Kenneth Nicholls was born July 10, 1929, and grew up during the Great Depression. Living on a farm, he helped with chores and learned to hunt and trap for the food his family needed. After Grade 6 he found a job as a mechanic’s assistant to earn money for himself and the family. Eventually he would leave the small town they lived in and travel to find work. He has fond memories of Toronto and has been a Leafs fan ever since.
Then he returned home, got married and had a son named Kenny. But war would rear its ugly head. Communism was threatening Korea and Canada agreed to be part of the United Nations Forces fighting against the Korean and Chinese communist forces.
Dad volunteered for the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry 2nd Battalion. With his hunting background he was given sniper training and won many shooting competitions. Sent overseas and arriving in Japan he found himself assigned as a military police officer before being shipped to the frontlines in Korea.
Again, his hunting background played a part in his assignments. He would lead sniper teams on patrol behind enemy lines. In one case, he and his men came across a large unit of Australians who had been ambushed. Assessing the situation, they punched a hole in the ambush that allowed the Australians to escape with their many wounded.
Dad and his team drew the enemy away from the Aussies. At the end it was down to him and Gordon Butler, who would become a long-time friend, who ensured the survival of the Australians and his team. They ended up hiding in chilly water under an embankment for two days as the enemy searched the area before they were finally able to make back to friendly territory. The Australian government awarded him medal for that action.
When US General Douglas MacArthur visited Korea, he used dad’s unit as bodyguards instead of American forces. Dad got along with the other UN units in his own way. Part of the British force included Gurkhas from Nepal. They prided themselves on stealth and would either steal the bootlaces of soldiers on guard duty as honour badges by stealthily cutting them off their boots without them realizing what had happened.
One tried the trick with dad and was knocked out for his efforts. Dad took the Gurkha’s knife and walked into the British encampment and stuck it into the ground. It was a badge of honour they recognized. Later he and his team would lead a group of around 200 Gurkhas into enemy territory on a mission. They lost no men and completed their assignment.
He would fight in the Battle of Kapyong, a turning point in the war. Near the end of that enemy offensive, only the Canadians hadn’t withdrawn. Outnumbered by a ratio of five-to-one, 700 men held off the enemy, earning them a US presidential citation. At times, the Princess Pats were calling down artillery on their own positions so they wouldn’t be overrun. If they had been it is doubtful whether or not there would be a South and North Korea as we know it today.
Dad would return from the war, move to Chibougamau and meet my mother Dorothy. They had three boys – Robie, Donald and myself. He would work as a miner and firefighter before retiring. He taught us boys a lot about the limits of compromise, the value of a reputation, being honest with those around you and many more lessons that would take too much space to include.
Most people don’t know much about dad’s military record so I thought I would share a bit of it, “lest we forget.” Yes, I honour my father for all he has been, all he has done, all he has taught, all he continues to do, and for his love. Happy 90th birthday dad, and may we see many more.