RICHARD F. JILLETT
Private | Royal Canadian Infantry Corps
For four years, Richard served the Australian Army during times when they were most threatened by the spread of the Japanese empire. His loyalty to country was just as resolute when he joined the Canadian Army after the outbreak of the Korean War, where he was quickly assigned as a scout sniper with the 2d Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment. He fell under command of Ed Mastronardi who commanded Scout and Sniper Platoon, traditionally formed from intrepid types and troublemakers. It is likely that Richard's thirst for adventure and experience in jungle rescue during the war made him an ideal member of the platoon where they soon referred to him as 'Kangaroo' or 'Aussie'. He left Canada with the battalion in April and by the end of May was immediately thrown into battle at the village of Chail-li during a driving rainstorm. D Company spearheaded the attack to the summit of Kakhul-bong, a terrain feature before the village. With the rest of Ed's snipers, Jillett covered their advance, but artillery and machine gun fire was too much for D Company and they were forced down. It was the R.C.R.'s baptism.
Six hundred yards forward of the 2 R.C.R.'s main defensive line was the Song-gok Spur, a crucial bit of land that overlooked the Sami-ch'on Valley. Ed's 2 Platoon of A Company had the responsibility of defending the position. As a sniper, Jillett was used to being isolated, but for an entire platoon to be so far out was nearly unheard of. The unit was understrength, with only twenty-eight men and no sergeant, just two corporals and a lance corporal - Jillett - to perform the duties required of all NCOs under Ed's command. Richard himself had been wounded about a week earlier while on patrol, but stayed on the line as he felt it was a minor injury.
Just before 2100 hours on November 2 the Chinese struck and the Flying Deuce remained resolute as they braced for the incoming attack wave. For eight hours, the 2 Platoon fought off their attackers with unwavering bravery. They only evacuated the position after three in the morning when the brigadier radioed Ed and requested they withdraw. Except for Private Campeau who was killed, no man remained behind and the platoon recovered all their weapons and equipment to make the 600 yard sprint to friendly lines.
The Chinese did not pursue the Flying Deuce, nor did they occupy the spur. The Canadians inflicted enough damage to deter them, though half of the platoon left the position wounded. Joe Campeau was the only death that night and the only man left behind. Ed returned the next day to recover his body.
The 2 R.C.R. rotated back to Petawawa in April 1952 and after his discharge later that year, he set out west to pursue business in oil or construction, but later returned to his home in Australia where he lived the remainder of his life in Queensland.
Gunner R. F. Jillett, left foreground, handles a cut up tar drum for constructing a shed in which to store ammunition. Other materials such as this must be put to use since there was a shortage of galvanized iron.
No. 41 Australian Field Battery, 11th Australian Field Regiment, Northern Territory, 29 October 1942. Photo courtesy AWM Collection
(1) Near, Bob. “FAREWELL TO A SOLDIER: Ed Mastronardi, The RCR 1925-2016.” Espritdecorps, 16 Feb. 2017, espritdecorps.ca/in-memoriam/farewell-to-a-soldier-ed-mastronardi-the-rcr-1925-2016.
(2) Mastronardi, Edward. Mock the Haggard Face: a Canadian War Story. Xlibris Corporation, 2014.
Much thanks to Bob Near for the assistance in learning about the RCR in Korea.