During the summer of 1965, K Battery of 4 RCHA and the 1st Black Watch Battalion Group conducted an exercise in the Gross Morne area of Newfoundland in the days before Gross Morne was designated a national park. This exercise was held in preparation of Exercise White Caribou held in Newfoundland in of January 1966 and subsequently, Exercise Winter Express held in North Norway from 21 February to 26 March 1966. This exercise was part of twelve months hard training and detailed preparation by all members of K Battery.
While the 1st Black Watch Battalion Group was defending a high ground position on Gross Morne overlooking York Harbour and the bay (Bay of Islands), they found themselves pinned down and unable to move.
From our position, they were out of range of our mortars and we were separated by rough terrain. To remedy the situation, we decided to make use of a UH-1 which was being demonstrated by Bell Helicopter for the Canadian Army during the exercise. The helicopter was flown by a famous Bell Helicopter test pilot and rotorcraft pioneer by the name of Joe Mashman (See Bio).
K Battery decided to flank the enemy from the rear using the Huey and a wire net to airlift a mortar from our position at Spruce Brook (between Stevenville and Corner Brook) around the enemy’s high ground position to a small island (Governors Island off the coast of York Harbour) in the bay directly behind them (See map and video below).
This use of this Huey greatly enhanced the scope of the deployment and engagement. Providing us with three dimensional movement, it allowed the Regiment to incorporate a new ability and speed to the deployment through the use of helicopters for the first time.
Our newly gained experience with the UH-1 Huey during this exercise was beneficial to Exercise Winter Express where we employed the use of Canadian Army CH-113 Voyageurs to enhance the deployment of troops, mortars and 75mm pack howitzers in a winter environment in North Norway.
Members of K Battery prepare a mortar for the airlift with 686 (top). Mortor and 686 on the way (Bottom Left). The mortar team's position on Governors Island after deployment (bottom Right).