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, thatnotorious feature on the very western extremity of the CommonwealthDivision Lines and adjacent to the Ist Marine Division of which I have spokenin an earlier story. My mate Peter Crowe and I were put into an observationpit at the very top of the Hook Feature. I think a photograph taken post war ofthis pit is shown in my earlier story. Our responsibility was to ensure that wemaintained good vision towards the northern approaches to the Hook, whilethe main thrust of the Chinese was expected from the west. At least this ishow I can recall events leading up to this story. Pete and I took turns at theslit of the observation pit, keen to do the right thing but ever fearful of theneed arising to defend our position.

We managed to light a cigarette quite frequently by pulling a blanket over ourheads to shield any reflective light, but in cases where one of us was alreadysmoking, it was a simple matter to light one from the other while simplykeeping low and out of any sight of any potential enemy. Sometime during thenight, 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 Isensed movement next to me. It was an Asian accent that asked me for acigarette, I replied something like "Go to Hell!" thinking it was one of theKoreans who were attached to all Commonwealth units and which we calledKATCOMS. They were under their own unit's jurisdiction and pay conditionsand were frequently asking us for cigarettes. They also, on this occasion, werenot permitted to be so close to the action for reasons obvious in that they couldbe mistaken for enemy. In the heat of the moment however, I assumed thatmaybe they were being used to resupply forward positions or take aroundcoffee or whatever. I eventually handed over a cigarette, saying "Keep downand 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?" Peteragreed so we thought we would bring it up in the morning.

Following the night's activities (and inactivities,) I casually mentioned to aNCO from Company Headquarters about the "katcom" being up in theobservation 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 beenmoved to a rear position pending any attack!" (which eventuated a day or solater) Peter and I just looked at one another and we often spoke about itbetween ourselves...Had we unwittingly had a smoke with a Chinese soldier?Had he been lost and stumbled into our nearby trenches? Was it anintentional attempt at an intelligence finding mission? We didn't pursue thematter any more and rarely mentioned it to others, neither being willing toadmit to "fraternisation", nor stupidity, nor naively, even to this day, I canonly ask, "Who the hell was it ?"

Me with captured burp gunKeith H. Hasler
New South Wales

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