Adam McKenzie enlisted in the British Army in 1945, then served in Palestine, where he joined his battalion in 1946. He was deployed to Hong Kong in 1949 to patrol the borders before being among the first British troops to arrive in Korea for service from 1950-1951. He shares a personal account of war-torn Korea, and reflects upon seeing its modernization since then. He offers opinions concerning decisions made my military leadership throughout the war and the continued division of Korea. He details the capture of roughly three thousand North Korean soldiers, and also recalls encountering Chinese soldiers after their entrance in the Korean War. He is proud of his service and expresses his dissatisfaction with the reality that the Korean War has truly been “The Forgotten War.”
A Picture of Before and After
Adam McKenzie offers a reflection on the Korea of 1950, compared to what he saw when he revisited in 2011. He describes a former Korea of ruins, and a modern society full of high rises and bullet trains. He shares his perception that South Korea has made advancements much more rapidly since the Korean War than the United Kingdom did during the Industrial Revolution.
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Adam McKenzie describes clearing the town of Sariwon, North Korea. Although they received no tank support from American aid, his battalion mounted their miniature tanks to make an advance. He recounts capturing roughly three thousand North Korean soldiers as a result of the advance.
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Back to the 38th Parallel
Adam McKenzie discusses having to turn around and go back to the 38th Parallel after reaching Pyongyang. He explains that the command to retreat came before Chinese soldiers entered the Korean War, and it was given at the direction of United States military leadership. He expresses frustration at having to retreat, and feels that Korea would be unified today if soldiers could have kept moving northward.
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Chinese Troops and a Rare Medal
Adam McKenzie describes his encounter with Chinese soldiers during the Korean War. He goes on to describe and show a rare Presidential Citation Medal that his regiment qualified to earn, yet he cannot wear along side awarded British medals. The rare medal was awarded to him by Syngman Rhee, President of the Republic of Korea (South Korea).
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[Beginning of Recorded Material]
A: My name is Adam McKenzie. It’s spelled Adam McKenzie.
I: So, you pronounce zed?
A: I pronounce zed, yes.
I: That’s very familiar because that’s how I was trained in Korea, how to pronounce zed. But in the, in the United States, they never say zed. They say zee, yeah.
I: It’s very nice meeting you again.
What is your birthday?
A: Twenty-nine, ten, 27
I: I’m sorry?
A: Twenty-nine, ten, 27.
I: So, October 29.
A: 1927 I was born.
I: Where were you born?
A: I was born in a small village called Boness approximately 40 miles from here.
I: Boness? Could you spell it?
I: N, double S, Boness.
Tell me about your family when you were growing up, your parents and your siblings.
A: My father was a groom who looked after horses, uh. I had six brothers and sisters. There is still three of us left yet. We have lost the, the other ones. Um, and literally we stayed in a, the lower cottage just under (SKETCHES) farm. Went to school, done the normal things until eventually joined the Army.
I: Uh huh. So, when did you graduate your school?
A: When did I
A: I left school in, oh let’s see, 1944.
I: Uh huh. And what school was it?
A: Uh, the, my last school was Falkirk Technical.
I: Could you
A: Falkirk Technical.
I: So, what do they teach?
A: What was it?
I: What do they teach?
A: English, English, Math, French, Geography, History. You name it, they taught it.
I: No technical stuff like uh, job skills or anything like that?
A: They didn’t teach these in schools in them days.
I: So why did they name it as a technical school?
A: Because it just, I suppose, a name they had for it, that’s all.
I: Were there any family member serving in the Army, British Army?
A: I had a brother who’d done, uh, national service which was compulsive during the War. He was older than me. He was called up, uh. But he didn’t make a, a life there. I make a, a life of the Army service. I’ve been there for 40 years as a serviceman.
I: (INAUDIBLE) Please explain to the audience the difference between national service and regular Army.
A: Well, during the War, everybody that, who became 18 years of age, unless they were in the, a job that was essential, they were called in to do service within the services.
When and, you didn’t know when they were coming out.
I: That’s national service.
A: It depended on when the War finished. And they all got more or less demobbed within six months of the War finishing.
I: What about regular?
A: And the regular soldier, he went and, and you signed on then for three, six, nine, 12 years, however it was you wanted, and if you were successful, you could extend that service.
I: So, I can say that regular soldiers, they are career soldiers.
A: They are career soldiers.
I: But the national service just constricted for the Army
A: That’s correct.
I: But they discharged after the War, right?
A: That’s correct.
I: So, let me ask this question. Did you know anything about Korea when you were graduating in 1944.
A: No. We didn’t know anything about Korea in 1950 when we were told we were going to Korea, never mind 1944.
We didn’t, I didn’t even know, the regiment didn’t even, even know where Korea was. We were stationed in Hong Kong at that time.
I: But didn’t you learn World History at the time?
A: Yeah, but Korea was a small country and was never mentioned.
I: Did you learn anything related to World History? Were there any courses on World History?
A: No. No, no.
I: So, the British school doesn’t, didn’t teach World History.
A: Yes, if you go back to the Crusades etc., etc. which is a way back.
And this is, this is a whole problem. We wait too long before we recalled such like, the events that happened. We don’t do it while it’s still fresh in the memory.
I: Huh. You didn’t, so you didn’t learn, learn anything about Korea because they didn’t teach at all.
A: No. When we were told we were going to Korea in 1950, the first thing we asked was where was Korea?
I: Have you been back to Korea since then?
A: Yes. Twice.
I: When? When?
A: The last time was four years ago.
I: So, you have a pretty good picture of before and after Korea, right?
A: Yes. Yes.
I: Tell, tell young students about your picture of before and after.
A: When we landed in Korea or landed at what used to be called Pusan, I now believe it’s Busan, literally
I: When was it? When did you, when did you land in Korea?
A: We landed there, and I’ll give you the exact date, uh, 29th the August 1950.
A: Twenty-ninth of August 1950.
I: Oh. So, you were very early there.
A: We were the first British troops ever to go into Korea.
I: Wow. Tell me about the before and after picture.
A: Well, when we landed there, quite honestly the country was in ruins. There was hardly a building standing. There was no bridges over the rivers. There was no main roads, etc. And getting from A to B was rather difficult. Uh, come back now, it has developed. In (KITOBO), you’ve got your bullet train that travels at 200 mile an hour from Seoul down to Pusan, etc. I believe you’ve got 65 bridges over the different rivers.
You’ve got six laned roads going out, and air has developed just tremendously over the years.
I: So, what were you thinking? When you see, when, when did you go back to Korea?
A: Uh, the last time was four years ago.
I: Four years ago, which is 2013?
I: And before, when did you go?
A: Uh, we still (INAUDIBLE) .
I: So, 2011?
I: And when you see the early transform Seoul and Korea, what were you thinking to yourself?
A: Oh, you wondered if you were back in the same place quite honestly because it is a tremendous difference in it. Uh, the development within the country is tremendous, fantastic. We never ever developed like, as quickly and as much over that period of time.
I: But you are the country of industrial revolution and the roots of democracy, Parliament democracy.
A: Uh, we (INAUDIBLE) I wouldn’t say we are. Things have slowed down.
A: Things have slowed down.
I: Yeah. But still you used to be the center of the world, the British Empire, (Pucs Britanica)
A: The Empire doesn’t last as long.
I: So, when did you join the Army?
A: I joined the Army in 1945.
I: Nineteen forty-five. That’s the year of the end of the World War II.
A: End, end of the War.
I: When was it? Do you remember the month?
A: Uh, no, not really, during like June, July or something like that.
I: And that you were conscripted.
I: No. So, you were volunteered for serve.
A: I volunteered.
I: So, you’re regular soldier.
A: I was a regular soldier from the get go.
I: Um hm. Why did you join the Army?
A: Well, uh, jobs were difficult to come by, although I had a job.
I: Um hm.
A: Um, it wasn’t a great job going on at that time. And the, the Army seemed to be a, an outlook and where you could prosper, advance.
I: What was the good deal compared to the civilian jobs?
A: Um well, pay was very, very good. I got paid seven shillings a week when I joined up. And they told you to send some money home to your mother. [LAUGHS] Seven shillings a week. Yes.
I: That’s not much.
A: You got one shilling a day. That was your pay for (INAUDIBLE) in the Army.
I: How much were you paid when you had a civilian job?
A: Uh, roughly slightly more than that, not a great deal. Pay was very low. And prospects wasn’t good.
I: So, in the beginning, you were paid seven shillings per week.
A: Per week.
I: And with the seven shillings, how much, what kind of things that you were able to buy?
A: Well, you got everything you required except uh, (STAMMERS) like polish for cleaning your boots, stuff to clean your equipment or any extras, you know, cigarettes, etc. if you smoked or other that you could buy. But everything else was supplied to you.
Your accommodation, food, everything else was supplied.
I: Right. But overall in British society at the time, with the seven shilling, what were you able to buy, like milk or eggs or something like that?
A: Yeah. But you didn’t require to.
I: I know. But what is the worth of seven shilling?
A: Well, yes. It lasted quite honest, there was some could be keeping families on 30 shillings a week.
I: How, how much?
A: And they would, they were living as families on that.
I: How much?
A: About 30 shillings a week. My father would get when I first, when I was a young child.
I: Huh. So, it was quite a good deal.
A: Oh yeah.
I: Um. Where did you get the basic military training?
A: I’d done my basic training in a place called Elgin.
I: Could you spell it?
I: Elgin. Elgin.
A: Yeah. Elgin.
It was the comp was paying for your comp. It was Pine paying for your comp. And I’d done my initial training there.
I: How long?
A: Uh, first one was six weeks which you’d done, uh. And, and then you got sent to your own regiment for or regimental depot for further training after your initial six weeks.
I: Okay. What was your unit?
A: My unit was uh, Argyll Highlanders.
I: Could you spell it?
I: Uh huh.
I: Um hm.
A: And, and, Sutherland Highlanders, Highlanders.
I: So, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, right?
Show it to the camera, yeah.
A: That is a cap badge. The largest cap badge in the Prince Charming.
I: Why don’t you put it on?
A: As I put that on. And then I’m going to have to put
I: Yeah, take it off and put it on. Wow. That’s a lovely hat.
A: That is known as a Glen Garry.
I: You look great with it. My goodness. Nobody will believe that you are 90-year-old now, nobody.
A: Well, I am.
I: Beautiful. (LAUGHS) And could you give me some idea at the time how this whole Army of United Kingdom of Great Britain and (NOBLE ISLAND) was organized, and where your unit belonged to.
A: Well, initial, after I came, done my initial six weeks training, I came down to INAUDIBLE) Edinboro and then done a further six, eight weeks training. And (INAUDIBLE) in 1945, there was approximately six different, 60 of us. And we got aboard ships and ports etc. and finished up in Palestine.
A: Yes. And that was when I first joined my battalion, Palestine and joined it in 1946
I: When, what is your battalion.
A: Sorry. !9, yeah, 1946.
I: When, what is your battalion?
A: First Battalion Argyll Sutherland Highlanders.
I: And what did you do at the Palestine?
A: Well, we done uh, Palestine that time was in a, a difficult state as you get at present moment Afghanistan, etc. now.
There was, uh, different factions fighting each other, etc., and we were more less there to try and keep the peace between the Jews, the Arabs, all the incomers etc. And a lot of Jews was at that time coming into Palestine from other countries. And we were just there as peacekeepers more or less.
I: Um hm. How was it? Was it dangerous?
A: Ah sometimes, uh. Like when the, uh, the boto exploded into big canisters, put them in the cellars of the hotel and blew the hotel up. It was dangerous in there. But uh, you, we didn’t lose may people, one or two but uh,
I: So, this, your unit, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, does that belong to the Commonwealth?
it belonged to the British Army.
I: British Army.
I: Okay. So, when did you leave for Korea, from where?
A: Oh no. Um, we left uh, Palestine when it got mandated, Palestine became an independent state in April 1947, uh. We come down into Egypt then, and then we came back home to United Kingdom.
I: Um hm.
A: We left the United Kingdom again in 1949 and went to Hong Kong. We were stationed in Hong Kong when we were told we were going to Korea.
I: So, what were you doing in Hong Kong?
A: We were patrolling the borders between China and Hong Kong.
I: And were there any conflicts between Hong Kong and China at the time?
A: Yeah, depends on how many you caught swimming in the river. (LAUGHS)
We were the, the people used to come down from China, then try and swim the river across it to Hong Kong. The river was uh, was the border.
A: And our job really was to try and stop them from swimming the river to get into Hong Kong.
I: Um. Now, Hong Kong is Chinese territory.
A: It is now.
I: What do you think about it? What do you think about it?
A: It was British territory back then.
I: But originally belonged to Thailand.
A: I, oh, it belonged to China. But it was run by British people, British, we had their own governor there, etc.
A: during that time. So, we, it was really British run.
I: So, when the Korean War broke out in 1950
A: Nineteen fifty.
I: June 25, what were you doing there, still patrolling the border?
A: Yes, yes.
I: Okay. Tell me about the day that you are, uh, left, you are leaving for Korea. What were you feeling?
A: We got told we were going to Korea, and we had three days in which to pack up. Quite honestly, we didn’t know even what the climate was gonna be.
We put all our winter clothing, etc., into storage and left it in Hong Kong.
I: So, you left without winter
A: So, we left, we left Hong Kong with tropical clothing to go to Korea. Uh, if you can imagine, we went out on our own Navy ship, (INAUDIBLE), and we were possibly about 900 strong. So, you can imagine then 900 extra bodies plus all the equipment aboard a ship which already had its’ normal crew on it.
It was rather
I: So, you thought that, and the British thought that this War is not going to be long enough, right?
A: That was quite (INAUDIBLE) We didn’t think we would be there very long. We didn’t know what was coming.
I: So, 900 of yours?
A: Yes. There was 900 just us. There was approximately the same from the Middlesex regiment. And they left on, I’ll check with the name of the ship, um, we, we were left in the salon, and they left on the Unicorn.
I: So, now you are headed to Korea, the country that you didn’t know where it was.
A: Didn’t know where it was, know what it was, know what we were gonna find when we got there.
I: What were you thinking? What were you thinking when you going to the War?
A: Well, we heard it was another job. You’re a regular soldier. You’re a serviceman. You know what your job’s gonna be, um. So, it was just another job to us.
I: What was your rank at the time?
A: I was a Corporal back then.
I: So, how, how much were you paid?
A: Uh, by that time, ‘posed to be like 10 – 15 shillings a week. But let’s be quite honest. You could live quite well in Hong Kong on that in these days, yes. Yes.
I: Yeah. How
A: You could grab your $5 and come back with change in your pocket.
I: How was Hong Kong?
A: Oh, Hong Kong was very nice. And I suffice if the Korean War hadn’t started, uh, a friend and I had already arranged that we were gonna get, we had already spoken to companies and we were gonna take a discharge in Hong Kong and become civilians working there.
I: You were
A: We intended, we intended that. But because we got sent to Korea, that had to go by the wayside.
I: So, your dream broke up.
A: Yeah. By the time we came back, it was too late.
I: Too late. So, tell me about the Pusan you saw, all the Korea that first you saw. What is the image? What is their image of Korea you still have, and be honest, okay, that’s, because very, very important. Just describe in detail.
A: And I was surprised. When we arrived at Pusan, we were rather dismayed.
A: We tried to get cranes to lift our stuff off the ship. It sat and not, there was nothing. Uh, every hand had to be manhandled off the ship. And the other thing that truly struck us is we were going to a war zone as such as far as we knew, and the first thing that met us from the (INAUDIBLE) tied up alongside was a big American band.
And they were playing all the American jazz music and whatnot. So, our commanding officer got rather annoyed and chased them, and we put our own pipes and drums to play
A: which I’ve got photographs in the house yet of those taken that day. However, their own Navy people on the ship unloaded all the (INAUDIBLE)
I: Uh huh.
A: Onto the dock side. Then we discovered we were gonna have to get on a train to take us to where we were going.
A: Uh, there, um, a place called Kyon
A: S uh, sorry, Kyongsen.
It’s in the Naktong River.
A: Kyongsen. It’s on the Nak, Naktong River.
I: And how about people that you saw in Pusan. How did they look? Were there many Koreans?
A: Well, we didn’t see, there wouldn’t, there weren’t. The only people there was an American band. After we got everything off and onto a train, we discovered there was nobody to drive the train. It so happened a man by the name of George Bathgate, one of our soldiers, had been a train driver before he joined the Army.
So, he drove the train that took us to, up to the Naktong River.
I: How was the situation in Naktong River?
A: Oh I, well, the Naktong River that time was a border. The South Koreans was all in the South side there, and the North Koreans on the other side.
And that was the defense land. And quite honestly, if North Korea had crossed that river, South Korean wouldn’t exist today. It’s as simple as that.
I: So, your specialty was Infantryman?
I: So, rifle?
A: Rifles, machine guns, mortars. We carried our own support weapons, yes.
I: And describe the situation there in Naktong Rive.
It was North Korean Army, right?
A: North Korean was on one side. South Korean and Americans on the other.
I: Americans and British.
A: Uh, well when we joined them, we were the first British to go there.
I: First British, right? Yeah. Describe the detail, the situation of the battle there. How intensive and how close
A: It wasn’t, It wasn’t intensive at all because what used to happen, the North Koreans had things called SP’s which is support guns. It’s like tanks, a gun on the top of a tank.
I: Yeah, yeah.
A: And they used to come out and fire a few shells and go back into the foothills, etc where you couldn’t see them etc. And basically, that was all that was happening when we first arrived there.
I: So, you was most like a tank and artillery.
A: Just a kind, kind of cross. But what you had to do then, we had to patrols across the river to find out where their main units were, where they were stationed, what they were doing, etc.
Uh, until we, eventually we crossed the river as a unit. And by that time, we were joined by a regiment called the 3rd, the 7th, sorry, the 3rd Destroyers Battalion. They came from Japan and joined us, and we formed what was known as the 27 Brigade, and that was the first time a United Nations brigade had ever been formed.
I: So, there was U.N. Forces.
A: U.N., we became U.N. Forces.
I: So, the Americans?
A: The Americans were on one side, Canadians eventually joined us. But to form 27 Brigade was a Middlesex regiment, the Argylls and the 3rd Destroyers.
I: No U.S., no other foreign troops, but just
A: No other, nothing else, no.
I: It was completely British brigade.
A: It was only, it was only British.
I: So, was not the close enough so that you not engaging in, you know, shootings.
A: Oh yeah. We, eventually once we got across the river, we, we did do. But we had to get across the river first. And everything had to be manhandled across the river cause there was no bridges. So, you had to build your own bridges there. And we, we broke out from there, and everything had to be carried with us, uh, from there. And as I say, uh, I think I’ve got
Yeah. And the forces were, it was the night, uh, 4th of September when we crossed the Naktong.
I: Oh. So that was before you went Inchon Landing. You crossed the Naktong River
A: We crossed, we crossed the Naktong on the 4th of September.
I: So, 4th of September. That means that you were in attack mode, right?
I: Oh, okay.
And tell me about any dangerous episode or moments where you might have lost your life or anything that you remember.
A: Well, we, we progressed up the country quite easily after we got across the border and eventually got bridges to move supplies across to us. And we would progress up there. And so, the 22nd of September and we took over a feature, when I say a feature we’re talking about hills,
And Korea has quite a number of hills. Uh, we took over a feature called 282. And
A: 282, yes. And we took over this feature from the Americans cause they’d been stuck on it for, for five, six days, couldn’t get off it. On the morning of the 23rd of September, we launched an attack on the next future past it and actually took that future very early in the morning.
We had it done by breakfast time. Uh, but what we didn’t know because the maps (IS SAID TO BE HARD WORK). The, there was a lot of future during, on top of us. So that gave the South uh, sorry, North Koreans the advantage of being able to fire downwards on us where we couldn’t fire up on them. We called for an air strike.
Now the air strike was supplied by the American RAF cause that time, Britain didn’t have any aircraft in the vicinity at all. What was supposed to happen was the aircraft should have come in, look on the futures and look for a thing called aircraft mission panels. Now these were panels which were 6’ by 3, different colors and you laid them out in different designs each day. And what it was supposed to do is look for these, then bomb the feature beyond it.
But because for approximately a week, they had been coming in, dropping everything on this one feature, the aircraft came in and dropped everything on top of us. Uh, when this happened, the North Koreans all said not being stupid, took advantage of it and (INAUDIBLE) attacked us.
Um, we lost a great deal of men.
I: When was it?
A: 23rd of September. Um, I remembered we, we recovered, and we put another company onto the hill, and we took it. And one of our officers, a Major Muir, won a Victoria Cross on that hill. First time a Victoria Cross would be won in Korea. We removed every dead and injured man belonging to our unit off that hill.
We carried them off and accounted for everyone. We never lost anyone as a prisoner to the North Koreans. Granted, we had to withdraw from the feature, but we are grateful for everybody to come off it. And I’m afraid, uh, things weren’t very nice amongst the, at least not for a few days.
Uh, it’s the biggest setback we ever had quite honestly.
I: But you remember by September 15th, General MacArthur successfully landed in Inchon. And they cut off this legit, I mean the, the logistic line so that the North Koreans were
A: Not really because let’s be honest. You must know this as well as me. The North Koreans could live in the hills for months on a bag of rice and nothing else.
And this is what happened. And they were only going up in the hills. They went in the hills so the, the North Koreans were living in the hills on practically nothing.
I: But overall, they on the run
I: Back to the North, you know, right?
A: Oh yeah.
I: Yeah. But you talking about the guerilla warfares, right?
I: In between those.
A: In between these.
I: Were you engaged in guerilla warfare?
A: Oh yes.
What we used to do is there is Middlesex is the (INAUDIBLE) in the South alright. Each day, we tried to move, and you had what was known as a front battalion, and you done one day on that. And when you reached that night where you decided you, you were gonna stop for the night, the next battalion would move through your and take up defense positions in front of you.
And you were moving each day. You were never in a static position. And we moved (INAUDIBLE) right up through South Korea and
I: You saw Seoul?
I: When were you there?
A: Oh, I couldn’t tell you the dates off hand on it.
I: Or month. Was it October?
A: Uh, the 17th October, we cleared the town called Sariwon, Sariwon
I: Um hm.
A: There’s a lot of marks that shot through one of my boots. And it’s rather an interesting story.
I: Yeah. Sariwon is North Korea.
A: Well, we could reach there by the
I: October 17th.
A: October the 17th.
A: And when we reached there, it was coming up probably 3:00 in the afternoon. And we were doing the, the forward battalion that day.
We asked for tank support from the Americans, and they says no, it’s too late at night. Tanks had to turn, they’ll get isolated. So, what we done, we brought up, we had things called carriers, (INAUDIBLE) carriers which were like miniature tanks but no turrets on them. And we mounted our own machine guns on them, and we actually cleared the town, Sariwon, that day.
I: Um hm.
A: And the 3rd destroyer battalion passed through us and took up defense positions on the other side. Now if you look at the little map, you’ll see the arrows show us back where we came back, and we were going to (INAUDIBLE) up for the night outside the town. And we came to a crossroads and discovered the North Koreans coming in from a different direction. And because we were facing the wrong direction, they took us for Chinese.
We managed to get through it and contacted the 3rd Destroyers. They come around, faced the opposite way. We traveled around the back, and I think we took about 3,000 odd prisoners that night.
I: Three thousand?
I: Wow. All the North Koreans.
A: They were, they were North Koreans trudging back, and we traveled back till we got behind them, and we just, we just pushed them forward, and the Destroyers were facing them.
And we took some Korean prisoner, approximately 3,000 prisoners that night.
I: That’s a lot.
A: Yes. Yeah.
I: So, you were in a victorious mood, right?
A: Well, we just, it’s the way things happened.
And um, it should be, but it’s not. But we actually got to um, Pyongyang, and we had a battle of a place called Pakchon
A: Yep. We have that battle on our, on our colors.
I: Um hm.
A: For our, I really had for battle on at Pakchon.
I: Tell me about it.
A: Well, I wasn’t involved in it. So, there’s very little I know about it. I know the company went into it, and initially when they went in, there was a patrol there, approximately 30, and there was only four came out out of that 30. Um, Major Wilson who commanded it got decorated for it as well.
But uh, I was in, otherwise occupied by that time.
I: Um hm. By the, by the time around middle of October and end of October, did you see any Chinese soldier?
A: Not, not Chinese at that time. After we reached the, Pyongyang, when we reached Pyongyang, we were stopped and told we had to go back.
A: Back to 38th Parallel.
I: 38th Parallel?
A: Because the Americans wanted to control. And we should never have crossed the 38th Parallel. It meant we were invading another country.
I: So, at the time, there was not Chinese intervention yet.
A: No, no they came in aft4er that.
I: After that. But you were told to go back to 38th Parallel?
A: Back, back to the 38th Parallel.
I: Oh. Because Americans were North, right?
A: We were all North. We were all north of the 38th Parallel.
I: But the Americans would take place of you and going toward north.
A: Well, it was American generals that was controlling all the thing, yeah.
I: So, tell me about on the way back to 38th Parallel. Were there any battles?
A: Oh yes. Let’s be quite honest. Uh, after we started coming back, that is when the Chinese actually came in.
A: Now, it is easier to defend if you’re on the advance. If we’re as, if you’re retired to different unit, uh, different areas behind you. And we got pushed well back into, back and down into South Korea which should never have happened.
If we had kept going, I don’t think there would be the trouble today you have between North and South Korea.
I: Right, exactly.
A: That’s right, because South Korea wouldn’t have existed. So the Americans (INAUDIBLE), they are to blame.
I: So, on the way back to 38th Parallel, were there any battles?
A: Oh, we had many skirmishes with them, yeah.
I: So North Korean soldiers were all over.
A: North Korean and Chinese coming in. You could always tell when it was the Chinese because they made so much noise and screaming when they came in.
A: Bugles and everything. But what we did discover was when they came in and troops didn’t all come together. The first ones would all be armed. The second ones roughly 50 – 75% would be armed. The third one would pick up weapons and ammunition as they came in.
They possibly didn’t have any weapons to start with. So, they would, that’s why they didn’t all come as one, one unit.
I: Um hm.
A: Um, less you’ve got a way to discover. But the American mechanism of, of rifles was made of wood.
I: So, when did you get back to 38th Parallel? When did you arrive around the 38th Parallel?
A: Uh, we actually handed over to the 28th Brigade on the 27th of April.
A: Of April.
I: April. You become 28th Bri, 28th Brigade, right?
A: Twenty-eighth brigade took over from us.
I: So, you were 27th Brigade.
I: Now you become 28th Brigade.
A: No, no. Twenty-eighth Brigade came out from the United Kingdom.
A: And they were (INAUDIBLE) Scottish Borders, Black Watch and various other regiments came out.
I: So, you
A: And they, they actually took over from us, took over for the 27th Brigade.
I: Ah. So, did you leave Korea?
A: We went, we went back to Hong Kong.
I: Oh. So that’s when, April 27th?
A: Uh, we, the 27th of April. We handed over, I got aboard the U.S.S. Mentroz, and that took us back to Hong Kong.
I: So, you were relieved.
A: We were relieved.
I: Tell me, did you know why you were there? What was the purpose of the War?
A: Quite honestly, I don’t know. [LAUGHS] Other, other than which seems to have been for many years an opened many things. Somebody tried to extend their own country and their own (INAUDIBLE). Other than that, I can’t see what the whole thing was. The other thing is we have a medal which is called uh, wait a minute
I: You were there to contain
A: The Presidential cite, we got a thing called the Presidential Citation from a man called Syngman Rhee.
I: Uh huh.
A: Show it to the camera please.
I: That is it. Now, there was less than probably 2, 500 people ever qualified for that medal. Only two British regiments, the Argylls and the Middlesex Regiment. And the other ones were the 3rd Destroyers.
And we cannot wear that medal today. It has never been recognized by the British government. If you want to wear it, you wear it on the right-hand side.
I: Um hm.
A: We can’t wear it on the medals.
I: That’s an honor.
A: That’s when I, and I say living today, I reckon you could count them, possibly 200, 250 people living that still attempt to wear that.
I: Tell me about the life, when you arrived in Pusan in August of 1950, you went off to the Pyongyang and Sariwon, and then you went down to 38th Parallel. And where did you sleep? What did you eat? How as life? How often were you able to shower? Most, I bet that you hadn’t had any shower, right?
A: Well, I, in actual facts, it wasn’t too bad because you got a village, and we could, uh, and it was the first time I was, I was classed as central heating because if anyone else would be your kitchen type area.
And you lit a fire in it, and we cooked our meals in there at night. But the flue for the chimney for the fire went underneath the house and up the other side.
I: Floor heating.
A: It was central heating. And let’s be quite honest. During the winter, we were very glad it is. Um,
I: With the summer uniform?
A: We were still in summer uniform. And we didn’t have any supplies coming from United Kingdom. All our food, clothing was supplied by the Americans.
The only thing we got sent out from the United Kingdom was ammunition, nothing else. Uh, and what we couldn’t get issued from the Americans, we plundered from either the Americans or the streets. [LAUGHS]
I: We understand that, yeah.
I: It’s the ways of war, you know.
A: Yeah. We plundered what we could from them.
I: Uh huh.
A: Which included vehicles.
A: Let’s be quite honest.
I: Where did you sleep?
A: Oh, depends where you were. If you were near a village and a rest area or a, an area that didn’t, you slept in the houses, etc., which was all emptied anyway. There was very, very few civilians about there, uh.
If you were in a defensive position, uh, you slept, you slept in your sleep trench.
I: Trench. And did you have a sleeping bag?
A: No. you had a blanket.
I: What? Did you have a blanket?
I: That’s all?
A: That’s all.
I: Must have been very cold.
A: It was. We used to get charcoal, put little bundles in the bottom of your sleep trench.
A: We had, a lot of the Canadians and Americans, uh, had very great trouble with frostbite.
I: Um hm.
A: But for some unknown reason. Fortunately, the worst piece of equipment I ever got was American boots because the substance they were made of absorbed all the dampness, and your feet was never dry with them. British boots, the Americans would give you anything for a pair of British boots.
A: Oh yes.
I: So, you are proud British man.
A: Oh yes.
A: I’ll be quite honest. And I have maintained this for many, many years. The Americans had the finest equipment other than for one or two little bits and pieces. Butt ehy had the worst Army in the world. [LAUGHS]
A: Well, because of the way they were, we had a unit, 1 120 mortars attached to us. And when it came to us, if it came, stopped overnight, the first thing they’d done was cooked up a meal, etc., etc.
We didn’t. The first thing you did, you dug your sleep trench. You dug your defensive positions. And then you made your meal. And eventually we got the Americans into our way of working. And they didn’t want to go back.
They were much happier with the way that we worked than they way that they had worked previously. They didn’t lose anybody because they’d done what we wanted them to do.
I: So, then basically what you’re saying is you knew how to fight. But they didn’t know how to fight.
A: Well, this is, this is quite true. We, we were taught in the jungle in Hong Kong before we were into Korea. So, and I suppose it stood us (INAUDIBLE)
Although the British Army had a lot of what we class as national servicemen out there, it’s people that was coming in to do two years and going out. Certainly, because we didn’t have sufficient regular soldiers, uh. We had quite a number of national servicemen, but we also had sufficient regular soldiers who was making a, a whole line of that to keep them (INAUDIBLE)
I: But also Americans had, uh, veterans from the World War II. They know how to fight.
A: Well, they weren’t in Korea. (LAUGHS)
I: Oh, they were in Korea. They were in, yeah, they were in Korea.
A: Let’s be quite honest. I got called out on the first of January 1951 to go and look for an American patrol that hadn’t returned from a patrol had gone out on the previous night.
We traveled approximately five miles from where they were and found them all in their sleeping bags. And that’s how they had done their patrol. They’d move five miles up the road, got their sleeping bags out ahead of time.
I: Yeah. When were you, when you were in 38th Parallel, where were you? You were in Little Gibralter or anywhere similar? The camp name?
A: In Korea?
A: We never had a family camp.
I: No, no, no, no. The, where were you in 38th Parallel? In the west side or the east side?
A: Oh, we traveled right up through it.
I: Tell me about
A: Just, where, wherever you, we moved from section to section wherever they needed uh, troops in it, um. We were moved to wherever there was a weak point in the front line, we moved the men out.
Um, some days you never knew where you were gonna be. It was like
I: Was very hilly, right?
A: Yeah, it’s just
I: Very, lots of mountains.
A: Just mountains, yeah. We, the (INAUDIBLE) were first class. If we went to, been difficult British Army soldiers. You washed and shaved every morning. Now you could be setting on top of your hill. You don’t get water on the top of a hill. So, you possibly had to walk down the hill to get water.
Um, not those, as soon as you go to the top of the hill, you sat there until you had to come off it. (LAUGHS) Uh, it’s a different way the British and such like to work.
I: Yeah. So, when you left in April 1951, had you ever imagined that Korea would become like this today?
A: No. Korea, Korea was a ruin when we left it. We left from Pusan again, um, on the (INAUDIBLE), uh, U.S.S. Montrose. But um, Korea was in ruins completely, Seoul, the whole lot.
I: Did you see Seoul?
A: Oh yes. We passed through Seoul.
I: Tell me about Seoul. What did you see?
A: Oh, just ruins. There was no, for instance, you just dug your way through it.
The population was all down South. There was nobody left in it. There was no wildlife.
I: Was Korean people really poor at the time?
A: Uh, quite honestly, uh, we couldn’t have existed without the South Koreans. They had things called an A-frame and uh, they used to carry all our stuff up the hills to us.
A: Ammunition, food, water, etc. And without them, we could never have existed.
I: What can be the adjective that you want to use to describe the Seoul and Korea that you saw? Tell me.
A: Then or today?
A: Then. I never thought it would ever exist. I thought it, quite honestly, Seoul, I thought the whole South Korea quite honestly may just, uh, there was nothing.
I: Give me the adjective to describe the Korea that you saw in 1950 – ’51. What can be the adjective?
A: Just a ruin. That’s all. The whole country was a ruin.
I: What else?
A: Well, uh, living standards and population was very, very poor, very bleak. The outlook was very poor, etc. for them.
I: What can be the adjective to describe the Seoul that you saw in 2013 and ’14?
A: Well, what can I say. If, if, if you, if there’s not a building standing which you can see is secure, then what can you call a country? It’s, it’s just nothing. It’s ruined. It’s finished.
I: But 2013, you saw there, right?
A: Uh, that is a difference.
That is where I’ve got problems with them.
A: Well, I’ve done a little bit investigation that last time I was there. And Seoul has, that time, the (INAUDIBLE) had the population at 15 million. They live in 20, 25 story buildings. They can’t go that way because of the terrain.
So, they’ve gone that way. How high can they go? If the population keeps increasing, where are they gonna put them? Now I’ve traveled right up to the 38th Parallel on it. Wildlife has never returned. There is very, very little wildlife in the country. The only thing you see was a few pigeons in Seoul.
But they were so fat they could barely fly quite honestly. But that was the only wildlife we seen in it. And it’s the one thing that I, you go to Pusan as, and I believe Pusan’s population is about 10 million. Again, that has the same problem. Where do you put them? I don’t know.
I: So, all high rises.
A: What’s the future gonna be?
I: So, that is our problem right? Too, too much prosperity.
A: Well, or do you, how do you control your population? I, what’s the maximum height you can go in a building?
A: Uh, I’ve lost contact with a, I was in contact with a student in Seoul, and she started on the 25th floor in a flat. And her ambition was eventually to get moved, periodically when flats became empty, until she reached the ground floor.
I think she had moved down about 10 flights when I eventually lost contact with her.
I: So, were you proud that the Korea was become like that today?
A: Oh, I’m proud of what they’ve done with it, no doubt about it. Um, but more recently, war is gonna become.
I: Very good point, Adam.
Um, do you know why the British didn’t teach World History at the time that you were growing up?
A: Well, let’s, uh, I don’t think the British are soul purposes in this. We just did. Over the last year, 18 months, I’ve had more people asking for interviews.
So, we’re coming up 65, coming 70 years. Why have we waited 65, 70 years before we do this? But then this gets into schools, it be the grandchildren which is getting this, great grandchildren, not, you go into Korea today. The elder population, if they meet you in the street and they make you so, (INAUDIBLE) they stop if they recognize you,
And they bow irrespective of what they’ve got, they will offer it to you. They are appreciative of what I’ve, Will it be the same in 70 years’ time with a new generation? I don’t know.
I: Hm. Why is it known as Forgotten War?
A: Because it was never really recognized. Let’s be honest. We were 18 months finished before the British government issued a medal. And the only reason it was issued then was because the United Nations issued one, and the British government had to do something to balance it. Um, it wasn’t recognized as such by the British government for some unknown reason.
I don’t know.
I: So, how do we make this Forgotten War as the war that we need to learn about? How? No?
I: No? Why not?
A: Too late.
A: Yes. Too late. Let’s be quite honest. Talked to my grandchildren. I sat there today, they don’t get taught first, second world wars.
Don’t get taught in schools. And this will happen where anything happens, Afghanistan, Korea, (AIDEN), Chech, I don’t think it will ever become.
I: Hm. We are trying to make it this interview, for example with you, as a part of History textbook so that the students in the school in the United States and also in Great Britain, the can learn from you.
So that’s why, why we are doing this. Do you think it will make sense?
A: It makes sense. But we should have done it 50 years ago. (LAUGHS)
I: That’s why, that’s why I want to do more interviews with your Chapter member. Your, your uh
A: Well no. See we have a problem quite honestly, uh. Other than the Black Watch, the Cajun Scottish Borders in the South. The other regiments, Scottish regiments, who went into Korea went in in 1953.
Uh, I, I’ve only got 42 members left in my branch.
I: How many?
I: Uh huh.
A: At least 2/3 of these are people who went in 1953 to 1955. Now, they were not part of the, shall I say, the fighting troops. They were peacekeepers.
A: Therefore, they don’t know. And this is one of the reasons why you don’t get them coming out to give you interviews. All they’d done was they’re starting you at your position all the time.
I: How many Korean War veterans in your branch?
A: There are actually four.
A: No no. Uh
I: Who actually fought? How many are there in your branch?
A: I would say possibly 20.
A: And they are slowly vanishing.
I: I know. So, if I come back to your, your, your, your, you live in Bethgate, right?
A: I live in Livingston.
A: Yeah. Which is just the same part.
I: Yeah. So, if I come back, do you think I can do interview of those 20 people? Why not? They are, they are younger than you actually.
A: The, the, none of them, I’m the oldest member of the branch.
I: I know.
A: They’re all younger. But uh, they now reached the stage where they don’t, and quite honestly, a lot of them has given up. Uh, I’m lucky if I see 15 coming out during meetings.
I: I know.
A: Old age.
I: So, even if I come back to your place, they’re not gonna do it.
I: Why not?
A: They just don’t do it any longer.
A: I, I, I tried to get them to come out for photographs. I had to com, a South Korean company, I can’t remember its’ name, Nushawn or something, which fixed central heat and boilers. They offered me five boilers for Korean veterans. I could only get rid of three.
A: They’re just, the, the, the, the (INAUDIBLE) though is no longer there. This is why I say we should have done this many, many years ago.
I: Yeah. Any other episode or anything that you want to leave to this message?
A: Uh, not really. Um, I say I quite enjoyed my two trips back to Korea. I thoroughly enjoyed. I don’t think I’ll make a third one. Uh, age is creeping up. The legs don’t do what they’re told as well as they should.
I: You’re still pretty good. You’re still very good, in shape.
A: (INAUDIBLE) As I say, I, I keep myself busy is, um, I could have went back prior, years prior. But my other half was ill. I looked after her for five years before I lost her. And um, that was when I decided to make the trips back.
I: Alright. Adam, finally meet you here in Edinburgh. And very nice to talking to you, and you are in great shape. I cannot believe that you are 90-year-old man at all. So, please keep up your good work making yourself busy all the time. And I hope that I can see you next time, too, okay?
A: Yeah. I hope so.
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