Andrew C. Moffat’s career with the Canadian military started when he entered high school in 1940 and was enrolled into the Royal Canadian Army Cadets. In December 1947, Andrew joined the Regular Forces and was selected soon after to attend the RCN College at Royal Roads, Victoria, BC. Following two years at Royal Roads he was posted to The Royal Military College [RMC] at Kingston, Ontario, where he completed his degree programme in History.
After graduating from RMC, Andrew was posted to the First Regiment, Royal Canadian Horse Artillery serving in Korea. He first served at Brigade HQ as the Artillery Intelligence Officer, then at the Regiment as a Gun Position Officer and as a Troop Commander working with the Infantry’s First Battalion Royal 22nd Regiment [1R22eR] as a Forward Observation Officer [FOO]. For Andrew, Christmas 1952 was unlike any other. He shares about this unique experience in the very personal story that follows.
Korean Christmas, 1952
Christmas, 1952, was very special for me, and it was certainly the setting that made it so. I was with my friend, a Company Commander and his “B” company, the most forward company of the Battalion.
Between the Chinese lines and ours ran the Sami’Chon River, bordered by rice paddies on both sides. Nightly patrols from both sides criss-crossed this “no man’s land,” with the Chinese frequently occupying one of our abandoned platoon positions, sometimes for one night, sometimes for extended periods.
The relationship that had grown between the Chinese and Canadians is hard to explain. While both were prepared to fight cunningly, skilfully and ferociously, neither displayed any particular animosity towards the other. While there were some patterns of behaviour we had come to expect of the Chinese – such as favouring to attack under a full moon – there were other circumstances that left us completely amazed. Christmas, 1952, was one such occasion.
We expected the Chinese to take advantage of our holidays in an attempt to catch us off guard. So, as Christmas approached, precautions were taken to ensure sufficient personnel remained alert while others attended religious services or ate Christmas dinner.
Prior to Christmas the Chinese had used loud speakers to inform us that they intended to respect our Christmas and would conduct no offensive operations on that day. What were we to think? This could be a ruse to lull us into relaxing our guard.
On Christmas Eve we “stood to” with apprehension. Both radio and phone lines had been checked thoroughly. I had registered new targets close to our own positions. My crew were well rested in anticipation of a long night ahead. Special patrols were sent out, to give early warning of any Chinese incursion.
The Company Commander and I stayed awake all night. But the night was absolutely quiet! Not even the usual multitude of rats seemed to be at field that night. Shortly after dawn, when the morning mist was clearing and we could visually cover no man’s land, the patrols were ordered to come in.
Suddenly there was shouting from the direction of the forward barbed wide defenses. Almost immediately the blackened faces of the patrol leaders, and the grinning faces of platoon commanders began to tumble into our bunker.
They were carrying bags, not at all unlike a small version of a mailman’s pouch … and they were all laughing uproariously.
With all of our precautions, Chinese patrols had been able to sneak past our patrols and outposts, through our barbed wire and minefields, right into the platoon positions to deposit on our wire, bags of homemade Christmas cards! Nor was our amazement to stop there: as we began to inspect this Christmas treasure we found that each card was addressed by name to a member of the Company!
Can you imagine our newfound respect for the enemy on that Christmas day? We already knew that he had superb field craft skills. We now knew that his skills at intelligence gathering were also of the highest order.
One good turn deserves another, so the old saying goes.
It took a little time to arrange, but soon there were speakers facing the Chinese lines playing Christmas carols all day. For my part, I used my guns to fire a cheery red, white and blue smoke screen the full length of no man’s land on our front.
I suspect there are many Chinese who remember December 25, 1952, as a very special day!
Andrew C. Moffat, Lt (Ret’d)
Artillery Forward Observer with
B Company, 1 Bn R22eR