The Lost Patrol
27th/28th May 1953.
As told by
On the afternoon of May 27th, 1953 as I came off an 8 hour shift in the front operations, Cpl. Jack Ashe asked me if I would go on a 24 hour lay up patrol. This was a reconnaissance patrol which would "lay low" in "no man's land" and enemy territory, to observe the Chinese movements and radio back to Battalion Headquarters information whenever possible.
The soldier who was picked as radio operator and Jack Ashe didn't get on, so I said yes. Bob Hipworth was forward scout and myself radio operator. We had Owen machine guns and spare loaded magazines and hand grenades for armament, wore bullet proof flak jackets for body protection, and carried two way radio sets for communications. Just on dusk we were all at the jump-off point, we were all wished luck by our standby patrol as they made their way out to set up an ambush (they were the ones who saved our lives through good shooting at the ambush.)
We were checking our route with night glasses, having a chat and smoke (that is when they took all our cigarettes and lighters away)
We were talking to Padre Joe Phillips when we saw a "Chink" (Chinese) patrol setting up an ambush about half way to where we were going. I radioed Battalion Headquarters for a new route but was told to follow orders. Padre Joe Phillips then got on the radio and told Headquarters it would be suicide if we went the way the route was planned, but to no avail.
All went well, we passed the position where we had seen the "Chink" ambush through the night glasses,-- and radioed back "all okay".
We then heard a strange lingo telling us to Halt ! We didn't know the lingo but we did know the sound of safeties being clicked off weapons all around us; we were right in the middle of an enemy ambush patrol (eported later that there could have been up to 60 or more Chinese.)
All we could think of was fire at the flashes, when we fired I thought we must have been doing okay as we could hear a lot of screaming from the Chinese. Cpl. Ashe was yelling to "Bug Out"! Hipworth was swearing that he was hit in the right side of his 'backside' ! !, he said as he slept on his right side he wouldn't be able to sleep.
We laughed our heads off; the Chinks must have thought we were "mad Australians", firing our weapons and laughing at the same time. I dropped a full magazine of 9mm Owen Gun bullets and as I bent down to pick it up a "Chink" grenade went off and threw my right hand around inflicting shrapnel wounds. As I turned away Cookie's (Bill and Roy Cook) Bren Machine Gun opened up from the other patrol, I could see the tracer bullets hitting into the Chinese.
The three of us ran until we came to a mine field wire. Cpl. Jack Ashe and Pte. Bob Hipworth went along the wire to the right and I chose to go to the left of the wire. I came to another wire in the darkness, running at right angles. To come back to the 'friendly' lines Jack and Bob had found a gap through the mine field but the 'Chinks' were already there waiting for us.
I called up Headquarters on the radio but the Canadians wouldn't give us "airways" to Headquarters. They were calling "22 firelight" out front, and we were telling them to get off the air. We eventually made contact, at the same time we could hear the Chinese coming up the hill to get us. Bob Hipworth ran into the mine field for "safety" as Jack and I rolled a couple of hand grenades down the hill to try to slow the "Chinks" advance.
As I turned around I got hit in the head and back with shrapnel and could see Cpl. Jack Ashe up in the air with blue and green flames around him; he had tripped a mine.
I copped another hit in the hand and also the radio receiver was hit by flying shrapnel. I ran to Jack Ashe; he said to "stuff off" as he had had it ! ! I lay down alongside him but he said "Go--and that's an order" as he didn't want the "Chinks" to get the radio we had. I ran up to Bob Hipworth and wanted him to come back to Jack Ashe but by then the "Chinks" were all around us. We 'bugged out' to the mine field gap where a friendly standing patrol was supposed to be; but they had been called in. The Chinese were there instead.
We turned left and ran till we hit a low spot. There were shells and bullets whistling all around, we stopped and lay low until it got a bit lighter. The radio that had been hit was not repairable at this time and in this location. 1 was one handed also, so I crawled through the scrub to Bob Hipworth and with his radio managed to get through to Battalion Headquarters.
We made our way back out of the mine field by putting our feet in the same footprints we made coming in earlier. As we got to the top we ran into the friendly patrol sent out to look for us.
I could see two "Blokes" out on the left in a mine field, I radioed to tell them that they were in the wrong area, when - "up they went". I found out later they were Maurie Sharp and Ernie Holden going to try to find Cpl. Jack Ashe.
I wanted to lead the boys back to where I had left Jack Ashe, but I was ordered in. At that time I would say that the patrol was 80 to 90 yards or less from where Jack Ashe lay.
I spent nearly two months in hospital at Kure, Japan and Hiro Camp before rejoining the 2nd Battalion at "The Hook" in Korea.
After the 'Truce' was signed on 27th July, 1953 1 went with a patrol to where we had entered the mine field but by that time summer growth had started and the place was like a jungle. They had said the mine field had been searched already and there was no trace of Cpl. Jack Ashe.
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