Bernard Clark was drafted into the Commonwealth Forces in 1951 and served in the Korean War. The British Commonwealth Forces included Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and India. When he was drafted into the military, he did not know where Korea was located. It took four to five weeks in a ship to get to Busan, Korea, and then he went beyond Seoul by train. During his time at the front lines, he lived in the trenches, fought along side troops from around the world, and faced many new fears in his life. He suffered a loss of friends while in Korea, and he had to deal with these losses as a young man. He was able to revisit Korea after the war, and he compared his time there in 1951 to the present time.
Bernard Clark went on a variety of patrols during his time in Korea. He calls these patrols "recce" (reconnaissance). "Recce" patrols consisted of five men and entailed going out to a point and returning with the intent to keep an eye on things in no man's land. His listening patrol consisted of three men who went out into no man's land and sat in a location all night to listen for enemy movements.
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Bernard Clark had to live in trenches near and on the front lines because there were not any shelters of any kind. The trenches were six feet deep and a fire could be made during the winter to stay warm. C-Rations were eaten most of the war, and they included beans and tea. He recalls taking over for the Greeks at "Kowang San/Little Gibraltar" area near Hill 355, and he remembers finding many dead bodies left in the trenches.
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Coping with Loss and Memories of Korea
Bernard Clark is still saddened by the loss of his friends while serving. He dealt with those losses as a young man in a few different ways. He also attended several concerts during his time in Korea, and he remembers a road march while on reserve which entailed a fiery mishap. Napalm drops took place during the Korean War, and he describes the aftermath of this weapon.
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[Beginning of recorded material]
- Clark: Bernard Clark, Royal . . . Corporal in the Royal Norfolk Regiment.
Interviewer: And what was life like for you before, as a child? Just tell me a bit about your background, where you were, who you were with, that sort of thing.
- Clark: Well, all I can remember is being born in a little village called Rede, near Bury St Edmunds. When I was six months old, my parents moved to [Grantsbridge], just down the road. When I was three and a half,
we moved back to a place called [Shimpling], near Bury St Edmunds, and eventually I went in the Army, to Korea, and come home, got married and moved to Glemsford, and I’m still here.
Interviewer: OK. So obviously there was a chapter in there that probably had a fairly significant impact on your life. Would that be right?
- Clark: Yeah.
Interviewer: Just tell me a bit about your National Service and, you know, the call up and your expectations.
- Clark:Well, when I was called up I had to go from Long Melford to Colchester on my own, on a train, which was probably about 25 miles, and that worried me to death. [Laughs]
Interviewer: Because you’d not travelled far?
- Clark|: I’d never travelled far on my own before. Well, then, by the time I got in the Army, done my six weeks in Colchester, moved out to Germany
for three months, back to Dover, then they didn’t, there were so many National Servicemen about, they didn’t know what to do with them, so they sent me on a cook’s course for three or four weeks in Chatham, we were all going to [unintelligible] in that little time, then we was going out to, to T.A. camps. But that was all cancelled and we learned in the street we was going to a place called Korea. We didn’t even know where it was.
I went out in 1951, September ’51, and that’s where I was until my National Service finished.
Interviewer: This business, you know, about being terrified of a train journey, you know, how did you, how did you adapt to suddenly being a billeted, you know, service person?
- Clark: Well, I just, you just learned that way because I was in with all
different people and all strangers, you got . . . the comradeship was there, and you adapted to it. And you’d go all over the world. I’ve been round the world two or three times.
Interviewer: Yes, so it was the making of you. OK. And you just mentioned about Korea and the fact that you’d never heard of it. Even . . . if it was September ’51, obviously there had been a war over there for nearly a year now. Had you still not heard of it? You’d not met any of the regulars . . .?
- Clark: No.
Interviewer: Amazing, isn’t it?
- Clark: Until that was mentioned . . . Actually, we learned it in the street. That was . . . We went round, going to the local pubs in Dover – – No, it was in Hythe in Kent, then – – and it was mentioned that we was going to Korea. And that was the first I heard of it.
Interviewer: What do you remember of the crossing to Korea?
- Clark:Four or five weeks,
on a ship that stopped at all the ports on the way out and going into Ceylon, that is, Sri Lanka now, and doing what I think was about a ten-mile route march around there. Back on board, then sailed to Korea.
Interviewer: Can you remember your first sight of Korea?
- Clark: Yeah, because we got on a train at Busan and went to,
right the way up to Seoul, or north of Seoul, on a train. It took nearly all day and all one night. We had to stop at all stations, get off the train and stand guard because there was guerilla activity on the line, and when I asked if we could load the weapons, “Oh no, you might shoot somebody” [Laughs] But we got up there, and then we was put on
lorries, took up just behind the front line. There was no houses, nothing. And I said, “Where are we going to sleep?” They said, “In that hole”. “What hole?” They said “Well, you haven’t dug it yet”. And we dug a hole to sleep in. The next night, three of us were marched, sent up to the top of a hill in a slit trench because they said there was, er, agents coming through.
They said we’d got to stop up there. And I was a Lance Corporal then, and I’d got . . . I was up there with two Corporals, so you know who had to be awake all night. The next day, I was put on a train, went back to Busan, was sent down to Japan, to [Hirovera] on a battle course. I think that was either three or four weeks. And then back up into Korea again.
And then I was up on the front line for four or five months.
Interviewer: Why did they select you? Do you know?
- Clark: Well, they took . . . I can’t remember how many of us, now, about a dozen of us, to go on this battle course, because we hadn’t had all that much training, for Korea.
Interviewer: And what was the battle course? What were you taught?
- Clark: Well, we were just taught, just taught battles and running about on hills and – – That was an old Japanese camp, Japanese army camp.
Just past Hiroshima because we saw all that. We weren’t allowed in, but we just saw all the wreckage what was left. That was devastated. We went by truck, took us half a day to go by truck, and when we come back, we had to march back to Kure, in Japan. I think that took us two nights.
Interviewer: When you went back, having experienced a little moment of Korea,
did you have . . . What was there . . . a high level of excitement, or a high level of worry?
- Clark: Well, that was a worry, but fortunately we done all like patrol work and things like that. We weren’t in big battles. That was all mainly patrols, of a night. You’d go out on ambush patrols or recce patrols, listening patrols,
Sometimes you met somebody, sometimes you didn’t.
Interviewer: It’s funny you should say that was, was better than the battles.
- Clark: Yeah.
Interviewer: Because I think a lot of people would have said that patrolling in no man’s land was terrifying.
- Clark: That was. I ain’t going to say we didn’t get worried because we did. It was terrifying.
Interviewer: OK. Let’s . . . You’ve just touched on the different patrols. Can you just describe the different patrols, and give me any examples of any that you were on?
- Clark: Well, there was . . .
If we went on a recce, I think on those there was an N.C.O and five blokes, and you’d go out to a certain point, in the dark, in the paddy fields, and go so far and then back again, if you didn’t . . . I can’t remember exactly how far, but you went to a certain point and then just turned round and came back.
Interviewer: So you didn’t wait there, you just literally . . .
Interviewer: And what was the purpose of it, do you know?
- Clark: Just to keep an eye on things in no man’s land. If you saw . . . If you were on a recce patrol, if you saw anybody, you had to get out of the way quick, and then take the information back.
Interviewer: And then, a listening patrol? Listening patrol?
- Clark: Listening patrol? Three of you went out in the middle of no man’s land and sat there all night. And that was scarey, because you was
way out in no man’s land on your own, just three of you.
Interviewer: And how did you configure when you were out there? Were you back to back, or . . . How did it work?
- Clark: No, it was . . . We went on a little hill called Crete for the listening post, and that had been occupied by ours before so there was a dugout and that had got barbed wire around. But there was a passageway through that we used to put
like, booby traps, grenades and put wires across, trip wires, so you sealed yourself in. But it’s surprising what you can hear in the middle of the night.
Interviewer: Do you ever remember some of the wires going off?
- Clark: No. No.
Interviewer: That would have been scary if it happened.
- Clark: That would, but you just . . . You couldn’t sleep, or anything, because you was terrified!
Interviewer: And what could you see from these places? What could you see from Crete?
- Clark: Not a lot. You was . . . It was a little hill that was in a fairly big valley, and there was a little hill in the middle. And it was called Crete because it was like Crete, the Greek island. And that’s what we was on.
Interviewer: OK. And . . . listening, recce, capture? Did you do any capture patrols?
- Clark: We tried.
Interviewer: Tell me about them, and what were they, just explain.
- Clark: Well, if you could get . . . We did go up a hill once, they wanted prisoners, but we didn’t get any. Another one we went on, that was when we was back in reserve. There was a new arrangement came up at the front line and there was a hill in front of them where they
didn’t know if that was occupied or not. And we’d got a Lieutenant Commander who was like a V.C. wallah. He volunteered to take a patrol up this hill, and there was seven of us with the officer. We went to . . . up the day before, to have a look and we were shot at then, but then the next
night we were on again and we went up the hill. We’d got it arranged that we’d have artillery cover which would be fired just in front of us and as we went up the hill, the fire was supposed to lift. Well, when the fire got too close, we radioed back for them to lift the fire, because they was getting too close. And they said “What? We haven’t started yet”. So that was occupied. So, we got out rather quick. And then . . .
And then, on the way back, we were shelled again and the Lieutenant Commander got hit. He wasn’t killed but we had to carry him back, and I’ve never seen him from that day to this. He’s . . . up until two years ago, I think he was still alive.
Interviewer: And, you know, you talked about how scary it was, on these patrols, and you’re being fired at. How often do you think you had contact with the Chinese?
- Clark: Well, probably three times. You could go out night after night and never see or hear anybody.
Interviewer: Anything particular that you remember now, even years later, that were scary, or you were involved in a contact?
- Clark: We were involved in a contact, but that’s buried in there [points to head]. Sorry.
Interviewer: That’s all right. Just talk a bit about your . . . where you stayed and how you existed.
- Clark:We were in a hole. [Laughs] We dug a hole, I think I dug four dugouts in Korea.
Interviewer: And how big is a dugout? How many of you in it?
- Clark: Only two of us in it. About 6 foot deep and just wide enough so you could get a bunk one side and one the other and a little passage right up the middle. And you could have a fire at night,
for the winter. But you couldn’t have it there during the day because of the smoke. But it . . . You just existed in it, and although there was temperatures got down to minus forty, I didn’t feel the cold like I do now.
Interviewer: And what about food and drink?
- Clark: Food, we lived on American ‘C’ rations for the first two or three months, which is tinned pork and
beans and things like that. We had tea, but we could make our own tea if we wanted when we got the fire going at night. For the first few weeks, all we had was a jerry can of water between us and two of us in a dugout would have two mugs filled with water each. One was for washing and shaving and the other one was to make some tea. And
until we got on the proper ‘C’ rations, that’s all we had.
Interviewer: What about working alongside other Commonwealth regiments? Did you work with the Belgians, the Turks . . .?
- Clark: No. No. The only ones we took over from was the Greeks, and er . . . their slit . . . their crawl trenches had got bumps in. Well, when we cleared them out, there was
bodies underneath, because where they killed anybody, they just covered them up.
Interviewer: Oh. That was the Greeks?
- Clark: Yeah. But luckily there was only two, two or three, I can’t remember the exact number. That was in an area called Koan San area, which was the highest hill in the area.
Interviewer: That’s 355, then.
Interviewer: OK. So the Greeks took over on that hill
- Clark:They was on there, but we took over from them.
Interviewer: I didn’t know that.
- Clark: Because we was in the [Samajong] valley for the first four or five months, then in the March we went back in reserve, then on 1st of April we went back up the line and took over from the Greeks. We’d all been sunbathed and nice and brown, but that first night up there, that snowed like hell again. So, we all got
Interviewer: And what do you remember about things like Palu . . . did you take Paludrine and salt and stuff?
- Clark: Salt, salt tablets. I used to sling them, because they made me sick.
Interviewer: Do you ever remember the health inspectors coming round and trying to teach you about basic sort of . . .?
Interviewer: Did you ever get any skin diseases?
- Clark: No.
- Clark: No. I broke,
I broke a tooth off in Korea, but I didn’t have nothing, I had to wait until I got home.
Interviewer: How did it happen? Do you know?
- Clark: Yes, we put some bullets in a soup, [laughs] as a lark, and I bit on one and that broke my tooth off. There.
Interviewer: What about R. and R.? Did you have any R. and R.?
- Clark: Yes. Well, I,
I went to Tokyo. And we got on a plane, went, got nearly there, and then, it was a Yankee plane and one of the crew come in and said “Sorry, gents, but we’ve got an emergency, we’ve got to make an emergency landing.” And they landed us, I don’t know where it was, and we all sat there panicking because of the emergency landing. And when we got on the ground, he came in and said “Sorry, I meant to tell you, that was radio trouble.”
Anything we could get a hold on, we slung at him. And then we went to Tokyo and had six days, I think it was. And that was all on drink.
Interviewer: You mentioned you never had any health awareness, but what about things like V.D. and stuff when you were going off to rest?
- Clark:If you didn’t get involved in it, you didn’t get it.
Interviewer: Right. And you don’t remember the films and stuff?
- Clark: No, nothing. We’d got a Company
Commander who was like a father to us. And when I went to Tokyo, at the same time, I was queuing, I don’t know, we went in a bar or something, but the next morning he was there, he’d been . . . his mother had died and he was going, they were flying him home. And he gave me a little father’s talk, not to go round with the girls.
“Because when you, when you get home, you’ll meet a young lady” he said, “and you’ll regret it.” And I’ll always remember them words.
Interviewer: Who was your commander?
- Clark:Major Gordon.
Interviewer: Did you have other dealings with him?
- Clark: No. Only, I went in a minefield with him once, to put a fire out. He . . . He was a prisoner of war with the Germans during the war,
but he was like a little parson. But you’d go anywhere with him.
Interviewer: What about the, the mines system? You mentioned a mine, just talk a bit about . . . what do you recall about the way the minefields were set up and how they protected you, as well.
- Clark: Well, they protected us, but in the area we was in, at the time, the oleander groves and the bracken was all dead, and we don’t know how the fire started
but three or four of us went round the front, round the minefield, and the Major came with us and he made us all stop there while he went in to put the fire out. Well, I wouldn’t let him be in there on his own so I done the same. But they was all done with trip wires so you had to step, look where the trip wires were and step over them. That was scary, but . . .
we done it.
Interviewer: Did you lose any friends?
- Clark: Yeah, but not while we was out on the patrols I was on. I lost several friends, seven I think I lost from my bunch. But they was on different patrols.
Interviewer: And how did you deal with that, as a young man?
- Clark: Well, after the first one . . . you accepted it. You just done what you had to do. But I’ll tell you one thing I did do. If you heard
if you saw them or heard the click of a rifle, you dived into the ground. Well, they were paddy fields, and from that day to this, I’ve never ate rice, ‘cos of what they put on it.
Interviewer: What about E.N.S.A.?
- Clark: Eh?
Interviewer: Did you ever go to any of the E.N.S.A. concerts?
- Clark: Yes.
Interviewer: Who did you see?
- Clark: [Laughs] I can’t remember. I think . . . there was a Jane Shepherd from America, but I’m not certain.
No, it’s so long ago. And there was also an Australian group. And another one we went to, when we was too late to get in, they wouldn’t let us in, we had to stand outside, but I can’t remember who they were.
Interviewer: Did you ever go to the convalescence at Inchon?
Interviewer: Do you ever remember seeing the barrage balloon over P’anmunjom?
- Clark: Vaguely, yes. But I honestly couldn’t swear that that was where
I saw it.
Interviewer: Any other memories that we should cover? Anything that stands out? This is your chance to sort of recall stuff.
- Clark: No, not really. I remember once, it was while we were in reserve, we went out on a route march, for fitness more than anything, and we passed an army camp, I can’t tell you what camp it was, we passed an army camp and, er . . .
and in them days, you had a . . . the cooks had a long range with all the pots and pans on and they fired liquid underneath, it was like a flamethrower. But they fired the liquid underneath and the chappie on the end got covered with this liquid and then that caught fire and so did he. And he ran across in front of us, on . . . screaming his head off, on fire.
Well, we managed to get him down and put it out, but that poor sod was burned like hell.
Interviewer: Was he a Korean or . . . ?
- Clark: He was a Korean, one of the workers. Whether he died afterwards, we don’t know. The only way we could put it out was take our coats and jackets off and smother it out. I could remember the screams, and I still can.
Interviewer: Yeah, horrible. Did you . . .
Did you ever see any of the napalm barrels and stuff scattered around?
- Clark: Yep. Yep.
Interviewer: Can I just talk about what . . . How were they configured?
- Clark: Well, they just . . . Planes would dive in and drop the napalm and from across the valleys, you could hear screams. But as soon as ever that plane took off again, was going up again, they was being fired at, they was. They hadn’t killed all because they had their tunnels so deep.
Interviewer: Did you ever find any of the tunnels?
Interviewer: What was your . . . What was your actual role as an infantryman? Did you have an assigned position in your . . .
- Clark: No. No, I just took . . . Section Commander and I got seven men under me, I think it was. And then, we lost our Sergeant Major, he was wounded in, in a minefield. The Platoon Sergeant took over
his job and I took over the Sergeant’s job. I don’t know, for a month or six weeks, I suppose, and then I came home. But they wouldn’t give me another stripe because I was National Service. They told me, if I wanted to sign on, they’d give me another stripe, because they couldn’t promote a National Serviceman to Sergeant. I said, “Well, I’m going home first, then I’ll come back” which some of the blokes was doing.
But I didn’t go back for sixty years, so they didn’t say nothing about it then! [Laughs]
Interviewer: And how did you feel about leaving?
- Clark: Well, I had every intention of going back.
Interviewer: Did you want to get away, though? Was it . . . I mean, how did you find the overall experience?
- Clark: Great. Because fortunately, we didn’t go through hell like some of them did.
Interviewer: What were you in, which Company were you in?
- Clark:‘B’ Company.
Interviewer: And what about coming home? What do you remember about coming back, you know, what . . .
- Clark: That was a . . . Coming back was a lot quicker than going. We was on a faster boat. And it didn’t bother to get off, to go on shore, only about once on the way back.
Interviewer: And what about coming home and seeing the family? And how did you . . . you know, how . . . you’d obviously changed hugely, hadn’t you,
from when you . . .
- Clark: I had, but . . . I came home on a Friday night, and I went, I had . . . But I still wasn’t out, hadn’t been demobbed when I got home. I went back to work on the Monday, because I worked in the family business. That was me up my father’s brother’s business. I went to work because I was so fed up of doing nothing on the cruise back home.
Interviewer: And what about the repercussions of what you’d been . . . You said you’d put stuff at the back of your mind. Have you ever had any effects of Korea since?
- Clark: You dream about it and think about it sometimes. That’s it. But it’ll never go away permanent.
Interviewer: How do you feel about it being this ‘forgotten’ war?
- Clark:Well, I think that’s terrible. There was more killed out there than there was in Aden and places like that.
Interviewer: And you said you went back?
- Clark:I’ve been back on a re-visit three times.
Interviewer: What I mean is, how did you feel when you went back
and saw it sixty years later?
- Clark: Oh, God, that was marvellous, what they’d done. And they treated you like gods. Nothing was too much trouble or anything. Put us in a five-star hotel.
Interviewer: Right, Bernard, I don’t think I’ve got anything else to ask you, Sir.
- Clark: O.K.
Interviewer: Have you got anything else you want to tell me?
- Clark: Well, you didn’t get . . . I said, you get used to it, but
like I said, I went back to, we was taken back to Seoul, for two or three different reasons, when we went on leave camps, and you’d be going along and you’d go [sniffs] “Here comes one of them carts” and there was a dung cart coming along with an old Korean bod sitting there with oxen pulling it, and that was in the cart behind, splashing all up his back, [Laughs] Oh, God!
[End of recorded material]