I had the great luck to be in the C Squadron Troop leader's tank (Lt. Hal Kreewin) on the Samichon, as well with Lieutenant Ward on Hill 355.  He was a great officer as well.  When Lieutenant Neatby replaced him, he was a good young officer, but also a good man. I remember Sergeant Buxton's position on the Samichon and the napalm drop on his position.  It was a friendly fire mistake, but things happen in the heat of action. Those PPCLI guys were great, but on the other hand, so were the R22R on Hill 159, as well as the RCRS on 355.  Many bad memories.  I turned down my RR leave to go back up to the front.   I was no hero--not ever.  I only did it to save my pride to prove I could do it.  Years later, my good buddy Bill told me only a liar would not admit fear.  He is a great U.S. soldier who also lost a friend in Korea.  We also both hate rats.


Do I regret going to Korea?  No, not ever.  That's because of all those great people I met, lived, and served with.  After watching the movie "Band of Brothers," I realized that I was with a big band of brothers like the Straths, RCR, PPCLI, R22R.191, RCEME, WKSPS, the U.S. grunts, the Aussies, and all the support people.  Without them, we would not have not made it.  To those artillery guys, we owe a lot.  And those lovely 25 pounders manned by the RCHA saved our bacon on Hill 355 during the enemy assault on the RCR positions in October.  During the conflict, the RCHA fired 247182 shells.

And let us not forget all those others who served there and had the luxury of having big rats as guard dogs.  I must also remember those medical people who scared the hell out of me for two hours before rushing out to that Great Bar in Hiro that was situated by the canal and seemed to be controlled by the R22R.  Being Straths, they were very kind.  They looked the other way.  I almost forgot some of those MPs, who were very gracious in telling us to leave out-of-bounds areas.  When we did not mouth off to them, they were not so bad guys.  I never forget who I knew, met, and served with, Hiro Japan,159 WKSPS, and those Military Police who picked another trooper and me up when we were hitchhiking a ride to 191 WKSPS.  They knew damn well that we were lying when we said we were going to recover a tank, yet they dropped us off at the village--by 191 wksps. I shall always remember my terror when I saw who they were, but they were nice guys--and I would never do that again!  God, war was hell.  When we had to get back to the Strath lines, we got a ride with two medical types from India who didn't speak English and who were driving an ambulance.

So there you go--one hell of a police action, but I would not have traded it for a moment.  I am still having bad dreams with flashbacks and fear, but I love my warm bed now more than at any time of my life.  I am now retired from the Correctional Services of Canada and living in Bogotá, Colombia where peace reigns (I think) and I have a dry bed with sheets and no rats or snakes or big spiders--at least not where I sleep.  But I miss all those guys and all those in support of each other. As a footnote, I only hope that Sergeant Robinson who was the crew commander of the tank next to us on Hill 355, will forgive me.  We both made a run for the same hole, and I got there first.  But damn, those incoming shells made a big whoosh and bang!  God Bless all those in the fight and to those who are now fighting to keep us warm and well.  They also will feel the pain, as did Vietnam vets.


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