WATCH: Battle of Kapyong survivors on hand for military re-enactment atop Mount Doug to mark 65th anniversary. Tess van Straaten reports.
A soldier sets up a machine gun on top of Mount Doug in Saanich, taking aim at a long-forgotten enemy from a forgotten battle in a forgotten war.
“For Canada, the Korean War is the third bloodiest conflict just after World War I and World War II,” says Korean war veteran John Bishop.
It’s here on this Saanich mountaintop, dressed in Korean War uniforms, that military re-enactors are marking the 65th anniversary of the Battle of Kapyong.
Kapyong is one of the most important but least known Canadian military battles.
Against overwhelming odds, the Second Battalion of the Princess Patricia’s Light Infantry fought off the Chinese, causing the Chinese communist People’s Volunteer Army to retreat.
“Seven hundred Canadians on a small mountain top in Korea held off thousands — perhaps 10,000 Chinese — in a three-day running battle,” explains military re-enactor Simon Sobolwski. “Of the 700 men, there’s only 12 survivors.”
Two of those survivors , Colonel Murray Edwards who was the battalion quartermaster and John Bishop joined re-enactors on Sunday, sharing their first-hand accounts of the historic battle.
“Our brigade inflicted such heavy casualties on the Chinese at that time that they never again mounted a major offensive,” says retired Col. Murray Edwards. “That’s why the Americans considered it a turning point.”
“There were bigger battles fought by the Canadians but when you consider we were a lone battalion and we were surrounded and we were the last battalion standing it was quite a precarious time,” says Kapyong veteran John Bishop.
More than six decades later, having the war heroes on hand for the re-enactment was a rare treat.
“It’s not often you get to meet someone who was at an actual battle,” says military re-enactor Tony Austin. “He’s living history.”
And it’s a history lesson they hope we all can benefit from.
“The Korean War tends to be the forgotten war and this is a forgotten battle so we need to remember what we have today was earned in blood — it doesn’t come free,” says Austin.