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Canadian Peacekeeping Stories

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On this page, you will find stories by current and former Canadian peacekeepers about their adventures, hardships, humorous incidents, and so on. They are true stories and reflect what our peacekeepers go through during their tour of duty. I certainly hope that you enjoy reading them. (NOTE: All stories are copyright by their respective contributors.)
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Memoriam to a UN Soldier || Another Nightmare || Glad to be Canadian
"Father..." || "A Close Encounter" || "Blue Rocket Faceplant"

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Blue Rocket Faceplant

Submitted by: Cpl G Irvine - Recce Sqn, Op Kinetic, Kosovo

After serving with the LdSh(RC) BG in 1997, this is the only funny story I have and anyone who reads this from my squadron will probably remember.

My troop (44) went to the ranges one cold October morning to fire our main Cougar armament. Standing behind the firing line about 30 metres was one solitary blue rocket. After drinking about five cups of coffee I decided to make a visit. When I opened the door the smell struck me like a lightning bolt.

This thing hadnīt been serviced in years, and in order to perform number two, one had to make use of a stick to poke the contents down. Luckily however, I didnīt have to perform that function. Now since I was carrying my C-8 carbine it made things a little tricky in manouvering inside the rocket, nor did it help that I had extended my butt stock. Since the smell was a little overpowering I decided to hold my breath. After about 30 seconds and half a bladder later I started to turn blue. Finishing up and 1 minute later I had enough. Not bothering to do up my zipper, I opened the door and took a flying leap.

It was a scene from a slapstick movie. My rifle (butt stock extended) caught on the door opening and caused me to lose my footing as I was exiting. Needless to say I ended up with my face in the cold Bosnian mud (as well as my rifle muzzle), my combat pants undone and my pride slightly hurt all in front of my peers. Nothing better than a face plant to improve morale!

A Close Encounter

Submitted by: James Morrell

I served on HMCS ATHABASKAN for three years. During this posting I visited numerous countries on the Atlantic seaboard but I also got a taste of why we all join. Our ship was ordered to the Persian Gulf in August of 1990. This was a UN assignment and really did not turn out to be a peacekeeping assignment but the feeling was that we were there to ensure the peace and stability of the area. The local friendly ports we visited often showed their appreciation and reflected that view.

A lot of things can happen that never have a paper trail but still they happened. Sometimes they have security considerations or just common sense. This is one of those occurances.

We were essentially in command of the Support Fleet in the center of the Persian Gulf before, during, and after the war. Due to this situation we ordered ships in and out of different areas. At one point the USS MERCY was ordered into the Northern part of the Gulf. She was one of the two floating Hospitals that the US had in the area. That part of the sea was extensively cleared of mines prior to our trip north.

The trip was pretty uneventfull. Lots of smoke so that midday looked like dusk. You could look directly at the sun and not have the pain of its rays hurt your eyes. It was not until a day later that we learned of how close we came to becoming a very news worthy item. The US navy on routine minesweeping discovered a floating mine. This mine detaches itself from its anchore when it senses a ship. It was a typical old mine that Iraq had used. Due to its age, it did not work properly when the US did their earlier minesweeping routines. It did, however, manage to work when we were in the area. There was a very large scar on it in between the tines of the spherical mine. The US determined according to winds and drift that the mine was struck by our ship. The USS MERCY has a different propopellor that did not match the scarring on the mine. Maybe this means little in the grand scheme of things, but that mine would have damaged, destroyed, or killed the ship and crew. At the time, this was something everyone knew and did not reflect too much on.

Peacekeeping has many perils. War has many more. What we were actually doing as participants over there is very similar to actual peacekeeping that was done so many years by the Canadian Armed Forces, and is now being conducted in Croatia. No actual combat was recorded at sea for the Navy, so in many ways, we were again just what we have been in many theatres. Enough said.

Father...

Submitted by: Tom & Ronda Lee

This poem was written by Ronda Spencer-Lee, in 1987 when she was in school, in memory of her father, MCpl. Ronald C. Spencer, who was killed while on duty with Canadian Peacekeeping Forces, stationed in Cairo, Egypt. Ronda was only 4 years old at the time her father died. He served with the 116 ATU, UNEF II.

MCpl Spencer was killed on August 9, 1974, when the Buffalo aircraft he was flying in, was shot down, while on a routine flight from Beirut, Lebanon, to Damascus, Syria. All aboard were killed.

FATHER

You said you loved me.
You said you would never leave me.
I was your little kitten, that you cherished
and would protect from harm.
Where are you now?

I understand now
that it was not your fault.
It was your duty to leave,
it was your job to leave,
to help make peace.
But it was your job that got you killed.

At first I blamed you
for leaving me alone.
I did not think you cared,
I thought I did something wrong,
that would make you leave.
But now that I have grown
I know why;
because you loved me.

How can anyone kill another human being?
That I will never understand.
When that man took you away forever,
he took a part of me too.

I know I am not alone anymore,
you will always be with me,
for I am your little Kitten,
and I am part of you.
For as long as I live,
you will never die in my heart.


Ronda Spencer

Glad to be Canadian...

Submitted by: Sgt John Campbell

The island of Cyprus lies in the Mediterranean Sea eighty km west of Israel and forty km south of Turkey. It is comprised of Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot nationals. Cyprus has had a UN presence for more than thirty years due to conflicts between the civilian populace and the ongoing tension between Greece and Turkey. Canada has taken part in the peacekeeping mission since the early days until it's departure in 1994.

The tours were, for the most part fairly quiet except for the summer of 1974 when tensions rose to a critical level due to a breakdown in diplomatic relations and the assassination of the Greek Cypriot leader. This resulted in the Turkish army invading the northern part of the island to protect it's interests and force change in the Government. To this day the island remains divided between the Greek and the Turk Cypriots. To prevent a reoccurrence of hostilities, the UN maintains an buffer zone between the north and south parts of the island.

I was part of 2 PPCLI's six month winter tour to the island from September 1982 to March 1983. During that time I was a young Private rifleman in B Company. I only had a year in the Army, so I saw this tour to be an excellent opportunity to gain operational experience and travel to an exotic location. My main responsibility was to man various observation posts throughout the city of Nicosia and report any occurrences in the zone. I was qualified to drive the M113 armoured personnel carrier so I took part in mounted patrols as well.

There were many threats that all soldiers were exposed to during the tour. These included the possibility of being shot by either Greek or Turkish soldiers during patrols, Cannon or Artillery fire, stepping on or driving over mines and setting off unexploded bombs or booby traps. The most common occurrences were shots being fired and incursions into the zone by either side. During some foot patrols both the Greek Cypriot National Guard and Turkish soldiers tried to intimidate us by pointing their weapons at us and even on occasion threatened to kill us. This was usually ignored by most soldiers. For the duration of the tour, most of us lived in line houses which were repaired abandoned houses lost in the 1974 war. Usually the OP was on the roof and all basic comforts of home were below. We did twelve hour shifts in the OP, six days a week with one day off and were granted forty-eight hours leave once a month. We also rotated into a reserve period of one week every three weeks at the base camp to conduct training and maintenance.

The tour was uneventful except for a few minor incidents. The most notable that I remember was on New Years Eve when the Turks fired their artillery all along the Kyrenia mountain top to signify the new year. The Turkish side of the island's clocks are one hour ahead so the guns went off at eleven pm. Some soldiers on duty that night thought that a new invasion was about to begin.

Once I came back to Canada, I realized how good we have it here and how we take our standard of living for granted.

Another Nightmare...

Submitted by: Edward P. Yerex

"Yewneff, you help?" She looked about twelve years old and she, Love of God, had dropped her veil and shown her face to me, a stranger, a soldier and a foreigner. In her arms she clutched her baby covered with a shawl.

I was back on my second tour, another UNEF operation in Egypt, and walking in uniform through downtown Ismailia when she approached me. Iíd been in the country ten years before on my first tour, that one served in the Sinai. My first tour, a full year, had damaged me, the nightmares never leaving for more than a few days, but we had done what we could. In those days we drove Swedish medics and doctors out to the refugee camps to hold clinics for the locals.

As I stood there, dumfounded, a jeepload of UN soldiers drove by. One of them yelled, "Donít do it, buddy," thinking that I was a pinkie hoping for some female action.

The little girl (I couldnít think of her any other way) uncovered the baby. He was covered with pus and suppurating sores, his tiny head showing the silvery shine of his skull through the infected openings in his skin.

Remembering the lessons of my first tour, I signalled her to follow me. She walked about ten paces behind so there was no doubt in the eyes of passersby that I was alone and she was not violating the rules of Islam.

I led her to the Polish UN hospital, but at the gate we were stopped, at gunpoint, by the Polish soldier on guard duty. When I said, "Doctor," apparently an easily understood word in most European languages, he allowed me to pass but signalled to her to wait. She sat on the curb waiting for her "Yewneff" soldier to save her baby.

I went inside and found the doctor, who had a good command of English. He said, "Iím sorry, sir, but we canít do anything for her." I explained that in my former time here the United Nations allowed us to help the local people, but he said, "This is a different time, a different government, and we arenít allowed to interfere in things like this. Sir, youíd better go out the back way and try to forget this."

I went out a side door and side gate of the hospital, but I had to walk by about half a block away from where this tiny girl sat holding her dying baby. I could see her, although she didnít see me.

The tears she wept for her child were mere raindrops compared with the tears I wept into my pillow that night. Since that time, I have awakened with enough tears soaking my pillow to fill a river.

One more nightmare that will live forever with me.

Memoriam to a UN Soldier

Submitted by: Petty Officer First Class, Mike B Palka, MMM, CD
(Written while serving in the former Yugoslavia in 1993.)

Press Release - Friday 18 June 1993

(Bosnia-Canadian Soldier) Prime Minister Brian Mulrooney calls the attack on a Canadian Soldier in Bosnia a deplorable act of violence. Mulrooney sent his condolences to the widow of Corporal Daniel Gunther. Canadian Military officials say the 24-year-old from the Quebec suburb of Val-Belair died while on observation duty today. Gunther, who had been in Bosnia just one month, is the third Canadian Peacekeeper to die in Bosnia since the UN mission began more than a year ago.


MEMORIAM TO A UNITED NATIONS SOLDIER

Being a UN Soldier really means a lot to me,
Be proud and stand for peace in some far off land.
My family and friends I dearly miss you see,
For hurried I left, tears were shed, I hope they understand.

Challenges await us when we arrive,
Unaccustomed to traditions, we do the best we can.
Each day we are reminded, it's for peace that we strive,
There's a war going on and a UN Soldier is what I am.

Frustrated and worried, I go about my daily task,
Mine fields, mortars and snipers are around so stay clear.
Innocent people die each day and it's why I ask,
But a UN Soldier I am and I must stay here.

In a flash so sudden, time to go, it's my time,
Heaven awaits me, I'm sorry, I couldn't say goodbye.
Regrets I have none, but to die so young, it's a crime
A UN Soldier I am, I love you, please don't cry.

Countries in turmoil, war is hell and people die,
The United Nations do their damnest to make it cease.
One day the world will rejoice and we'll all know why,
For once there was a UN Soldier there who stood for Peace.

Dedicated to all UN Soldiers killed in "The Service of Peace"
and to their loved ones left behind.


This page and contents are copyright © 1996 - 2013 Frank Misztal.
Kingston, ON, Canada