Training at Fort Lewis
The decision to dispatch only one Canadian battalion to
Korea for the moment had left the question of the employment of
the rest of the Force in the air. While awaiting final orders
the Force was to undergo collective training. No existing
Canadian camp readily lent itself to such a programme, especially
during the winter months. Fortunately, at the time when it was
assumed that the whole Brigade would move to Korea shortly, a
suitable site in the United States had been reserved as a staging
camp: namely Fort Lewis, Washington. This was now to serve the
Canadians as a training area.
The bulk of the CASF concentrated in Fort Lewis between 11
and 22 November 1950. Supporting arms and services joined the
three infantry battalions to form the 25th Canadian Infantry
Brigade Group, under the command of Brigadier J. M. Rockingham.
To fill the gap soon left by the departure of the departure of
the 2nd PPCLI for Korea a third battalion of the same regiment
was created. Third battalions of the RCR and the Royal 22e also
were raised, as reinforcement training battalions. All remained
at Fort Lewis for the time being, though only the 3rd Patricias
operated on the same training programme as the second battalions.
In the main, the training facilities were more than
adequate. The armoured squadron, the artillery and the infantry
battalions' anti-tank platoons carried out firing practices at
Yakima, 80 miles from the camp. The services performed the same
duties as would be required of them in operations. For the
infantry, some further basic training proved necessary; but by
the turn of the year Brigadier Rockingham was able to report good
progress. The culminating point of the training was Exercise
"Ignes Bellum", held during the first three weeks of February.
The code name may have been doubtful Latin, but the exercise went
well. It was highlighted by a brigade attack with live
On 21 February the decision emerged that the whole Brigade
Group was to go to Korea as originally planned. The preparation
of vehicles for shipment overseas made it impossible to continue
formation training beyond mid-March. The emphasis now passed to
physical training, range work, practice patrols and night
exercises. In this period Brigadier Rockingham visited the Far
East in order to observe the battle front and to make various
arrangements in connection with the arrival of his troops in the
theatre. Towards the end of March he visited the 2nd Patricias,
who were soon again to come under his command. He returned to
Port Lewis early in April.
The Brigade Group (less the 3rd PPCLI and certain smaller
elements) sailed from Seattle between 19 and 21 April, on the
American troopships Marine Adder, General Patrick and President
Jackson. The 3rd Patricias, together with the other third
battalions, afterwards moved to Wainwright, Alberta; there they
became part of a new training formation.
Although by the eve of its departure the Special Force had
taken on over 10,000 men, its effective strength remained at
approximately 8000 - the figure reached in the first three weeks
of its existence. About 500 men were either absent without leave
or had deserted, while another 1500 had been discharged. Such
wastage was largely a by-product of the speed with which the
force had had to be recruited.
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