Alan Guy enlisted in the British Army in 1950 where he served as a Staff Sergeant in the Royal Army Medical Corps. He recounts his arrival in Korea and details his placement in a field hygiene section. He describes the health education he provided to soldiers in order to prevent malaria and frostbite. He offers accounts of situations he found himself in following the cease-fire. Following his time in Korea, he continued to serve in the Royal Army Medical Corps and was deployed to the Suez Canal in the later 1950s. He discusses revisiting Korea and his surprise at the modernization he saw upon return. His testimony includes a detailed account of his service at the Suez Canal.
Arriving in Korea and Placement
Alan Guy recounts his arrival in Korea. He remembers bitter cold and a horrendous smell as Koreans had just fertilized nearby rice patties with human manure. He recollects a band playing rousing music upon arrival and being transported to a transit camp in Busan. He details his placement in a field hygiene section.
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Alan Guy details the health education he provided to soldiers in the infantry. He shares the means by which soldiers on the front lines were instructed to avoid malaria by taking pills and frostbite by putting their bare feet on their mate's stomach if one thought he was getting frostbite. He describes the various trench latrines used based on the time frame spent in an area.
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Duties Following Cease-fire
Alan Guy recounts returning to Busan to assist with health aspects following the cease-fire and details several duties. Despite the cease-fire, he recalls an incident that involved a rope strung across the road as an attempted means of decapitating drivers. He shares an account of a situation he found himself in within the black market.
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[Beginning of recorded material]
A: My name is Alan Guy. Uh, I was, uh, Staff Sargent, a Sargent in Korea, and I was a member of the Royal Army Medical Corp.
I: Okay. From now on, you just look to me. And, Alan, before we get too much into Korea and your role there, just tell me, firstly, how old are you? Where were you born and tell me a bit about life as a boy.
A: Yeah. Okay. Um, I’m 85 in, on the 5th of November this year, uh. I was born in Liverpool, uh, and that was in 1932, uh.
We, uh, uh, I was in Liverpool until the age of about, uh, 7 I think, um. And uh, it was during World War II that, um, my house was bombed. We were traveling towards my grandmother’s house who had a reinforced cellar and um, the, while we were on the way there, my house was bombed and destroyed, uh.
I went to the grandma’s house and uh, we were in the cellar and there was an unexploded parachute mine came out and landed outside the door. So we were taken away from there, evacuated to somebody else’s house, vague relative or friend, I don’t know who and uh, while we were there, I can remember the ceiling coming down and uh, I was being carried out into a brick shelter outside, uh, where my father, for some unknown reason, uh, he was in the Army, but he must have had special leave or something,
And uh, he got there and uh, he insisted we moved to North Wales, um. The only reason we went to North Wales is because uh, we had an old aunt who had a tiny cottage and uh, we moved in with her husband. And um during that time, um, my father went back to the Army obviously, and my mother managed to get herself a job as a, a caretaker to a Welsh Methodist chapel, uh, which gave us accommodation, uh.
It was a three-story house with the, uh, kitchen was on the, uh, first floor. And it was overlooking a, uh, slaughterhouse. And uh, you could be sitting there eating your meal and you’d see, there were the old-fashioned method of grabbing a pig between their knees and using a hammer and chisel to kill it which wasn’t very enjoyable. I still eat bacon, yeah.
But um, anyway, uh, I was lucky enough to pass my 11+. I got into grammar school and uh, stayed in grammar school, got my school certificate at the age of 16 and went down into the wide, wide world, um. At the time, uh, I thought I might desire to become a surveyor, went down to the local labor exchange and they said oh, there’s no problem, uh. We can, uh, get you a surveyor’s trade, and we can train you. But you’ll have to go down the mines for two years.
So, I said well you can forget that idea. And uh, luckily, we knew one of the local counselors who managed to get me a post with the local authority. It’s only a tiny borough and tiny counsel offices. But I was being trained as a surveyor, come draftsman, come sanitary inspector, um. And it was totally unpaid. I was lucky in that respect because whenever you apparently, uh, start a trade, uh, in those days, um, you were lucky if you didn’t have to pay them, uh.
So anyway, I was unpaid, and I was given occasionally a job of going to try and catch some of the local rats at three pence an hour. And uh, I stayed there for 12 months and decided at that stage well, surveying’s not for me. I was up in the mountains and with a, uh, a level in the middle of the winter and thought well, you know, I, I, I hate this cold winter. Never thought of Korea coming up in the future.
So um, boredom set in. I was 17. And um, uh the local entertainment was about five miles away, and the only entertainment we had in the village which was a, it’s a city now, Saint Asaph, um, the only entertainment was when the local, uh, magic lantern came round once a month, and they showed these lantern slides, uh.
So uh, as I say, I was totally bored out of my skull, and I decided that’s it. I’m gonna join the Navy. My father had been, apart from a soldier, he’d also been a Merchant Seaman, uh. But I needed his permission, and he refused point blank. He said no way are you going to go, uh, on board ship, he said, as a steward, he said, because it looks all very nice when you, uh, hear about it, where you’ll stop at various towns and cities,
And you’ll get on, on the, uh, get off the ship and thoroughly enjoy life he said. But it’s not quite like that. He said you spend most of your time down below decks, and he said I’m not having that at all. And uh, he always wanted me to, uh, train to be an environmental, well it was called a sanitary inspector or public health inspector in those days. So, he said I’ll tell you what. He said I’ll let you join the Army.
So um, at the age of 17 ½, I went off to Wrexham, uh, in North Wales and, uh, signed on and received a King’s shilling which I haven’t got now. So uh, and um, I, uh, went to all the shots when I was trained in all things medical. You, we had to start off by, uh, doing normal military training, how to use a rifle and so on and so on and go through normal basic training.
And um, then I decided I was gonna specialize and become an Army Health Inspector. Now this involved, uh, a great deal of training because, uh, it was one of the only three trades in the Army when you couldn’t buy yourself out if you’d gone in and didn’t like the forces. In those days, you could buy yourself, pay a certain fee and get out, out if you wished.
But this was one of the trades to which, when you were in, you were in, no way out. Uh, and the first thing I had to do is once basic training was finished and I was classes as a normal Army medic, I had to go and train as a nurse. And uh, so I was posted to the Cambridge Military Hospital in Aldershot. And um, then they seconded me to an infectious disease hospital in, uh, very close to the Cambridge Military Hospital, um, where I did, uh, all my training in anatomy and physiology and infectious diseases.
And uh, it was during that we had all sorts of diseases there. It was a mix of different types. And I can remember on one particular amusing occasion, it’s amusing now, it wasn’t amusing then. But um, the matron said to me “would you pick up that patient and go and put him on the commode”? So, I went over to this, uh, very, very frail guy and I picked him up and I put him on the commode and I went over to the matron and I said “Um, what’s, what’s wrong with him”?
And she said, “He’s got Leporsy”. I went, in those days, the thought of Leprosy you, you, you imagined, you know, going around with a bell and a big yellow across a chest. And uh, they said the incubation was four years’ time. And uh, for the next four years, I kept wondering am I gonna pick up this horrible disease. But anyway, he, he was a Sargent apparently and uh, he was, I don’t know whether he was a Jehovah Witness of what.
But he wouldn’t take injections. And they had him on various tablets and said if he’d have taken the inject, injections, he would have got over the problem within a short period of time. Well, I was on permanent nights, and being the age of 17 ½, 18, uh, I wasn’t sleeping all day like I should be. I was living the high life in the day and working all night, a bit like Florence Nightingale.
It was a hold ward which I had responsibility for, uh, and I used to creep around with a candle in the middle of the night, made sure everyone was asleep and so on, um. And uh, anyway, I eventually succumbed with uh, uh, Scarlet Fever and Tonsillitis. And uh, so uh, that meant that, uh, I had to be isolated completely which ruined my entertainment in the day, um.
Anyway, uh, I qualified as a, a nurse. And um, then I was to posted to the Army School of Health in, uh, Ash Vale which is very close to here.
I: What year was all this taking place sir?
A: It was 1950. It was when I joined, October ’50.
I: Can I just ask? Just, you, you are quite well educated, and you obviously got, you know, cause your 11+ went for grammar school.
I: Um, you’ve been bombed at. You must have been aware of the War.
But did you know about this country called Korea at the time? Had you heard it or
A: Never heard of it at all. All I knew is, uh, when I was eventually, uh, fully trained and I was posted to Chester, uh, which was (INAUDIBLE) few miles away from home, they seconded me to, uh, Kimmel Camp in, uh, uh, which was close to (Grillinorth) where my family lived.
And of course, it was only a mile and a half or something from home, and I thought it was a wonderful posting. And um, the suddenly called me in the office after a couple of weeks and said um, “we’re posting you”. I’d applied to go to Bermuda because there was a vacancy there. And uh, I suppose it’s, uh, sort of perverse way that the Army worked if you applied for somewhere, they’d post you somewhere else.
And I said “Well, where am I going” and he said “You’ll need your skates some where you’re going? And that’s all I knew. And they, it’s gonna be Korea. And I, Korea? Never heard of the place. Oh, there’s a war going on there. So um,
I: When was that then?
A: That was, uh, in, uh, uh, very early, no. It, it was late ‘51, must have been late ’51.
I: So even though the war had been going on since 1950, you, it wasn’t
A: Well, you, you, you never, we didn’t have a tv, uh. And um, at the age of 17, you don’t listen to the radio, not to the news anyway. I think that’s, uh, an old man’s thing, you know. It comes with age. But um, we, we, apart from, uh, hearing Dick Barton Special Agent on the tv which you used to rush home for, um, never really knew anything about Korea, never read the papers, uh.
I don’t even re, I know my father used to take the Daily Express because my school had been bombed when I was in Liverpool, and I didn’t have any education there. But he used to make me spell words out to the Daily Express. And so, he must have been educating me, un, on the quiet. I, I can remember the spelling, uh, from the newspaper and so on and, uh, maybe that’s, and it got me through the 11+.
But it wasn’t, certainly wasn’t education that got me through to.
I: And so after you’d been in Chester and then you were told where you were gonna get your skates on
I: Was it cer, almost an immediate, uh, embarkation or
A: Yeah. You had to show up (INAUDIBLE) to leave and um, then uh, I remember getting on the, uh, the train with my mother and father seeing me off.
And the only words my dad said were “You be alright, son”, uh. He’d been in World War II over in France and Germany and so on and so on. So, uh, he knew of the (INAUDIBLE) you know, war and so on and so on. And um,
I: Do you think he knew what you were getting yourself into?
A: He must have done, he must have done, yeah. But uh, you know you, in those days, um, it, it was um, I suppose uh, a bit like the World War I, you know.
You, you uh, you did it for your country. And uh, you did, you didn’t look on the dangers of things when you were young. It’s only later on when I eventually went to Suez and their invasion that I, uh, I was married then and you have a different attitude to life. You got some responsibilities back home. When you’re 18 and 19, um, you can’t see the danger in things.
And uh, it’s all a big, you know. It’s exciting I suppose to a certain extent.
I: Let’s talk a bit about, um you know, that, that journey across and the sort of siting of Korea and what, what happened on the boat that made you start to, you know, just explain.
A: Yeah. Um well first of all, getting on the boat, it was quite exciting. As I said, my son’s on a cruise at the moment. I was on a troop ship six to a bunk, uh, six to a cabin rather, uh, in bunk beds.
And uh, it was wonderful being, due to the fact that I wanted to be a Merchant Seaman. Going to sea was fantastic. And uh, I met up with a guy called Tom Marshall who was a, another medic and um, we decided, we used to play chess together because it was a five-week journey and, uh, could be quite boring, although you were doing a certain amount of training on the ship and you were watching many, many films and so on, uh.
So, we played chess together and suddenly we, we found out we had a, an interest in photography. So, we said why don’t we try and set up, um, a little dark room., he said, and uh, take photographs of the, there were a certain number of married families on board who were dropping off at Singapore, Hong Kong. He said we’ll take photographs of them, and we’ll sell them the neg, sell them the photos, uh.
So um, the only way we could do this, we found that by volunteering to help the dentist, uh, we could get the use of his, uh, little surgery because he, he only appeared on a certain number of days, certain hours during the day. The rest of the time it was vacant. So uh, we set up our little darkroom in the surgery and uh, the pho, the photographs went on the back now were uh, really diabolical.
But uh, and anyway it seemed to work. And it um, gave us an interest, uh. We sailed into Japan first of all, uh. And the first thing that they did, um, you had to line up on the deck. And there would, you’d be overlooking the port and uh, they would have, uh, medical officer would come along, and he would want to do what they called an FFI which was, I believe, free from infection.
And you had to drop your trousers while he walked around each person, put his hand out and said cough while he’s grabbing your nether region, regions. And of course, it was in full view of everyone who stand on the, on the dock side. So that was, uh, quite amusing at the time, uh. We uh, went into the barracks and um, we were told that we were to be given a housewife. So uh, my previous experience of a housewife was a, a little bag which had nee, needle and thread and so on to mend your socks and so on and so on.
But this was, no, it was gonna be a real woman who would, uh, she would do the cleaning for you. She would do your laundry. I thought this Army life obviously it can’t be too bad. And they said that, um, that you had a 14-ounce ration of meat per day. Now having come from the war years in England, that was incredible. Unfortunately, that lasted maybe a couple of weeks, and I was one of those selected to go over to Korea.
So, I was put on a rickety old ship. I think it was, it was something Maru it was called. It could have been the Woe Sang or the E sang. They were two of the major ships who, uh, traveled out to Korea dropping off troops, uh. You stopped at a little island called Sasebo where they, uh, stocked up with fuel, coal, whatever the fuel they used.
And it was quite amusing to see all these Oriental ladies with baskets, uh, forming a chain to pass the fuel onto the ship, uh. Anyway that, that’s happening halfway across, and then we approached Korea, and as you approach Korea, it was bitterly cold, uh. I was still in my old Army battle dress. We hadn’t got, uh, any winter equipment then.
And I can remember the smell was absolutely horrendous as you came into port. And the reason for that is because, um, only paddy fields, the rice fields in, uh, Korea, were fertilized with human manure. And that was the smell you got as you came in. And uh, we arrived at the dockside. I can remember there was a big, uh, American Marine Sargent, uh, who was standing next to me as we pulled in and he said to me “Are you okay, son”?
He said, “Are you thinking of your mum”? You know, he must have been watching the films like everybody else. But I, I still remember that. And um, we uh, were met by, uh, a, an American band, uh. They called them the Snow Bowls. They had white helmets, and they, they were called Snow Bowls, and they were all, a, a black band, uh, and um, they played, you know, some real rousing music cause you landed.
And um, we were then stuck into a, um, trucks and taken off into uh, a, I suppose it was a transit camp, uh, in Pusan. And uh, that was, I think it was, it could have been called Britania Camp if I re, remember rightly. And um, I just wiled away, uh, I joined a, a section, a Field Hygiene section, um.
And of course, everybody thinks that Field Hygiene, Hygiene Assistance which is what my trade was, everybody thought well you know, his job is cleaning the latrines and so on and so on. They didn’t realize the hours and the years of training that we actually had to do. And um, so we, we, we specialized in, uh, infectious disease, and we were told that we would be going up to, well some of us anyway, would be going up to the front line
and uh, we’d be, we be going around all the Infantry troops uh, and trying to, uh, basically keep them free from disease by educating them and uh, giving, uh, advice on uh, how to, um, was, say for instance, uh, there was a problem with Malaria out there. And uh, we would have to give advice on how to prevent mosquitos breeding and, uh, how to avoid getting Malaria, Frostbite or, and any disease that, uh, um, was uh, prevalent in cold climates.
I: This, um, when you were in this, uh, this port and you’re still in Pusan before you came
I: and said you were sort of put into a platoon of how, was that just British or was that Commonwealth?
A: No, they were just British. We were part of the, um, um, obviously there, there were 22 countries. But we were a little section of, in the totally independent section of about 30 people. And that 30 people included our own engineer, royal engineers, our own drivers, our own cook.
And we were totally independent and moved independently. And we weren’t aware of situation around us, um.
I: Did you, was your Colonel Mark? Was that Colonel Marx that talked to you?
A: There was a Colonel Marx. Yeah, that name’s familiar, yeah. He was, I think he was the, uh, Deputy Assistant Director of Army Health, and he was based in, uh, Japan. But he popped over to Korea on the odd occasion to make sure that
I: Did you get to ever meet him:
A: I, I, I, I did meet one of the Colonels, the, the DA, DAH. But I can’t remember whether it was him particularly.
I: Okay. Okay. Um, alright. Well we’ll get on to some im
I: Of, of the diseases and stuff and what have you. But um, when, when did you arrive in Korea, and when did you move to the front line? Do you know?
A: Um, I arrived in Korea, um, it was February 1952.
I: Gotcha. It was real cold.
I: And when you, when you were in this, um, when you were in the sun, were you then equipped with better clothing and stuff?
A: Um, while we were there, we, we were issued with uh, the cold weather clothing which would include a heavy uh, parka with a hood uh, and you know, gloves and, um, weather-proof trousers and boots and so on, uh. So, after we, it was only when we arrived in the time I was in Pusan that I was in ordinary battle dress which was, as I say, wasn’t effective against the cold weather at all.
I: Yeah. And, and at this space, were you then sort of um, you know, you’re, you’re doing Army Health, and I imagine that covers a huge gammit of things. You get to Korea. That must be more specialists. When are you sort of trained to sort of start talking about things that you’re gonna encounter on the front line in Korea? Or, or was it just all part of the old training and you knew everything?
A: It was part of the old training because at the Army School of Health in Aldershot, uh, you were trained in, uh, cold and hot weather situations. So, knowing that if you went to say Malaya, you would probably come across certain diseases that would have, you know, the same as those in the, in the colder climates. So, it was part of your basic training and uh
I: Okay. And in, in Pusan, are you starting to get any sense of, you know, you, you say you were a very much self-contained unit. Have you, have you had, yeah, have you seen the evidence of war at this point, people coming back from the front line, you know, things that’ll make you go, or it is you’re just literally, you’re just doing your best, getting ready and then you’re off?
A: Yeah. It, it was really um, we were killing time down there, um. There were, we, we went in uh, (Nissenhalt) which, um, contained people who’d come back from the regiments who’d been maybe injured and recovered and then they were going to eventually go back up to the front, uh.
So um, that’s about all, uh. The, obviously the, the area around Pusan was very, uh, run down, and there was a black market area. And uh, you didn’t really mix much with the local public.
I: You saw some locals, huh?
A: Oh yeah. There are plenty of locals around that area. Uh, not at the front obviously. Um, and uh, everybody looked old, you know. Even the women there. I mean, you were taught to be celibate.
But you wouldn’t have fancied anybody you saw, uh, because they all looked ancient, uh. I, I suppose the young men that um, been in the Korean Army and they were still fighting, um, they’d have probably all been constricted, uh. And so really all you had was the, the great gran, the grandfather and great-grandfathers and uh, the young children.
And so, the mums who, uh, say um, there was, there was, seemed to be no color, you know. You go to Pusan nowadays and everything’s vibrant and colorful. In those days, it was all bleak and, you know, depressing. Um, yeah.
I: Yeah. They were the refugees, weren’t they? Yes.
A: Yeah, yeah. They decided that uh, we were moving to an area in the middle of a field. I haven’t a clue where, nowheres North of Uijeongbu, uh.
And uh, there were three of us who were sent as an advanced party. There was, uh, myself and uh, uh, I was a Corporal I think at that time. And uh, there was, um, a driver and uh, a Sargent. And um, we boarded a train to go to a place called Toktong, and there was, uh, an old, battered old train which had obviously been involved in a few, uh, incidents itself.
And um, it was run by the Americans and uh, they said um, “Would you like to come down to the dining car, sir”. And I thought this sounds good. If this is the Army, I’m liking it, uh. And I was given one of these divided trays, you know, with us, fruit salad and chicken and so on, and they seemed very nice in there. We eventually ended up in Takjong.
Now I came back to Pusan on a British train which had wooden seats. And we traveled all night, and we had to sit on these wooden seats all night. And before we left, we were given a corned beef sandwich and told that it had to last us for 24 hours. So, there was a comparison between the two, the two forces. It seemed with the Americans, you could get anything you wanted.
If you wanted a jeep, you gave them a bottle of whiskey, you got a jeep. And uh, you know, they seemed to have no control over their, uh, equipment at all. But going back, I uh, eventually landed at, uh, Takjong. And um, the uh, we moved, we must have had a transport to this field and um, we were to set up a base camp, just the, the basics, uh.
Uh, we had uh, a little pup tent and, uh, I say three of us. So, one of us had to do an all-night guard every third night. So, it was quite tiring, uh. I can remember it being very bleak. It was, uh, like a little stream running through and, um, desolate and freezing cold. And I thought that we supposed to be infiltrators around. So, you had to be a bit careful it, uh.
But you, you shouldn’t light any fires. But I thought well I’m that cold. I’m gonna light a fire. And I had a fire. To hell with the com, consequences. And uh, I remember I saw this light traveling down the road towards me. And uh, I got a rifle and said “halt, who goes there” and there was no answer. “Halt, who goes there”. I’m getting panicky by then. And eventually a firefly when past my ear. It wasn’t anybody at all.
But you know, just cause you still have your nerves get you strung out. However, we, we set up um, we, using bricks and mud, we built a, and some corrugated iron that we managed to get and some timber, we built a little kitchen. And uh, we with timber, we built some uh, benches for, uh, putting some bowls on, um to wash and shave in, and I’ve got photographs of those I could show you if you’re interested.
And uh, shower time was, uh, a pump in the stream and you’d be hosed down by the Sargent Major, and I’ve got a photograph of him doing that as well somewhere. Um, and uh, so eventually the rest of the unit arrived, and by then we uh, we cut a water trailer which we, um, filled with water which we sterilized and um, that probably came at the stream we used to, um, um, sterilized it and uh
I: With what?
A: Well, we had sterilizing tablets, chlorine normally, um. The difference between the British standard, I think it was one, you had to have one part per million of free chlorine in the water. The Americans, I think, had 17, and the water tasted foul. But uh, as I say, one part per million was, which meant free chlorine was in addition to, you, you chlorinated the water to a drinkable standard.
And then this one part per million extra gave you that little extra security, uh, to make sure that there wasn’t any more contamination. So, you could go to a, a dirty ditch and uh, it’s one of the things we taught to the front line troops. We would, uh, get a filter bag. We’d go to a dirty ditch, fill it with, well, the filter bag with water from this ditch, filter it through and, and put a sterilizing tablet in the water and then a deep tasting table to get rid of the, uh, taste of the chlorine.
And you’d offer it to them to drink, and they used to be absolutely horrified, you know. But it was safe to drink, um. So uh, that would be a standard situation if you, uh, were unable to get one of these water trailers which, uh, you know, would, would serve God knows how many different men, um. So
I: Would most of the Infantry men have these sterilizing tablets on them?
A: Oh yeah, yeah. Uh, I think it was part of, you, you’d get a 24-hour ration pack, uh, which would contain such things as, you know, tins of, uh, corned beef perhaps and cigarettes and, um, you’d have your sterilizing tablets and toilet paper and odd little things like this, just enough to, uh, keep you going for 24 hours, uh.
We were lucky in so much as we were able to, um, have our own cook. Being a self-contained unit, we had our own cook. And we were able to get food from the Americans. And so, we were quite well fed. But of course, the, the guy right at the front, uh, you know, particularly if they were on the move, would probably be living on the ration packs for, for days, um.
Once they became static, then they’d probably have their own little cookhouse and so on and um. But
I: So, this (INAUDIBLE)
I: Is that, is, is your sort of barracks and, and you move out wherever you
A: On a daily basis, yeah. On a daily basis, moving up to the front line. So
I: Are the people coming back to your base if they were sick or was it just a fueling place to get some rest?
A: Yeah. We were pure, totally independent of the field ambulance, although we came under their overall, um, administrative, um, set up.
We were totally independent, um. There was a, an Indium field ambulance fairly close to us, and at one stage we were actually attached to them. Normal medical procedures, they would have their, um, actually with the Regiment, they would have their ordinary first, (INAUDIBLE) a better word, uh, their medical men, um.
They would have a casualty clearing station. First of all, they’d have a regimental aid post where a casualty would, once he’d been brought in by a medic from the field, put into regimental aid post, move him forward to a casualty clearing station, and they would either send them to one of the mobile Army surgical hospitals or fly them out to Japan, depends on the state of their injuries.
So that was the, the medical set up. The, um, Army Health Center was just our unit, and we were responsible for the whole of the Commonwealth Division. So um, I had to give advice to the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, the Royal Australian Regiment, uh, the Welsh Regiment. In fact, that’s probably, we believe, I might have met John Boller while we were there because we were called upon, uh, for advice about the smell of bodies in the mine fields.
And um, we think that’s the, John and I, may have met each, but didn’t know each other intimately as it were, uh. Yeah. So uh, it was interesting to see how the, uh, various regiments, uh, operated at the front, uh. I remember going to the Third Royal Arm, uh, Royal Australian Regiment and to be invited on the top of a hill, probably overlooking the, the Chinese, to have a, a beer with them when they had a crate of beer now sitting up there, you know.
They’re totally indisciplined it seemed. But obviously great fighting force.
I: Tell me a bit about, you know, how your day might, might go on now. I mean, you obviously go off (INAUDIBLE) you know. So, you know, just, just give me a 9 – 5 if you can, if you can remember, a sort of general day in the life of Sargent Guy.
A: Yeah. Um, well I can remember the first time I went up, uh, I was there with a guy, um. We’d been through training together, three of us, um. A guy by the name of Eddie Scott, name of Eddie Scott, uh, and another guy by the name of Cullen Anderson.
And we’d been through training. They were two boy soldiers. And we’d all eventually ended up in Korea together. And uh, I can remember talking the night before we went up the first time and wondering what we would find. And you know, we, you sort of visualized, uh, horrendous scenes. And uh, we come in a jeep, and I can remember we went through, uh, a uh, the roads were very, very dusty there by the way.
There was a 15 mile an hour speed limit, maximum. And there, they would all be, there were no main roads. They were just dusty tracks. And I can remember going through this area with signs saying you are under, now under enemy observation, uh. And uh, we would go through there before you actually reached the front line, um. And I, I can’t remember anything, it, it was all fairly quiet.
There were some raids going on. There was a plane that was napalming a hill alongside and uh, apart from that, you know, I wasn’t being fired upon or, um, it, it, it was just a case of, you know, keep your head down and, uh, go where you’re supposed to go, un. The only, uh, time that I, uh, felt a bit uneasy for want of a better word, it was worse than that.
But uh, I went to the latrines they had, uh, behind the 4.2 mortars, and they had latrines with the corrugated iron roof and a simple structure above there. I think it was about a 12 – 15’ pit which is full of you know what. And uh, I was sitting there minding my own business and all of a sudden, all hell let loose, and I felt we were being shelled and I had visions of ending up in the pit.
But uh, it was outgoing, not come, not incoming. I didn’t know the different in those days. It was quite frightening. And uh, yeah. So um, all I really
I: And your, your um, company had its own driver who was also a medical person?
A: Yeah. No, he wasn’t a medic. He was a, the wrought armor service car driver, uh, who was attached to us. And uh, he would, uh, take us to whatever we went. There was only one occasion I can remember when we actually, uh, ran into the,
It was during the monsoon period, uh, in which the, uh, only, and it was totally flooded. And we were driving through the road, and we came off, we landed in a shallow hole that was full of water. And the jeep went down. And I can remember sitting up to the waist in soaking, you know, soaking wet. And, and like a thin mud more than anything. And uh, we were then under enemy observation when it happened. So uh, we were panicking a bit. An American truck eventually came through. It got a winch on the front. He winched us out.
And um, we had, had time to take photographs even. Sargent Major had a camera and uh, it, it was the time when color photography had just come in, and Kodak, I believe it was, who had a base in Hawaii, who had all the film had to be sent to Hawaii. And I was most disappointed because he decided, one of the photographs he had taken was us sitting in the mortar with the jeep down in the hole. And um, he sent the film off and it never came back.
So uh, that would have been kind of interesting. But um, yeah. We, we then sat around for the rest of the day while the sun came out and warmed up all the mud and uh, you uh, you can imagine a uniform full of mud which has dried out was a, it like being sandpapered from the inside as it were.
I: When you were going off, were you going off to search hill, Hill 355, to the Hook?
A: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
I: You’re meeting various Infantry. (INAUDIBLE)
A: Oh, not necessarily. Any, any, any Army regiment who had a, a base, and not necessarily a regiment. It could be a corp, um, we were necessary for the health aspect of every soldier, uh, in the area, uh.
I: Were you taken seriously?
A: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. I mean, the, the, you see some of the, we, we did hold some, um, training sessions back at our base where the Infantrymen were called in to go on a, what was called a hygiene course. Now of course a raw infantryman who, he probably thought oh this is a total waste of time.
But by the time you’d, uh, told them the, uh, and shown them the effects of we’ll say frostbite or somebody having his tongue ripped up because they’d gone black and there were various things like this, they began to realize you know, this is serious business. This could happen to you.
I: I specifically was gonna ask you about (INAUDIBLE) tablets.
I: So just talk a bit about some of the specifics that you’ve been teaching Infantry about.
A: Yeah. Um, well let me explain. Malaria was a, a big problem out there. And (PALADRIN) tablets were, uh, should have been taken daily, um. They uh, they used to have (METHOCRIN) tablets in the early stages which turned the skin yellow, uh. But (PALADRIN) tablets came in, and they were issued to say you have to take it on the daily basis along with a salt tablet in the wet summer months, uh. And the (PALADRIN) was supposed to be taken for a period of 12 months after you came home to make sure that you didn’t get Malaria.
And I know somebody who lives just about a couple of hundred yards over there who didn’t take them when he came home and he got Malaria, uh. The, the basics you taught them, for instance uh, a, obviously Malaria is contracted by a bite of a mosquito.
So, in the early stages when the mosquito was a larvae, uh, which would live in water, uh, you had to teach them don’t throw away an empty can or make sure that that empty can isn’t filled with water because a mosquito will breed in it. So that’s a basic thing.
If there are any areas like uh, a lake or large area of water close to you, get a brick, soak it with, uh, some sort of oil, and hessian, and throw it in the middle of the lake. That would form of film of water, a film of oil over the surface of the water so that the larvae couldn’t breathe because they have like a breathing pipe which they need to get to the air that would kill off.
So they, so the basic thing to do of a night time, um, in the hours after dark it became dusk, um, make sure that your sleeves are rolled down and that your neck and your collar is tight and that you use, um, anti-malarial, um, creams or oils that they give you. There was an, an issue of uh, an Army, uh, it was a tube about so long which had an oil which you could rub over you, so the ounces of services, mosquito nets.
Make sure that you use a mosquito net in the nighttime whenever possible. Obviously, it’s not always possible, um. And um, these are the, the sort of things that we talked, um, frostbite for instance, uh. You wouldn’t tell them to change their socks. You would, they were issued with Army foot powder, change your socks as regular as you can, uh. If you do find that your feet get cold and wet and you do feel that, uh, you have started to get frostbite,
Then, this used to amuse them as well. Get a mate, and you’ll find out who your mate, you’ll find out who your mates are at this stage, get him to open his shirt and put your feet, bare feet, inside his shirt, you mustn’t heat up a frozen, uh, part of your body, uh, rapidly. But using his body heat to warm it up gradually, uh, would, so, it’ll save you a lot of problems in the future.
Little things like this that, um, that we used to teach. And of course, as I mentioned before, um, you know, how to deal with water, uh, to make it palatable, uh. And uh, sanitation. You know, normally, you would find that troops on the move would use cat sanitation virtually, just dig a hole, you know, cover it up. But make sure it’s covered up.
If you’re there for any length of time, you’d, uh, build shallow trench latrines and you would have to make certain that they were built in a certain way with oil-soaked hessian around to stop flies breeding, uh. And then if they were there permanently, deep trench latrines which had to be constructed in a certain way, um, and uh, you know, little things like this.
I: Hemorrhagic fever?
A: Hemorrhagic fever was a major problem there, uh. It was just one of the, the real difficult things because people didn’t know anything about it, uh. One of the jobs they gave us, they loaned us a pump action shotgun and uh, I had the job on one occasion of going out, shooting birds and uh, catching rats. We used to catch them in cages, and they were vicious, uh.
They was, rats were prevalent there. They used to sleep with you and, you know, you’d find them in the, the middle of the night in your bed and things like this. But you used to catch them and they, they were, they’d really go wild. And the idea was we would then send them to the Americans who would send them off to, uh, some sort of research lab because they thought at the time that Hemmoraghic fever was caused by, caused by tics which would be on birds of, uh, rats.
Uh, I don’t know what their final outcome was. I don’t know how many, uh, troops were, contracted Hemorrhagic fever. But it was quite a, a big problem there. And they would be shipped out to the, uh, hospitals in Japan for treatment.
I: And what is Hemmoraghic fever for those that don’t know?
A: Well, it, it’s just, uh, from what I understand, uh, as I said we didn’t know much about it. But, but it was sort of internal bleeding.
And it was caused by, as I say, we thought at the time it may be tics. And there, there was, how true it is I, I’m not sure. But uh, apparently the Americans had a similar sort of unit to what we did. And when the war was over, uh, I believe that the Chinese wanted this, uh, particular section to be, uh, handed over to them as war criminals because they understood that the American unit, same as ours, was seen to be catching rats, and they were thought that they were releasing them. I don’t know where they managed to say to the rats, you know, there’s the Chinese.
You go, (LAUGHS). Yeah, because I did wonder at the time whether they were gonna include us and I thought well I’m not going.
I: What about some of the other sexually transmitted diseases.
I: Did you teach about that?
A: Yes. Yeah, yeah.
I: Everything like that. And how prevalent was that in the British Army?
A: It was quite prevalent, um. They used to have, uh, prophylactic ablution, uh, centers in the towns in Japan. It should be a separate little building where you could go in there. You could pick up condoms free, and you could get various, um, you know, creams and so on which were supposed to prevent you picking up, uh, uh, any sexually and, um, transmitted diseases, uh.
There was Gonorrhea. There’s um, soft shankers, um, Syphilis obviously which was quite dangerous, um. And if left untreated, of course, all the simpler, um, like Gonorrhea and so on, could be treated by a single injection of penicillin, and that wouldn’t be a problem. Um, but it was quite a, every so often troops were sent back to Japan for rest and recuperation.
Rest and recuperation you never had. I mean, you went out there and you lived a wild life, you know. Eighteen-year-old boys let loose with a load of women who in, what you expect, you know, love to drink, ah. And uh, yeah. So, it, it was a problem, um. So they were given, um, various types of advice, mainly back at your own unit you would show them films of these various diseases, and one of the treatments of Syphilis, for instance
They used to have a device, looked like, bit like an umbrella which was pushed down the end of your penis and then opened out and scraped everything, even, (LAUGHS) That put a few people off as you can imagine. Yeah. So uh, yeah. It, it, it was a problem. And we already, uh, hygiene assistance, we’d all really been fully trained in, that’s one of the diseases that, you know,
It was, uh, covered on the, uh, in the training.
I: Okay. What about um, psychiatric advice and, and, do you have to look out for that sort of thing? Or was that again left to the regiments?
A: No, we never came across it at all. Um, I, like I told, I told Prince William recently, uh. I met him up in London and he said, he was asking me about, uh, you know, Post-Traumatic Stress, and I, I said well you know.
We never had that in our day. You just got on with life, you know. And uh, it, it never really, uh, affected us at all, uh. I think we came through a different breed of people. Having gone through World War II as kids, um, I mean you just took war as war and you know, uh, they, they obviously thought it was called shell shock in those days, uh.
But I never came across it at all. Um, I don’t remember anyone who, uh, I, I know that some of the Infantrymen nowadays, I know John Bolla for instance. He suffers from, uh, sleep problems. When I was, uh, on a return visit to Korea, uh, I was sitting next to a Gloucester who’d been confined in a cages, uh.
And his wife said to me that he’d never had a single night’s sleep without waking up shouting in the night. And we were going back to the front line, and he was sitting next to me and, uh, he was shaking. And the following day, she came back to me. She said do you know? Last night was the first night that he’d slept right the way through the night without a problem.
He’d sort of killed the ghosts basically by going back there. And uh yeah. So, uh
I: It wasn’t Tommy Cluff, was it?
A: Not Tommy Cluff, no, no. I know Tommy, yeah. Yeah. Oh yeah. He’s on the phone to me on a regular basis.
I: Is he?
I: (INAUDIBLE) cause I interviewed him a few weeks ago.
A: Yeah, he said, yeah, yeah.
I: Yeah. DDT. What was used for, and what did you know about it? And obviously, you know, did you know at the time that it was a bit of a nasty stuff?
A: I know it is Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroetha. Uh, it was used on a regular basis, um. It was used mainly to, uh, prevent, uh, tics, fleas, and so on and so on. Uh, there was a regular screening system there whereby um, they had like a, a pump action gun which was filled with DDT, had a tube at the end, and it would be inserted up the sleeves.
There was a, a, a routine actually, uh, where it was directed to the left, to the right, down the center and um, up the sleeves, down the trouser legs, and so on. And uh, we, down at Pusan for instance, they used to have some young Korean ladies who used to do some office administration work, and even they had to be treated with this, uh, DDT going through their system.
And as you get around your neighborhood, it’s all happy. But um, it was done to all the prisoners of war who came back from, when they were re-patrioted, and it was used on a regular basis, um. Areas like we were talking about, mosquitos and um, like then there was, uh, liquid DDT used, and you would have a knapsack sprayer. I’ve been stripped to the waist with a knapsack sprayer on my back with DDT rolling down my back.
And um, there’s all this talk about oh, you’ll get cancer and whatever. So far, touch wood, I’ve been lucky. I haven’t got this cancer they talk about. And it was banned eventually. But uh, it was used regularly.
I: What about dentistry? Did you, I mean was a dental professional, was there, was there a dentistry corp out there?
A: Um, there was a dental corp in the British, yes. Um, the probably I would imagine they’d be attached to a hospital in Japan, um. Whether they had them in the, um MASH, Mobile Army Surgical Hospital, I don’t know, uh, because they were uh, uh, not run by the British anyway.
Um. But yeah. Dentists they, uh, well they obviously had to be available.
I: You mentioned that you, uh, the Australians, they (INAUDIBLE) into the Americans. Did you ever raid the Turks?
A: No. No.
A: Uh, Belgians, on the boats on the way and Belgian Commando. And they were training uh, and doing all sorts of weird and wonderful self-events, techniques which were, uh, quite amusing and uh, yeah.
Inspired me to actually take it up when I was eventually released and yeah, and uh I eventually ended up when, get, winning the silver medal in the National Championships. And uh, 1970.
I: In what?
A: Ikido, yeah, yeah. Started Judo first and then transferred over and became a club coach and counting coach and whatever.
I: And that was through seeing these coaches?
A: Yeah. They, yeah, yeah, yeah.
I: Did you ever hear back and get the entertainment?
A: Yes. Uh, I didn’t go back. We uh, had uh, Frankie Howard come out, uh, and his little group uh, and um, he came to our unit, uh, so, I mean he, he came in his little group of ladies and boyfriends and what have you, all mingled with the officers as opposed to mingling with the other ranks.
But uh, yeah. Then, and then there was another guy who used to dress up as a, an Arab. And, what did he used to sing now? Oh uh, he was, he was a well-known entertainer. Yeah. There were those two, um, I saw while I was out there, yeah.
I: Uh, did you ever, do you, talk to me about propaganda. I mean, how far behind the line were you?
A: Um, I don’t know. We were in an, we moved a couple of times, and there was nothing to identify where we were, um. I would imagine our base must have been about five miles behind the line. But uh as I say, it was uh, in the middle of a field, uh.
There were mine fields around, and um, nothing to indicate where we were. All we, we knew is that we were North of Uijeongbu somewhere. But uh,
I: Were you ever shelled?
A: No. No. No.
A: We had a, on one occasion I can remember uh, we, there was an American unit there. And uh, another Sargent and myself went down to, uh, visit them and they had a little bow and we were sitting having a drink and uh one plan came over, uh, which they called Bed Check Charlie who apparently came over, dropped one bomb and then flew away again.
And uh, we heard the siren go off. Bed Check Charlie’s gonna come and drop the bomb, and everybody disappeared, and we sat there drinking. And whether he dropped his bomb or not, we don’t know. We were too plattered to think, to care anyway.
I: Did you get a sense as you go into ’52 and ’53, that the war was changing? Was, was there talk of a ceasefire? Was there, do you remember anything?
A: Not for us as I say. Because we were such a tiny unit, we were kept totally, uh, devoid of any information whatsoever. I mean I often used to wonder if we were overrun nobody had told us, you know. We, we’d have ended up fighting as Infantrymen which medics were supposed to do if, you know, they reached that situation. We were armed, um. The uh, situation, situation in those days was you were told that you could only use your weapon in defense of a patient, uh.
And you weren’t allowed to use it to defend yourself. But you were wearing a nice Red Cross which would make a damn good target for the Chinese or the North Koreans. And then in the event of something like a, a bogant as it were, we would have to revert to being Infantry and fighting as Infantrymen. Um, and your medical training went out the window basically.
I: What do you remember at the end of the Korean War, and where were you, and how did you know about it?
A: Well, we, we had to uh, go and supervise the, uh, repatriation, uh, on the medical aspects. We had to, as I say, prisoners of war coming in, they had to be treated with DDT and so on. And um, I wasn’t, I was only vaguely involved. They gave one of our other Sergeants, um, the overall responsibility. He dealt with it more than I did on that score.
I: And where was that? And what do you remember him saying?
A: Um, I, that was up near, uh, which is now the Demilitarized Zone, somewhere up there, um. As I say, at that stage, we, we didn’t really know exactly where it was. But uh, you know, apart from what you read in the press or so in the later stage.
I: Were you actually seeing these prisoners come through?
A: Not personally, no, no. As I say, they delegated one of, this other Sargent. This chap, he would come up with two acquisitions and uh, he did that job.
I: Um, what else can you tell me about that period of the cease fire and what you found out and what happened?
A: Um, not a great deal really. We were just getting on with our normal work. And um, you know, we, we really weren’t involved so much, uh, as I say, apart from uh, this particular guy who was, um, you know, dealing with, uh, the, uh, you know, making sure that the, any diseases that were coming through were, uh, not gonna spread to anyone else.
I: So, did you, as before the cease fire effectively, you, your, you were doing a sort of a job, a job, and that, yeah, still needed to be done with the peace keeping troops post-war I guess cause you still gotta tell people about (INAUDIBLE)
A: Um hm.
I: So, you know, how much longer did your job sort of continue in the same way before you then were well actually guys, you can come back now?
A: Well, uh, I came home from Korea at the end of September, uh. So not long after the cease fire, uh, So um, you know, we, we were just more less carrying on with our normal work, uh. I did neglect to, uh, to let you know that, uh, during my 18 months out there, I was sent on rest leave down to Pusan to uh, take charge of the whole of the, uhm, health aspects in the whole Pusan area.
And there were just myself and one driver, uh, who was responsible for all of the, uh, health aspects down there, uh.
I: What were you doing? Tell me a bit about it.
A: Well, um, visiting any particular units there, and there were three units, Military Police and uh, there was the, um, rest camp they had there and so on and so on. And uh, there was still problems in Pusan with uh, you know, with infiltrators as well as sympathizers, uh.
We were out one night, uh, in the jeep. And it was an open top jeep. And we put up the, uh, front visor, glass panel, and um, it was quite dark, and somebody had stretched a rope across the road to try and decapitate, uh, anyone who went. And luckily it hit the windscreen and went over the top of us.
And uh, so there was still incidents down there where, uh, you had uh, some hairy times. I mean I went into the Black Market on one occasion uh, and um, I got a small radio, and some guy came towards me, and he said uh, “Oo, do you want to sell your radio”, and I knew I was going back up North anyway.
So, I, I said “how much you gonna give me”? He said, “I’ll give you $10.00.” I thought that’s a good price, so I’ll take that. “Show me your money”. And he handed me what I thought was $10.00 and I took it. He took the radio and legged it. I (INAUDIBLE) one paper with a dollar on either side. And I chased him, silly thing to do. And he jumped over the wall into the dry (INAUDIBLE) with a brick compound around it and he jumped over there and disappeared.
So, I jumped over the wall as well, and I found him hiding in a little outhouse. So, I had him by the throat and uh telling his life story and uh, next minute a load of blokes came over the wall behind me and I realized that uh, you know, I was a bit of a fool. And so, I took to leg it myself and left him there. But I had my radio, and I had his $2 as well. So
I: So, all’s well that ends well.
A: Yeah. Yeah. So, I mean Pusan, that’s an area where it was, it was filthy. It was, um, you know, real stinking hole to be honest. Yeah, so.
I: What’s it like coming back? How, how’d you feel about leaving?
A: Um, coming back, uh, I was enjoying the, the boat obviously. Came back as a Sargent. And uh, was privileged to be on a, an upper deck with, uh, waiter service instead of being in, six of us in a little cabin down below.
So uh, I’d led, led, led the life of Riley on the way home., uh. Um, but when I got home, my mother said I used to walk around the room like a caged tiger. She said, they were the words she used. She said, “You used to walk in circles cause you didn’t know what to do with yourself.” And then, but I was still in the Army then. I was a regular soldier. So um, I eventually went back and uh, so uh, I’ve got a
I: Went back to barracks?
A: Went back to barracks, yeah, yeah, yeah. Like came back, I was stationed in Horse Guards covering the whole little London area. Uh, I would choose, uh, a nice little job, uh. They didn’t have any accommodation, uh. I, so I was attached to Millbank Hospital for discipline and pay and was given an allowance to buy a flat in, or not to buy a flat, to rent a flat in Saint George’s Drive in Victoria, |when I met the wife and uh, yeah.
I stayed there until, uh, I was demobbed.
A: And then recalled.
I: (INAUDIBLE) How have you, how, just talk a bit about your involvement in Korea 60+ years later and how all that came about.
A: Well, um, it was in 1983, uh, I heard that the, uh, British Career Veterans Association was uh, formed.
I: How m any members were there at that time?
A: Uh, well when I, I (INAUDIBLE), uh, there must have been about 6,000, uh. And we’ve still got about 1,000.
I: What, what was it like going back?
A: Um, surprise when I went back, uh. When we left, the place was devastating. The main building in Seoul was the, uh, uh, Capital Building, uh.
Went back and even dined, I think it was the 67th floor of a, a skyscraper block where there’s a restaurant. And they told, we were taken up there and I, I just couldn’t believe it, um. It, it’s, it was totally built up, busy, um. The only thing that reminded us of Korea, of the old Korea we knew, is down at the, uh, Folk Village where they transferred all the, uh, old star buildings, uh, and put them all together in a big museum.
And um, it, you know, it was, it was such a contrast. And I’m told that it’s even better now, um. They had built, I think when I first went over, they’d be building football stadiums, um, for the World Cup or something or other, and they built about 25 stadiums in the time that we got round to building, um, Wembley.
So yeah. They, they’ve really, they, they talk about us, uh, and doing what we’ve done for their country. We haven’t done it. We were just the catalyst. They were the people who built Korea, and, uh, they’ve done a marvelous job. And yeah. It, it’s made it all worthwhile. All the sacrifices were worthwhile. And
I: Is there anything else you wanna add or is that?
A: No. You, you don’t want (INAUDIBLE)at all?
A: Yeah, yeah.
I: So just tell me. Did you, did you demob and then get called back or did you just sort of go into a sort of military life back in the UK?
A: Oh well. I was, I was on the Army Reserves. So, I got demobbed. And uh, I had been, um, out of the Army 11 months and uh, got a six-week-old baby. And uh suddenly I was, I was working then, uh, as a student health inspector with Hammersmith Council.
And uh, I went, I was on my way to work one morning, and a letter came through the post saying uh, we want you back in the forces, uh. And um, that was 8:00. I was gone by 11. And uh, ended up in Aldershot where I sat in on, this was in the August, and I sat and trained in Aldershot until November when, uh, I was flown out to Cypress and uh, then that was for the landing at Silly’s.
Uh, so the invasion took place, I think it was on the 5th of November which is my birthday. And I think it was two days later I was flown out there. And we landed at Elgamal Airport which was, uh, just more less a hut which was bullet holed and, and so on and so on. I’d driven down a dusty road to an old, um, hospital, the uh, British Hospital in, uh, Port Said and uh, that had been badly damaged.
And that was gonna be our base. It was, uh, some building inside a walled compartment. And um, there was, it was, it was totally devastated, um. You could pick up a vehicle and just commandeer it to drive around in which we did. And um, we, I remember sleeping on an, an old operating table amongst all the rubble. And once again, my job was taking care of the, uh, uh, health arrangements.
Um, there was a problem receiving food for a while, um. As I say, it was just, we went in what they called Shanty Town, and uh, we couldn’t get food. I like to remember we used to try and scavenge, uh, and we managed to find an old sack of potatoes in a warehouse and uh, we were getting, uh, a bowl messed in full of soup and an apple I think it was. And I remember that being as part of the food.
Uh, plus our 24-hour ration packs. And uh, there was a wild pig running round. And I can remember making up a spear trying to kill this pig because I thought if we sheltered, the Argyle and, I think they were the Argyles who were in the building near us, they would have opened fire on us anyway. So, I, we never caught it however.
But um, that, that was quite amusing. And one night I dare, I was Guard Commander, and I put four people outside the, uh, the brick wall, um, to cover the compound, all armed. And all of a sudden, a shot were, went loose, and it was in the dark. And I heard firing as well. And uh, I rushed out, not knowing what to find.
And uh, I managed to get these four guys in and found out what had happened. Apparently, I’d sent four out to relieve them when this happened, and apparently what had happened, they had to hand their, we, we didn’t have a full compliment of weapons. So, the blokes on guard outside handed over their weapons to the incoming, uh, guard. And one of them had his rifle on his shoulder, and he was very, very nervous young National serviceman who couldn’t take the safety catch off, and he put his finger in the trigger guard and almost shot his ear off.
And of course, the other girls heard this and they opened fire as well. And all I knew is I got, I was outside in the dark and all hell let loose. And that was quite amusing, uh. But um, we um, built this place up, like I said, uh. I, I’ve got a photograph somewhere of the group of our, our 30 guys had our own engineers. So, we, uh, were able to get a certain amount done to make this place reasonable, uh.
And um, the uh, whole area, there were bodies lying around the place, um. We, we don’t know the full details to today. But it seems that the, uh, Marines and so on went in and uh, killed all (INSUNDRIES) it were. And uh, there were two main instruments that come to mind. And the first one was regarding the uh, health aspect.
There were no, uh, there was no, uh, no sanitation obviously. The whole area had been damaged. But they had a system whereby you used latrine buckets. And those latrine buckets had to be loaded on the back of a three-ton truck, taken over to the local sewage farm, and there was a grill in the floor, and the buckets had to be tipped into, and the contents, into the grill on the floor.
And I went with this truck on one occasion, and there was a, a guy there who was in one of the Scottish regiments. He had a wonderful headgear with a huge badge and a, um, he had a hackle,
and he was standing at the top, and he was tipping the bucket over from the back of the vehicle. And as he did so just before the contents hit the grill, his hat fell onto the grill, and he poured the contents all over the top of his hat which has stuck with me. I could have never knew a Scotsman could swear as much as he did.
But uh, they had, so that was one of the amusing aspects. Now when we came away from Suez, we were, we knew that everybody was pulling out. And we were watching them all go out, and they all seemed to be coming past us and we were still there, and we were thinking you know, we, what are we gonna do? Gonna try and make ourselves makeshift boats and row boat away.
But they said we were left behind for a specific reason which was to go to the cemetery where all the dead had been, uh, buried, it was six weeks in total, underneath about six inches of sand, and they’d been wrapped in blankets. And they said that the Egyptians had intended to try and dig these bodies up and hang them in public view.
So, they decided that they were all to be brought home. And they wanted somebody from our unit to supervise the exhumation of these bodies, and the job was given to me. Now there were 27, I think it was in total, and uh, one had been recently buried. He was shot by accident, uh. So, he was in a deeper grave.
The others, as I say, were under about six inches of sand. And um, we had, uh, padres of various denominations were giving the, the usual um, sort of, um, religious and ceremony with the retrieval of these. And we were given rum, whiskey, cigarettes, absolutely free from, you know, the Army never gave anything like this unless it was specifically necessary.
And um, we had a group of Pioneer Code guys actually lifted the bodies. And I can remember one Sargent being lifted, uh, and of course they were rotting if you can imagine. And as a body was being lifted, he started smiling, and it, well what it actually was is his face was splitting on both sides as they were lifting him out.
And then it was falling to bit, and they were putting them in coffins that were lined with zinc or something or other. And uh, it started off very reverently, the bodies being lifted, taken gently and lowered in. By the time that the guys had drunk all the whiskey and the, uh, various drinks and what have you they’d had, and I think even the vicars themselves were in the same state the bodies removed, yeah.
Wasn’t so reverent. But um, as I say, that remained the smell stayed with me for month after month after month. And nowadays, I can smell a body from yards away. We had a dead fox in the bathroom in the garden, and as I walked, he was under the shed. And as I walked down there, I said to my grandson, I said there’s a body here somewhere, and uh, the smell still sticks with you.
They, the Army gave you brand new clothes, and you were showered and all the rest. You still couldn’t get rid of it. It was in your, your nostrils. So that was a particularly horrendous, uh, site. So
I: Yeah. That’s a, that’s horrible. And that’s because you’re just being pulled out. You left your wife. You left your daughter or son at home.
A: Yeah, it was my daughter. And, and, and a fairly traumatic thing. At that stage, we were living, seven of us, in a one-bedroom flat, uh. And the wife and I and the baby, uh, were in the lounge where there was like a (INAUDIBLE) bed. My daughter was sleeping in the drawer. And um, while I’d been recalled in the Army, just before I left the service, the landlord decided that we were overcrowded, and he wanted to kick them out, uh.
So I come taking Saffer, and it was all done, uh, I mean I was having (SEWAGE) by then and um, Saffer was able to stop him evicting, evicting us. And eventually when I came home and got rehoused. But um,
I: A lot on your plate.
A: Oh yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
I: How long were you in (SUES)
A: Uh, well in total, um, the (SUES) do itself, it was about six weeks. But I was back in the Army for six months. Oh uh,
I: Yeah, yeah. And you didn’t know you’d been in Korea for instead of 18 months, this was a sort of more
A: It was more traumatic, yeah. Yeah, yeah. And as I say, your attitude, you know. You, you’re, no longer are you the young or so, uh, uh, guy who hadn’t got a care in the world. You’ve got a family, and you think, you know, instead of if anything happens to me, what happens to them? And you, you’re a bit more wary about doing things.
They wanted me to go out on one occasion, uh, to uh, it was in an area where it was a bit dodgy. And, I can’t even remember what they wanted me to go out there for. And I said no no, sir. I’m not gonna to volunteer for that. And they said to me well if you don’t go, we’ll have to send the National Serviceman. So uh, I said well, in that case I’ll go. And I, I went.
But uh, you know, very reluctant whereas normally I’d go oo, this is a bit exciting. I’ll, you know, (INAUDIBLE)
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