William H.A. Willbond MSM, CD

(Last Post for Private Kenneth Francis Barwise, MM, CD)

The Regiment, oh the Regiment Cries
At the passing of our own Private Ken Barwise
The big fellow won the coveted MM
But he wanted it too for some other men

Ken, he fought the enemy hand to hand
Chasing them off of the no man’s land
He carried back the precious machine gun
30 years of Service to Canada had begun

He never took the Lance Cpl’s hooks
As Hellyer made each of his buddies one
He was happiest as a Private because
He could loudly speak his mind in fun and pun!

He’s up there now with Big Jim Stone
And my buddy Machine Gun Bill
Bill Fischer was a PFL too
Both fought on that Korean Hill

Ken’ll be there now with Greek Cattell
Many great war stories they all will tell
About how they sent the enemy to hell
Big Ken, Bill Fischer and John Cattell!

Author’s Note: PFL – an imaginary tattoo said to be tattooed on some soldiers rear ends – Pte For Life – In the Queen’s Own it was RFL (Rifleman for Life). We had John Cattell, WW2 and Korea, Baldy Baverstock WW2 and Korea, and Bill Fischer WW2 and Korea. These men did not want to be NCOs and the Regiments respected that right. Hellyer did not win out in every case. Ken and Bill were PPCLI during the Korean War; Baldy Baverstock served with the Gloucesters in Korea and was one of a few survivors who walked off the hill wounded; Greek Cattell was a Commando in WW2 and escaped twice from prisoner of war camps having killed many Germans. He went to Korea with our 2nd Battalion QOR of C in 1953 and I served with him in Germany and Calgary. I knew all three of these men personally – they were great old soldiers. They are part of Modern Canadian Military History. Thank you Vince, for writing part of their stories for posterity.

Korea Vet News
Published by the Korean War Commemoration Council of Canada

Dedicated to the sacrifice and indomitable spirit of Veterans of the Korean War

“A Nation Reborn” by Canadian Artist Ted Zuber
Painting “A Nation Reborn” by Canadian Artist Ted Zuber, Veteran of The Royal Canadian Regiment
Symbolic Canadian statue at Pusan U.N. Cemetary Korea

March 3, 2008

Last Post for Comrade
Private Kenneth Francis Barwise, MC, CD

Word has been received from Jose van Berkel that her beloved father and our comrade passed away this morning between 4 am and 5:30 am.

Kenneth died in the ICU unit in a Penticton hospital after undergoing surgery for colon cancer. The operation took place within a month of a surgical procedure that followed a heart attack.

Ken was one of the first to join the Canadian Army Special Force when it was formed in August, 1950 to help defend the Republic of Korea against incursion forces from North Korea.

He took his training with the 2nd Battalion; Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry and sailed to Korea with the battalion in November of that year.

The strapping, 6’4” young soldier was well liked by virtually everyone who served with him.

In Korea he was assigned to a Vickers medium machinegun team as Number 3 on the gun, serving under Captain Andy Foulds of Vancouver. Captain Foulds passed away a couple of weeks ago.
Ken went into action with the Patricias in February 1951 while the battalion fought its way from positions near Yoju on the South Han River to the Imjin River on the west central front.

When in April the battalion was ordered to rush into positions on the west side of the Kapyong River valley to stem an enemy offensive Ken was temporarily assigned to D Company, which was then under command of Captain Wally Mills.

D Company held the largest feature in the battalion area, Hill 677, which forms a great shoulder on the far left side of the valley. He and his friend Lance Corporal Jimmy Wanniandi were given a tiny 2-inch mortar and positioned outside Captain Mills’ slit trench command post.

The company was attacked after midnight of the night of April 23-24. Following an artillery barrage called onto the D Company positions Ken and Wanniandi were asked to reconnoitre the 11 platoon area that had been over-run by the attacking enemy.

Both men were attacked by enemy soldiers as they made their way down the slopes. Eye witnesses said Ken fought hand to hand with six of the enemy before he and Wanniandi made it back safely to their position.

Later Ken went with a counter attack platoon from C Company that was commanded by Lieutenant Whittaker. They swept the 11 platoon area and Ken retrieved the Vickers machinegun that had been manned by his comrades, Privates.

Ken is remembered carrying the heavy gun back up the hill on his shoulder, the coolant reservoir can bouncing along behind him. It was still connected to the gun by the coolant hose.

Ken was awarded the Military Medal for bravery in the field and he campaigned to have his friend Jimmy Wanniandi similarly recognized. It was not to be, however. Ken was decorated for bravery and Jimmy was overlooked, except by Ken and his comrades who cherished him.

After Korea Ken went on to serve with the Canadian Army for a period of 30 years. It was service that he cherished and badly missed following his retirement.

Ken became well known to Princes Patricia during her tenure as Colonel of the Regiment and by her successor, Countess Mountbatten of Burma. The Countess always sought him out at regimental reunions and annual general meetings of the PPCLI Association.

Ken missed meeting Canada’s Governor General, Adrienne Clarkson when he was in Ottawa in 2003 to participate in the dedication and Consecration of the Monument to Canadian Fallen. It honours all Canadian who fell during the Korean War and on peacekeeping service in Korea.

Madame Clarkson was on a state visit to Arctic Circle nations and could not attend the service. Ken, did, however, meet with Canada’s Prime Minister, Jean Chretien who noted almost with awe, “You are a really big guy!”

Shortly after that Ken lost his wife and not long down the line lost one leg to complications of diabetes, then had a heart attack and lost the other leg, then had another heart attack and simultaneously was diagnosed with colon cancer.

He did not get to meet with Madame Clarkson when she was appointed Colonel of the Regiment. She replaced Countess Mountbatten who was well into her 80’s, widowed and in her view unable to give the job her all.

Ken was a kind man but not a shy man. His voice was heard at every PPCLI function. He did not shrink from authority of any kind.

He badgered superiors, always spoke up if he thought things were being mismanaged of could be handled better. He was powerful with his oratory and let the chips fall where they may.

“I guess that’s why I retired as a private after 30 years of service,” he quipped in 2000 when he was in Korea as one of 12 honoured Veteran guests of South Korean President Kim Dae-jung. “I was never one to curry favour with officers. I always did what I thought was right.”

The late Danny Bordelaux, who retired as a warrant officer with the Canadian Intelligence Corps, served with the 1st Battalion of the PPCLI that replaced Ken’s 2nd Battalion.

Danny’s younger brother Gerald had been wounded in the head at the Battle of Kapyong in the same Hill 677 position where Ken had also been wounded. That was Danny’s first meeting with Ken.
A few years later in Germany Danny was eating lunch in the mess hall when he was approached by several soldiers from a rival regiment. They ordered him in unkind words to get up and move so that they could have his table.

Danny was not a very big man but he was a tough, no nonsense fellow. He refused. They took hold of him to make him give up the table.

Suddenly huge Ken Barwise was among them. He grabbed one of them by the neck and the back of his belt and pitched him through the open window like a bale of hay.

“You were saying?” he asked the rest of them. Danny finished his lunch without moving. They all retreated.

Unforgettable because of his size, strength, audacity and warmth Ken became a legend within his regiment.

At its 80th reunion in 1994 a group of Veterans were walking toward the drill hall where the refreshment bars were set up. There was a painting of a PPCLI shoulder badge above the door. It measured about eight feet wide by a yard high.

One of the Veterans stopped the others, pointed up at it.

“Hey look,” he called out. “There’s Barwise’s shoulder flash!”

He was well known even by soldiers and Veterans who had never met him. He was a legend in his own time.

It didn’t put food on the table and he was hard pressed to care for his family and do all of the things he wanted to do for them. At that regimental reunion he had driven there in his pickup truck and slept on the truck bed to save money.

He also made a meal from the cookies and coffee available in the morning reception for Countess Mountbatten. She spent a long time chatting with him.

He once told friends on his 2000 trip to Korea that along with his Military Medal he received a small honorarium from the Queen. Every month he received less than $20 in honour of his brave and faithful service to the crown. He appreciated it, was proud of it.

Now he joins many, many comrades from his battalion who left the world before he did.
He died peacefully in his sleep, his daughter Jose said.

If so, it would be the first time he ever did anything big without making a lot of noise about it. One must assume that it was a journey Ken finally wanted to make.