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REMEMBERING CANADIANS ON HILL 532

 

Honourable Senators,

Sixty-one years ago, on March 7, 1951, the men of D Company of the Princess Patricias Canadian Light Infantry were up at 4 a.m.

The night before they had been in a front line position. They had been brought to the rear, given absolution by the clergy, allowed to wash, get into dry clothes, gather heavy loads of ammunition. They marched off in the dark in ankle deep snow, five long miles to the start line.

Their objective beyond it was the massive Hill 532. It rose more than 40 stories above the valley floor. Just beyond the start line they came under machinegun fire, but moved through the enemy rear guard. There were supposed to be air strikes on the enemy. But the sky was laden with snow clouds and the planes never came.

D Company moved up regardless. The slope was brutal… 20 degrees… and even steeper as they neared the summit. With three platoons forward they moved upward for two more hours. Then they came under withering fire from concealed machineguns. The enemy was there in great force.

They outnumbered the Canadians five on one. Canadians were falling. The fire was intense. They ran low on ammunition. They ran out of grenades entirely.

Small groups of these brave Canadians pressed on, pressed upward. The bullets coming at them never slacked off. The attack went on for four hours. The Canadians were exhausted. But they pressed on inch by inch until they were within one hundred yards of the summit. Half a hundred of the enemy had fallen.

The track down the snow covered hill was awash with blood, from soldiers of both sides. Shortly before dark, Corporal Roy Rushton from the small town of Tanner Hill, Nova Scotia, asked Captain John Turnbull to put the men to ground.

With the attack put in check the enemy set up a rear guard and withdrew down the reverse slopes. The victory was consolidated early the next morning when the last few enemy surrendered. This small force of Canadian soldiers had attacked a well entrenched force five times their size - a force armed with automatic weapons and endless supplies of grenades - and they were.

They had lost eight men and twenty-seven wounded… fully one third of their company. The battle went unsung. Only those who were there remember it.

Honourable Senators, now 61 years and a day later, let us remember it... and let us remember them.

Nous nous souviendrons d’eux. Lest we forget.

 

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