Fraternising with the Enemy

2/401368 Keith H. Hasler, "D" Company 2RAR

This took place during the last few days of the battle for the Hook, that notorious feature on the very western extremity of the Commonwealth Division Lines and adjacent to the Ist Marine Division of which I have spoken in an earlier story. My mate Peter Crowe and I were put into an observation pit at the very top of the Hook Feature. I think a photograph taken post war of this pit is shown in my earlier story. Our responsibility was to ensure that we maintained good vision towards the northern approaches to the Hook, while the main thrust of the Chinese was expected from the west. At least this is how I can recall events leading up to this story. Pete and I took turns at the slit of the observation pit, keen to do the right thing but ever fearful of the need arising to defend our position.

We managed to light a cigarette quite frequently by pulling a blanket over our heads to shield any reflective light, but in cases where one of us was already smoking, it was a simple matter to light one from the other while simply keeping low and out of any sight of any potential enemy. Sometime during the night, someone even brought us a mug of coffee. At around 3-OOam I think, Peter was reporting all quiet by phone to Company Headquarters, when I sensed movement next to me. It was an Asian accent that asked me for a cigarette, I replied something like "Go to Hell!" thinking it was one of the Koreans who were attached to all Commonwealth units and which we called KATCOMS. They were under their own unit's jurisdiction and pay conditions and were frequently asking us for cigarettes. They also, on this occasion, were not permitted to be so close to the action for reasons obvious in that they could be mistaken for enemy. In the heat of the moment however, I assumed that maybe they were being used to resupply forward positions or take around coffee or whatever. I eventually handed over a cigarette, saying "Keep down and get a light from Peter's smoke!" Off he went, and I quietly said to Peter, "Bloody "katcoms" don't they know to stay away from forward areas?" Peter agreed so we thought we would bring it up in the morning.

Following the night's activities (and inactivities,) I casually mentioned to a NCO from Company Headquarters about the "katcom" being up in the observation pit during the night, burning cigarettes, and his reply stunned me. "There would have been no katcoms near you last night as they had all been moved to a rear position pending any attack!" (which eventuated a day or so later) Peter and I just looked at one another and we often spoke about it between ourselves...Had we unwittingly had a smoke with a Chinese soldier? Had he been lost and stumbled into our nearby trenches? Was it an intentional attempt at an intelligence finding mission? We didn't pursue the matter any more and rarely mentioned it to others, neither being willing to admit to "fraternisation", nor stupidity, nor naively, even to this day, I can only ask, "Who the hell was it ?"

Me with captured burp gun Keith H. Hasler
New South Wales

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