Korean War Legacy Project

Dennis Grogan


Dennis Grogan grew up living with his grandparents in County Down, Northern Ireland. Throughout his coming of age, he developed a love of aircraft because of seeing planes flying in and out of a United States Air Force Base located near his home. He left school at the age of fourteen to become a cycle mechanic for two years.  At age sixteen, he landed a three-year apprenticeship in the Royal Air Force, where he learned to excel in the mechanics of various types of aircraft. During his time in Korea, he worked as an Aircraft Technician (Mechanical) on a variety of planes, including the Auster. He discusses why he is proud to have been a part of the Korean War legacy, and the issue of little acknowledgement of the sacrifices made by Korean War veterans.

Video Clips

Apprenticeship Preparations

Dennis Grogan explains the circumstances of his apprenticeship in the Royal Air Force. He recalls having extensive training for three years to learn skills in various areas, such as welding and hydraulics. He shares the importance of his participation in sports throughout his training and describes a variety of locations his training took him to.

Tags: Basic training,Rest and Relaxation (R&R),Weapons

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The Auster Aircraft

Dennis Grogan describes the mechanics and construction of the Auster aircraft. He explains that it was a very practical plane with no armored plating, and a metal frame that was covered with canvas. He shares how he was proficient in helping to start the aircraft, which involved switch off, throttle closed, brakes hard on. He explains the details of checking aircraft maintenance in the winter compared to what needed to be done in the summer.

Tags: Cold winters,Front lines,Weapons

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Recollections of Korea

Dennis Grogan talks about the sacrifice he made to serve in Korea. He explains how he received correspondence from his wife, saying his daughter had been born while he was in Korea. He discusses why he is proud to have been a part of the Korean War legacy and the issue of little acknowledgement of the sacrifices made by Korean War veterans.

Tags: 1953 Armistice 7/27,Front lines,Home front,Letters,Living conditions,Message to Students,Pride,Rest and Relaxation (R&R),Women

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Video Transcript

[Beginning of Transcribed Material]


D:        Nineteen 03 Observation Flight.

I:          Okay good.  Right.  So then before we get to Korea, before we get into the Air Force everything, just tell me a bit about who you are, where you’re from, what was your life like during the War?  What shaped you?

D:        Well, I grew up with my grandparents in Northern Ireland.  I was taken over there when I was about three for a change, and they never came back.  So, I was brought up in Northern Ireland.  During the War, of course I was



Too young.  But I used to see lots of aircraft.

I:          Whereabouts in Northern Ireland?

D:        County Down, right up on the border near a place called Warrenpoint, right on the border.  Of course, I had an interest in aircraft inasmuch as I saw them most days flying up and down.  And then the Americans had a base there about 12 miles away.  And that sort of really got me into aircraft.  I was so keen.  In fact, I cycled 12 miles



just to the place where the Americans were. I even climbed over the ditch and touched one, would you believe.  Big deal for me at that time.  Anyway, I was planning to join the Air Force.  I left school at 14.

I:          Are you from a big family?

D:        Yeah.  There were four of us.  There was my eldest sister.  And then after I went to Ireland, I had another brother and then another sister who were younger than me.  But I didn’t



see them until about 1940, ’39 or ’40.

I:          Were you a rich family or a poor family?
D:        No, I lived on an Irish farm with my grandparents.  He was an ex-Army man.  And he was from Cornwall.  And his wife was from Northern Ireland. He obviously met her when Uri, which was the next town, it was a garrison town.  And that’s when he obviously met her.  And they traveled because he was in the Army.  They traveled extensively.  And they



had four children of their own.  And then of course, they settled there, bought this small farm, and that’s what I grew up on.  I had all sorts of chores to do.  And

I:          Nice life.

D:        Never did me any harm, no.  He was smart.  He was an ex-RSM, and then he got commissioned.  And when he said jump, I said how high, you know.  He was very disciplined.  But I don’t think he did me any harm, no.  And then,



I eventually joined the Air Force.  And I say, I left school at 14.

I:          Can I just ask about your schooling?  What was schooling like in Ireland? I mean what did you know of the world?  What did you know, how educated were you there?

D:        Well, when I started school, I can’t even remember starting school.  When people say they can remember this or remember that, I don’t remember starting school.  And I lived about two miles out in the country.  And I started off with school which had three classes.



I’d say I suppose I would be five when I started school.  Then you moved on to the second class.  Then you moved into the headmaster’s class which was the senior class.  There wasn’t a secondary school in Warrenpoint.  So, when I left there, I had to go to Uri every day by train.  And I went to a place called the Uri Model School which was a secondary school.  I don’t think I was a very bright student.  But



when I

I:          Did you know much about the world?  I mean, did you know about Asia and Korea?

D:        I suppose I knew more than a lot of kids, only as much as my grandfather, we had wireless, you know.  We didn’t have electricity in our house.  We had a wireless operator for battery.  And they obviously were interested in the world news and the whole War.  So, I was, I suppose, I would say I had to listen to it.


But I listened to it because that was the done thing in the house.  Korea, the only thing I could think about Korea was I used to save stamps when I was a kid.  And I always remember, I never thought of it till much later in life.  But I had Korean stamps would you believe, yeah.  And

I:          So, it had to register cause that’s really unusual cause most people have no idea where Korea was.

D:        Well, yeah.  I think because the radio was on,


I was interested in all things that were happening, you know.  And it was mainly the War in Europe.  And of course, I had three uncles.  And one of them, and they were all in Hong Kong.  They worked in Hong Kong.  The eldest one, he escaped and went to Australia.  And the other two were captured in Hong Kong because they were the Hong Kong Defense Force.  So, they were taken prisoners.  And my



eldest uncle’s son, Freddy, he got captured as well.  So, I had two uncles and a cousin who were prisoners of war in Hong Kong.  Stanley Road Prison it was, yeah.  So, I was interested in the War and how progress was and the Battle of Britain and all that sort of stuff. I was quite young.  But I was still interested.

I:          Yeah.
D:        So.

I:          And so you left school at 14.

D:        Yeah.
I:          And you had an interest in the military



That obviously you’re not allowed to join.  What did you do in the interim period?
D:        Well, when I left school, in the meantime, I should say in the meantime, my grandfather and grandmother had both died.  My grandfather died in 1945 actually.  But, and my mother who was living in Bristol then with my brothers and sisters, she came over in 1940 to look after them.  So, I hadn’t seen my family



since I was a kid, you know.  So, I was introduced to my new brother and sisters, that kind of thing.  When I left school at 14, I had to get a job.  So, I went to the, I was going to be a carpenter.  And I went to the Protestant, went to the Catholic firm to see if I could get a job there.  No.  But wouldn’t it be a good idea if you went to the Protestant firm?



This was Ireland at that time.  Went to the Protestant firm.  I still didn’t get a job as a carpenter.  So, I finished up in the cycle mechanic working for a Catholic firm would you believe.  But yeah.  I was a cycle mechanic.  So, in the meantime, my mother had spoken to the headmaster of the technical college in Uri and said I was interested in joining the Air Force.  And he said well, it would be, he looked at my sort of qualifications.  He said well, I think it’d be a good idea if he went to night tech and got himself



up to date with the exams he would require to be Royal Air Force aircraft apprentice.  So, at 16, they must have been desperate cause I did pass the exams, at 16 I joined up in the RAF as an apprentice which was a very good start.  It was a three-year apprenticeship.  And yeah.  I was in there from the age of 16, yeah.

I:          Was it as exciting



as you’d hoped it would be?

D:        Well, those three years was very disciplined.  We wore uniforms all the time.  Officially, you weren’t allowed to go out with girls unless you had a check from your parents saying you could do.  You weren’t allowed to drink.  But you know.  [INAUDIBLE]  So, it was pretty strict.  And the whole thing was General Service training, all you know, firing rifles and all,



drill and that kind of thing.  Lots of PT, lots of sports, education because we did proper education, you know, and technical training.  And the technical training covered everything, welding, metal repairs, hydraulics, pneumatics, braising, air conditioning, all sorts of things



that were associated with aircraft.  And our training aircraft were Spitfires and Hurricanes.  And I think we had a mosquito sometimes out there, yeah.  But yeah, it was good. I enjoyed it very

I:          Did you get up in the air?

D:        My first flight while I was an apprentice was in a Tiger Moth.  My second flight was in a Dominey, you know the twin, the biplane Dominey flown by a Polish pilot.  I always



remember that was, they were the only two flights I had while I was there.  But I enjoyed it.  In Ireland, at the schools I went to, we never had any sports.  Wednesday afternoon at my first school was gardening.  So, we all went in and looked after the headmaster’s garden.  He must have had the best garden in Ireland because we did that.  But no, sports.  None whatsoever.  So, when I joined the Air Force, of course I took advantage of every



opportunity to play sports.  Cross country.  And coming from a place where there was a sea, I wasn’t a swimmer.  But I, for some reason or other, went down swimming.  I just came to it, and I finished up getting my colors there for swimming and water polo and went on in the Air Force, played for the Air Force water polo and swimming.  So that was fine, yeah.



Then of course after three years, went on leave and then got my first posting which was down to South Wales, and we were working on Mach 3A and Mach4 Meachers doing major overhauls in aircraft that have crashed for rebuilding, that sort of thing.

I:          Where was that base?
D:        St. Athan down in South Wales near, between Cardiff and Berry.  Huge station.  And I



enjoyed that.  That was real interesting work.  And it was all metal repairs mainly and putting back systems together.  There were other aircraft there belonging to other outfits that were there.  In fact, I had the Lincolns there were training flight engineers.  And they had the, I’m trying to thing what the other one was.  The Briggins.  They came in there for servicing on [INAUDIBLE]



But I enjoyed my time there.  And that was a year, what they called improved training.  And while I was there, I met this Liberty Welsh girl who magically became my wife.  Anyway, I was then posted further into Wales, Pembroke Dock, onto sunken flying boats which was absolutely great, you see, because I like the water, although there was no facility to swim there.



There was.  I fell in once off an aircraft, and I couldn’t swim.  But there was no competitive swimming, so I didn’t do that there.  I enjoyed that.

I:          Was that assembling and training base?  Or was that an actual air base?
D:        That was an airbase with I think two squadrons.  I can’t remember the numbers of the squadrons.  I was on the maintenance side.  But I always remember, in my memoirs I put about



one morning, one Sunday weekend I was on duty cause we did weekend duty.  And we had an air test, and I went up in the Sunderland, did the air test.  And while we were up there, one engine caught fire. Anyway, we got back in the water, and we changed the engine on the water which you could do.  And that’s when I fell in. I slipped on the oily wing and fell in.  But I managed to recover.  I enjoyed that.  And then the next thing was



I had a PWR, Pre-warning, for overseas.  And I was posted to Seletar in Singapore on Sunderland Fire boats which are delighted, yeah.  And I wasn’t there very long.  And of course, the water is much warmer there should you fall in, that sort of thing.  But I, and I was experienced Sunderland man.  And suddenly this



notice came through, I got [INAUDIBLE] in the crew room would I report to the Orderly room [INAUDIBLE] so I went to the Orderly room, and they told me I was posted to Korea.  And of course, I came back to the crew room, and they said what was that all about cause they thought maybe I’d been in trouble.  And I said I’m posted to Korea.  Of course, everybody curved up. And I thought this is a typical service windup, you know, which you do get in the service.  Anyway,



about two days later, I realized I wasn’t, I wrapped up the odd jobs, cleared myself from the station and went to [INAUDIBLE]and took off in a Hastings, flew to Clark Field in the Phillipines, stayed there the night.  I mean, nowadays you’d whistle up quicker than that.  And next morning up early, and I landed in Iwakuni, Japan.  And



I don’t know what time it was. But it was in a snowstorm, and we’re still in [INAUDIBLE]. I  stayed there.  And four o’clock next morning, I was on the Dakota, Australian Dakota flying to Korea. So, it all happened very quickly.

I:          Very good.

D:        I should have said before I went to Korea, I was aware of Korea because we always had four Sunderland flying boats in Iwakuni who were doing the coastal work with the American Mariners, you know.


So, when I got to Iwakuni, I knew people who were on the detachment from Singapore.  They used to do something like a three-month detachment.

I:          Do you know, just while I think about it.  Do you know Stewart Hounds, Stewart Hounds.

D:        He was a wing command, well he was finished, He is the only Air Force man I ever meet when I go to any of the [INAUDIBLE] and what have you, yeah.

I:          What about Bob Brand?

D:        No.

I:          Bob Brand is



613 Squadron.

D:        Yeah.
I:          He was on Sunderland.  I interviewed him quite a few years ago now.

D:        Yeah.
I:          He was also in, he was at the very beginning of the War, though.

D:        Right, yes.

I:          I wanted to know that you knew Stewart cause obviously [INAUDIBLE]

D:        I knew Stewart.  Yes.  I have spoken to him, yeah.

I:          Okay.

D:        Remind me after to mention another RAF chap who was seconded to, he flew F86s.



Fellow [INAUDIBLE] John Boyle I think his name was.  I met him on a revisit to Korea.  I didn’t know him before, yeah.

I:          Okay.  And what were you, so Iwakuni.  Just what do you remember of Iwakuni as a base?
D:        Huge base.  There was the Royal Australian Air Force with Mustangs and Meacher’s. And the Americans had Mariners there which were an amphibian.



They’re either up on the airfield or in the water with the Sunderlands.  Huge base, yeah. I can’t remember, oh yes.  The B25s or 26s.  I’m trying to think what the name was.  They were a twin-engine American bomber.  They were also there.  I think they operated from there.  But it was.  It was a big base, huge base, yeah.



I:          Did you meet many of the Aussies there?
D:        I met a couple of Aussies. I met more Australian Army people than the Aussie airmen, yeah.  That went on to Korea, that’s what I meant.

I:          So, you picked up a story then.  You got to Korea.

D:        Well yeah.  Around 4:00 I left Iwakuni on an Aussie dock.  And we flew into


Pusan.  Busan they call it nowadays.  And then flew up to Seoul.  And then the next thing was [INAUDIBLE].  Well  you know, we don’t do that in the Air Force, and we marched to this, what do you call it?  It was a bombed-out school.  And that was the, what do you call it, the transit.  That was the transit place.  Anyway, we just stood in the playground.  I didn’t know what was going on.


I wasn’t the only Air Force guy there remember.  The only thing that identified me of course was my belly cause I’d handed my Air Force uniform in in Iwakuni.  So, we’re there.  Then these three Canadian CMCs, you know, the big trucks.  And they drove in, and they shouted anybody going up to the front?  And I thought well, that’s not me.  And this Sergeant, he said yeah, this is you mate,



cause I matched up with a few Aussies then.  And we got on the back of these TMCs they were.  And we rattled our way north cause remember, there weren’t any roads till the Americans built these earth roads, and they were corrugated.  And we just seemed to rattle way north.  And then

I:          When was this year?
D:        Nineteen fifty-two.  And when we got, the thing I always remember there was we dropped these two Canadians off



on the way up.  And they jumped over the tail board which you usually do.  And one of the Canadians left his finger behind, the ring severed his finger.  Anyway, we left them, and they went off to their little units cause I mean there are little units all the way up the main supply route, the MSR.  And it was beginning to get dark now cause it’d had been a long day.  And these Aussies said well, this is where you jump off, you see.



And I’m looking around thinking where the hell is this?  And they said well, go down between that little tract between the minefields, he said, and if you fall in the river, you’ve gone too far, Aussie humor.  So anyway, I went down there.  And we only had four aircraft.  And they were in revetments.  And you couldn’t really see much, just the odd tents.  And that was my arrival on 1903 Air Observation Flight.



And I was given two blankets and shared a tent with two artillery guys, you know, pongos.  And that was my introduction from Singapore which was, you could go out every night.  There was swimming cause that’s where I was swimming a lot there and all the rest of it.  But that was my introduction to Korea.

I:          And you did it.

D:        And of course,


What I remember there is we were right on the south bank of the Imjin River.  That’s where if you fall in the river, you’ve gone too far.  And of course, through the night, I could hear gunfire and all that sort of thing.  And I thought well, this is definitely a posting with a difference.  One hundred eighty-pound tent and two blankets and a couple of Army guys.

I:          Were you nervous?
D:        Nervous?  No.   I’d never been particularly nervous of most things, you know.  And it was



a new experience as far as I was concerned.

I:          It was amazing.  What an introduction for you.  I was gonna ask a bit more about it.  So obviously that was your night.  You wake up in the morning.  I don’t know if you slept well.  But describe the place.  What was there?

D:        The thing I remember, I mean this was my introduction to the Army remember.  There weren’t any trees out in Korea at that time because it had been



defloriated by the Japanese evidently for some reason or another.  But we had to go breakfast and then muster.  And I wasn’t sure, I had been encouraged by somebody.  But anyway, I was late on the muster parade.  I mean, when I’m late, they just started calling the roll just about.  And anyway, [INAUDIBLE] charge.  So my introduction to 1903



flight was being marched in in front of the CO who was a major on a charge.  And anyway, I explained the whole situation.  And I think it was to make me aware I was with the Army now.  Anyway, it was dismissed.  I went out, put my beret on, marched back in for my arrival interview.  And he said it was a bright start you’ve made, Grogan, you see.  And I thought well, here we go.  And I was gonna look after his aircraft



Cause we had the Headquarters flight as such with his aircraft, the CO’s, and then the other three ABC Companies sort of thing.  And from then on, we got along fine.  And I looked after, I mean, it was some transition from four-engine Sunderlands to these little Osters.  But I looked after it cause my interest.  I flew in it, you know.



So, it was good.

I:          What I wanted to know is talk a little bit about the Oster, what it was like for you to work on and what it was like to fly, what you remember of that.

D:        The Oster was a very basic aircraft. It was a metal tray covered with canvas which was really good inasmuch as it was a practical airplane out there whereas if we got a bullet hole, we would sew it up or put a patch on it.



Whereas the Americans had the L19. It was a metal airplane.  And it was harder to repair than ours.  So, it was very practical.  Ours were two-seaters.  The observer sat on the back on a little rotating seat.  And the pilot sat in the front with the big radio set beside him, I think the ATH sets or something like that.  When I was at Haltan, I was taught how to hand-swing aircraft.



And I thought make sure I don’t need that.  Sunderlands, I’m not gonna be doing that.  But when I went to Korea, I was doing that every day regularly cause they were all hand-swung aircraft.   There were no self-starters on them.  So, I was pretty proficient.  I even remember now, you know, the whole sequence of it which is throttle closed, brakes hard and all that sort of thing.  But yeah, went along fine.

I:          And you were communicating



that to the major, aren’t you?

D:        Yeah.  When you’re there and you stand outside, pilot’s inside and you go through switch off, [INAUDIBLE], throttle closed, brakes hard on, he would repeat.  And then you go in.  You prime it, turn the [INAUDIBLE] a few times.  And then you say switch is on, contact.  And it would start up.  Most times, it would start up, except in the winter.  It was a bit harder.  But yeah.



I:          I was going to ask you about winter.  [INAUDIBLE]  What was different about the aircraft and the maintenance of the aircraft and the flight of the aircraft in the winter versus the summer?

D:        Well, of course, they were all in the open anyway.  And the first thing we had to do was de-ice them.  And we had like a day, it was a hot air blower thing.  And we used to put it inside the wings, you know, because they were canvas, and it would de-ice it.



We’d have to give it lots of priming to get the oil a bit more fluid.  That was in the winter.  It worked. I mean, I think we were pretty good at making things work.  It was important to de-ice it.  The other thing was when we refueled the aircraft, we refueled it with jerry cans and a big filter.



And over the filter, we put chamois leather, the idea being, cause all our fuel came in 45-gallon drums.  So, we turned them into jerry cans.  And then we’d tip it through.  And the chamois made sure that there was no water that got into the system cause that’s the last thing you want in those cold conditions you see.  And we did it right through the year with all that sort of thing.  But they were very cold,



very cold.  There’s no heating in them as such, you know.  So, you wrapped yourself up well before you went flying.

I:          Did they have a bullet-proof top?

D:        No bullet-proof anything on them.  Somebody said they had armor plating under the floor.  I never saw any armor plating on the plywood floor.  It was a plywood floor.

I:          How was the speed? Was the height flat?

D:        Well, we used to fly around about 8,000’



which was high enough to be trying to clear of anti-aircraft and that kind of thing.  And it was a good observation height for the targets, you know.  It seems like it’s a long way up, 8,000’.  But it was a good height for that sort of observation. Mind you, we used to come down lower than that sometimes on the way back, but never mind.

I:          Okay.   Let’s talk a bit about your role on



The aircraft then as young engineers.  So, you had been on observations as well.

D:        Well yeah, occasionally.   They weren’t very keen on taking us because I think there’s one or two actually got shot down and were prisoners.  And there was lots of questions as to why, you know, there was an observer on board and that sort of thing.  During [INAUDIBLE], I mean, they used them regularly as observers.



But out there, wasn’t too keen on it, yeah.

I:          Okay.  And your  major, he was basic going between areas rather than that’s the observation over the lines or a bit of everything?
D:        It would all be, the artillery out there were the Royal Artillery, the Canadian Artillery and the New Zealand Artillery.  So, all communications would be with the Artillery batteries.  So, when they were getting airborne, the similar sets anyway, and of course all the communication was between them.



The idea being is when they fire a shot, they could tell them whether it was short, long, left or right and zero in on the targets and that kind of thing.

I:          How long were they flying for?
D:        Oh, could be up there for an hour, yeah.  Depends how many engagements they were doing, you know.

I:          Did the pilots fly with one of their ears uncovered so they could hear bullets and stuff?

D:        No.  I don’t know if I’ve got any photos.



But no.  They had proper headsets, yeah.

I:          Okay.  Were they armed at all?

D:        The pilots had a 9 mm revolver, you know.  And I used to think that’s a lot of good down there.  But no.  That’s all they carried, yeah.

I:          And you talked about, there were four flight on your base.

D:        There were four, yeah.  Four aircraft, and in each was a flight within its own sort of thing.



And a pilot would be, generally speaking, a pilot would be allocated to each of those.  But we obviously had a couple of extra pilots.  We had a Canadian pilot, Australian and New Zealand pilots I think.  And the rest were Royal Artillery pilots.

I:          And did you ever lose any?

D:        In my time, one.  In fact, it got back, and it flew into the



hill across the other end because it had been, I think it had been wounded or something like that.  So, we only lost one in my time, yes.

I:          What was that like?  It was a tiny little base, isn’t it?  The morale.

D:        Yeah. I can’t remember anything.  I tell you what we did lose.



Our CO had changed, and he was, I can’t remember his name now.  But he had gone over to the Headquarters which wasn’t terribly far away, the Commonwealth Division Headquarters.  And he’d been over to have a look at the new Austin Chomp, you know?  And he was coming back in his own jeep, coming down the side of the, cause we had to cross



an earth runway, and he was coming down the side, I don’t know, he must have heard it.  But there was three or four American F84s flying down.  Occasionally, they’d fly down.  Anyway, what happened was one of them had been shot up.  And as he turned, the bottom of the earth strip, they sat four across in turn cause they would,



Any crushed aircraft or any shot up aircraft normally tried to make it to our little strip.  And that killed our CO.  And that was a morale, you know, lowerer really.  There were some very sad people cause he was an excellent Co.

I:          Terrible accident.

D:        Terrible accident.  And yeah.  I’ve got photographs of that.  And the American pilot, when we got to him cause the aircraft had broken up, and they were,



and he said I’m sorry about your guy, you know.  We pulled him out, and he went off.  But our CO, it killed him.  I’ve got photographs of the jeep and all.  I don’t know where the camera came from.  But that was the saddest thing I think on our lot, yeah.  We had another one, he was Captain Perkins, finished off with a general, Ken Perkins.  He and Ken Goodfield,



he was one of the airmen.  They were returning, and they flew down the river on the river patrol, and they hit a steel cable that was across the river.  And Ken Goodfield was killed by drowning, swept away.  We didn’t find him for a few days.  And the pilot, he got out, Ken Perkins, yeah.  That was probably



a morale thing.  And the other one we had was a guy who was in his tent and it caught fire.  I don’t know how.  And he burned in the tent.  So, they were little things that do affect people, yeah.  But I think we’re pretty, I think in those situations you’re pretty resilient and, you know, life goes on I guess, yeah.

I:          Were you ever



striked or attacked by Chinese?

D:        No.  In fact, the Koreans or Chinese, they never had any aircraft.  They used to have what we called Bed Check Charlie.  It was a little aircraft that went flying around.  But I don’t know what it did. It used to fly around in the evening, you know.  And no, never.

I:          Did you ever have journalists and the like come and visit you?



D:        Yes we did.  I ‘m trying to think.  He was, I can’t remember his name.  But he was one of the big journalists at that time.  And I always remember he wanted to show us these films that he’d taken while he’d been out there.  And I wasn’t particularly interested in them, you know.  We see enough of it ourselves, you see.  And I said this,



And my CO said to me you will, cause we were quite close within the thing, you will attend that, Corporal Grogan.  I thought well, there you go.

I:          It wasn’t Dryberg, was it?  It wasn’t Thoms Dryberg?

D:        No.  I can’t, the name doesn’t come to me.  But he was one of the pretty famous war correspondents.  The thing that I wasn’t, when I went there, the thing that fascinated me



taking a picture of this bit of ground with a little track, and it was Americans.  And this guy, big black man, had been shot.  And he was sort of laying across the track.  And this, for some reason, fascinated this correspondent inasmuch as there was this big man, you know.  And suddenly he was dead.  I could never get my head around why it was so important to him.



We’d seen dead people before, you know.  But this black man was a huge black man.  There’s no doubt about it, you know.  Brought down by a bullet.  I suppose that was [INAUDIBLE]

I:          Interesting.  What about R and R and [INAUDIBLE] and the like?  Did you have much down time?

D:        I had, I think we were supposed to have a couple of R and Rs while you were out there.  And most of us only had, I don’t know what they did for the down South.  But up with us,



One R and R people generally got in.  And that was good.  I always remember when I went, we went down to K16 which would have been Seoul Airport I suppose later.  And we all got fell in, and we marched out to, it was the biggest aircraft at the time. It was a double decker.  It must have been,



I can’t remember what it was.  Anyway, it was the biggest aircraft at the time.  And one lot marched upstairs, and the other lot marched downstairs, that kind of thing.  And I was fascinated by the size of this huge airplane. Anyway, and then of course, we flew to Iwakuni.  And we were then bussed to, we were flown to Tokyo, sorry.  And then we went to a place called Ibasu Camp which was an R and R camp.  And the thing I always remember there was we took all our clothes off,



and we went to a shower.   And that was, the funny things you remember.  I always remember it was lovely scented soap with the shower, that was probably my first shower for six months or more.  And we went out the other side and get fresh clothing.  We kept our berets obviously and things like that.  But I always remember that.

I:          Was that the camp where you were assigned a Japanese girl [INAUDIBLE]

D:        Yeah.



I:          Beautiful little girls there, yeah.

D:        Kraken girls, yeah.  And yeah, it was very good.  But, and of course I being the only Air Force guy, of course, I kept up with Aussies.  I always seemed to click up well with Aussies.  And of course, I did a lot of the things they did, downtown and all the rest of it.  But the only trouble with the Aussies was they always had this hatred of the Japanese. When they used to get drunk, they’d start beating them up, you know.



And I can remember being in one, and the MPs came in, you know.  And I disappeared fast cause I couldn’t get caught up with this all.  But I liked the Aussies.  They were a great crowd.  And as long as you could give back the banter and the insults, you get along fine with them, yeah.  But yeah.  R and R was good.  The reason, I suppose I could say I had two



R and Rs because I went off and joined the HMS Glory. I went over to Iwakuni.  I got on a night train up to Sasebo, joined the ship, and we sailed that day or whatever.

I:          What year was that?  Was that 1953?

D:        That would most probably be early ’53 when I went on the Glory.  It was probably yeah.  It would have been.

I:          When you were basically told you were gonna leave, what was the airbase called where you were in Korea?



D:        Fort George.

I:          That was the name of the

D:        Well, Fort George was the Headquarters of the Commonwealth Division.  And it was Fort George Airstrip, yeah.

I:          What were the circumstances around you leaving Fort George then?  You were just told we need you somewhere else?  I know the Army didn’t give you a reason, to the Glory, yeah.

D:        I think, I don’t know.  Maybe my CO did something or other.  He just said, you know,



You can, I fixed you up with a trip on the HMS Glory.  So, I did one patrol with them, you know.  And came back and left then.  I committed the unforgiveable sin when I joined the Glory, you know.  You’re allocated to a mess.  And they offer you rum.  And with rum, there’s sippers, gulpers, and see it off.  I didn’t know anything about that.



And they offered me sippers, and I saw it off.  I never lived it down.  My son was in the Fifth Army, and I always tell him, I said you’re on guard, yeah, you’re lucky you got away.  But they don’t issue rum now.  But it was good.  I enjoyed that.  I went down into the hangar and helped with metal repairs cause I’d done a lot of metal repairs.  And I’d go up on the gopher’s deck, what they called it, and watch the aircraft operations.



And it was very interesting, very impressed with how smooth it all goes, you know.  They’re a great lot of guys, yeah.

I:          Did many kind of miss the capture lines and jump into the net?

D:        One time it bounced and knocked off a couple of our serviceable cause always they land, and then they taxi forward to the front line.  And I think it was one. I don’t know whether they missed or whether they,



I think it was possibly the pilot was injured or something like that.  And he bounced on down and knocked off a couple of serviceable airplanes at the front line.  That was the only major one that I saw.  It was quite interesting watching them taking off, you know, when they sort of dip down in a way.  And they always have a helicopter standing by to pick up anybody knocking the thing, yeah.  And I actually, I went up with a batsman,



Up to the net there where he is. I just wanted to see that side of it cause it was interesting doing all sorts of things.  And I got up there.  And that’s quite a thing to see doing this sort of thing.  What was the other thing?  I don’t know where his neighbor wound up.  But when the aircraft is steaming or the carrier is steaming, of course there’s a good old wind on the deck.  So, if you’re going across, he said, don’t try going across because you’ll finish up going down.  Go across



sideways, you see.  And of course, I did that a couple of times.  And I ‘ve got a feeling that up in the bridge and all the rest, they’re saying you know, he’s been told that by these guys cause that’s typical Navy, you know.  But it worked.  It definitely worked.  But I think I could have run across and landed.  And then I had, it’s tradition that you go ashore for the last night.  And they introduced me to tori whiskey.



It was a Japanese whiskey.  And oh boy, that last night on board.  I left a very hungover person the next morning.  Got on the train, went back to Iwakuni, back down to Kuree actually, and then Iwakuni, went across and got to Ukurni, got another airplane back to Korea.

I:          How long were you in Fort George?  Were you there till the Armistice?

D:        I left about two months before


the Armistice, yeah.  And, it must have been about two months before, yeah.

I:          Before I sort of move away from it, are there any other stories that you can remember from your time at the base?
D:        When we say it’s a base, it was, actually when I first went there, we were at the east end of the airstrip.



And there was pintail bridges which was, the MSR crossed over there.  And then we moved down to the west end of it.  And 1913 Light Liaison Flight who, their job was really, I think they had a Mark 6 protecting their own senior officers and people between different parts of the country.  They moved in at the top end.



So, we were down at the bottom end.  I don’t know, about three months before I came back or before I left there, they were short of a Corporal on 1913 flight.  So, I was sent down there to look after 1913 cause we had two Corporals by now.  So, 1913, I left them which was a shame.  But we were only at the end of the strip.  So, I could still keep in contact with my mates.



Nineteen thirteen

I:          Same things, Osters?

D:        Same, yeah.  I think we had Mark 6, and they had Mark, similar in the side-by-side seats where I was with the LOP.  We had one seat for the pilot, the radio took there, and you sat in this swivel seat behind.  Going back a couple of years ago, I went to a reunion.


I couldn’t even get in that back, into the back seat cause it was a very cramped little airplane, very small airplane.  The thing about the Oster was the undercarriage was very basic.  It was a cantilever.  And on the inside of that, it was bungees, no hydraulics or anything like that, bungees.  So, you used to put these two bungee cords on it. It gave you that springiness.  So we used to get like a car jack,



wind it up, slip the bungees on, and you could fix it.  The brakes, maybe I was going somewhere, we’d land on a better road or something like that.  And we used the brakes a bit hard.  We used to just lift the brake, I can lift the aircraft, stick a stone under the back, bring the little star wheel up which used to be same on cars, like a Bendix brake it was, bring it up, having adjusted the brakes, away we go again.  It was basic, but very practical, that little airplane.



I:          What was the take off speed, 100, 50?
D:        No, I’d say about 70 and 80, yeah.  I’d say so, yeah.  Never quite remember.  But depends how many there are.  One time, we were over on the American front  And the pilot came in, and we stuffed three of us I think it was in the aircraft.  We just about got airborne.


And when we got back, they were going how many are in there.  But yeah.  Very versatile little airplane.

I:          Do you remember seeing the front line when you were over there?

D:        It was a bit like, they all compare it to the first World War, don’t they?  There were two static lines then.  We used to,



I don’t know if I ever could, I’ve got it in my mind.  I knew where the Hook was.  I knew where 355 was and all the different hills that we occupied.  The Marines were on our left.  And beyond it which was very often that’s where the targets were, that kind of thing.  No.  I’ve no sort of real,



I can remember that side of it, you know.  You’re flying over terrain, and you were looking for targets and stuff like that.  I know coming back once with Ken Perkins who I was flying with him at that time, and we decided to come down low.  And we flew up over the back of the Chinese lines and back to the base.  And I always remember at one of our reunions cause we have little reunions,



Well, we did have, he was saying we were about 100’, he said, when we came back over the Chinese.  I said I never saw any bushes grow to 100’ in Korea cause he was the one, in fact, who was flying the aircraft when Ken Goodfield got killed.

I:          He’s a bit of a maverick.

D:        Well, he was a good pilot.  Oh God.



He could put things down.  And I used to look and say well what’d we get, it’s alright landing.  But will we get off from there, you know, that kind of thing.  I did a couple of things like that with him.  But we saw Chinese jumping around because we were coming up so down low.  But other than that, no.

I:          Great fun.

D:        It was fun.  It was good. I think it’s your own business.  You’re indestructible.  It’s not gonna happen to you.


That’s the way I always thought of it. I never thought of not coming back sort of thing, yeah.  Plus, the fact we were back from the line anyway.  And yeah.  As I say, when people say what do you remember about Korea, I always say it was bloody cold.  And of course, the Americans, in the winter.  Then of course, it was the wet season.  We’re up to our blinking eyes in mud and taxiing aircraft in muddy, cause there was that talk, that kind of thing.



But well, I’ve got pictures of mud, mud and more mud type thing.  We didn’t have heaters in our tents.  The Americans had commercially made heaters.  They were like two great saucepans, one on top of the other with sand on the bottom.  And they had a proper metering system on it.  And then two hooked to a jerry can, the proper adapter to the jerry can.  So you ran the fuel in onto that,



and then you lit it.  And you could adjust it.  We didn’t have those.  So, we made our own from ammo tins.  And I did a drawing for my memoirs to show people what it was like.  They were good, you know.  You twisted with a wire around to control the rate of fuel into it.  If you got it too high, the tin would glow red and would start going up the chimney which was



the shell, the things that the shells came in, yeah.  But they were good, yeah.  And the other thing I remember, you could make a cup of tea, and you could walk from about here to halfway up the garden, and it would crack an ice over before you got that far.  And the night patrols.  It could be -60 with the wind blowing, and your nose would freeze up.  And it was bloody cold.  And we didn’t get parkas



until way later on.  And we didn’t get sleeping bags until way later on.  And mine was white.  I always remember they gave us white sleeping bags.  But other people said they had khaki ones.  But you think climbing into that with your boots and clothes on, it was a lighter shade of gray when I handed it in to be burned I suppose.

I:          What about wildlife.  Did you see snakes and deer and goats?

D:        I didn’t see any, they might have been down south.


But where we were, what I did see, I mean there was supposed to be these like big cats.  I never saw one of those.  I think a lot of those kind of things had perished because of the War.  But the one thing that I always remember was a snake.  And it had a frog in its’ mouth cause you know, they’ve got big mouths.  And it was obviously, cause they

I:          Digesting it.

D:        Well yeah.  And the frog’s eyes



were bulging.  It was, I always remember that.  And the other thing I always remember when we went for Ken Goodfield’s body down the river, coming across a whole pit full of snakes, water snakes.  And I had my stun gun, and I let it fly into this, and they were flying all over the place, out into the river, and they were coming back at us.

I:          When you were on the Imjin, did you ever see any of the rafts floating down that the



Chinese would use to try and knock the bridges down?

D:        No.  The only thing I saw in the wet season cause it used to rise about 40’ I think, was, oh God, trees, hootchies from probably villages or something.  And of course, the greatest danger was we had the pintail bridge which was beside us which was a very high bridge, was the damage that that might do.  And that was the idea, I think, of that cable



that Ken Perkins hit was to try and catch a lot of our stuff before it hit the bridge, you know.  But no, I never saw any of that, no.

I:          What about the locals?  Did you meet many of the Korean locals?
D:        No because, I mean, the locals were mostly down beyond Seoul.  Our area was just very active, any



Koreans.  The only Koreans we had were the, what we called Kat coms, Koreans that touched the Commonwealth Division.  And they were mostly older people.  And we’d use them as sentries and stuff like that.  But no.  The only time we’d see Koreans if you went back down to Seoul or beyond, very few beyond that.

I:          Okay.  John Boyle.

D:        Yeah.  John.



When I went in 2010, this chap was there. And he was seconded to the U.S. Air Force flying F86s, yeah.

I:          Okay.  And you left just before the Armistice.  How did you feel, were you ready to leave?  Did you want to come home?


D:        What I’d forgotten to say was when I was at Pembroke Dock and I got this posting to, you know, overseas, I’d fallen in love with this girl from St. Athan, you know, Alantric Major was the name of the place.  And of course, I thought I can’t wait till I come back. I was going to Singapore.  So, I asked her to marry me.  But of course, I couldn’t get married because I wasn’t 21.  You had to have your mother’s permission.  My mother very reluctantly gave me permission.



And we got married.  And she was only 17.  We went on a bus, and we got married in the Registry Office on a special license.  So, yes.  And of course,

I:          So, you’d married before you came out.

D:        I’d married before I went to Korea, yeah.  As I said, I wasn’t 21 because I think I was 19 or something like that.  And my mother very reluctantly gave me permission.  But anyway, we got married.  And of course, my first draft



was going out, was held back.  So, I had a couple more weekends with her.  And she was pregnant.  And she wanted to stay at home to have the baby rather than come out to Singapore to me.  But of course, in the meantime, I was posted to Korea.  And I didn’t want to tell her cause it would be FPO numbers, wasn’t it.  And so they sent a telegram to me on the Far East Flying Boat Wing to tell me that I’d gotten to be a father and al the rest of it.



And then it was sent.  It was sent by sea mail up to Korea.  So, I eventually got it cause the mail wasn’t all that brilliant.  So, I got it some time later.  So, I had a little daughter to come home to.  She was 22 or 23 months old when I first saw her.  Little bogo didn’t want to know me.

I:          Wow.

D:        So yeah.  I was ready to come home.  First, I’d been away,



it was a three-year tour in Singapore.  If my wife had come out to me, I most probably wouldn’t have gone to Korea.  And I’ve got no regrets.  It’s part of my life.  It made me see things a lot different.  It made me aware of camaraderie under those circumstances.

I:          Life and death as well.

D:        It was, yeah.  But no.



I’ve got no regrets. It was an interesting part of my life, I guess.

I:          How do you feel about the sort of misnomer that it’s a forgotten war and having witnessed what you’ve experienced, having sacrificed your time, your missing your daughter, etc.  How does that make you feel?

D:        Yeah.  As I say, I was listening to a radio cast this morning, and they’re talking about all the soldiers who were killed



since the Second World War.  And the lesser wars in the meantime.  No mention of Korea.  You know, there’s Afghanistan.  I’m not taking anything away from the guys, I mean.  But no mention of Korea.  And [INAUDIBLE], when you think of bomber command, how many airmen were lost in the Second World War, not just soldiers you know.  But yeah.



It is a forgotten war because I’ve mentioned to people, where was that, you know, and that kind of thing.  But I don’t lose any sleep over it.  But it just is a wee bit annoying. And I say, as an example this morning, I listened to them talking and I thought well, there’s no mention of that lesser war.  And I mean, when you think of how many people died out there and how many people were wounded, just British or Commonwealth people,



Yeah.  I got mentioned in dispatches out there, and people say well, what was that for.  Well, I don’t know what it was for.  I did my job.  But I can only think that on one occasion we had an aircraft went down on the north side of the river.  And we recovered that.  And I was in charge of that.  But

I:          How do you recover an aircraft?

D:        I’ve got a picture of it, on the back of a three-toner.  You take the wings off



those things fairly quickly.  And I can’t remember if we took the engine off or not.

I:          So, you went into the DMZ area, did you?
D:        Yeah, this area.  And then we brought it back to the river.  The Canadians provided a raft.  We put it on a raft, and we got to the other side cause of the flow of the river.  And then we put it on a three-toner and brought it back.  I’ve got photographs of the aircraft.


I:          It must have been quite exciting to go over the



River cause you’ve obviously flown over it.  And then you

D:        I’d been over the river quite a few times and up towards the front, that sort of thing.  But I suppose, I’m just trying to think what would be going on in my mind at the time.  I mean, it was all an adventure I guess, you know.  I never, how many people for the most part probably went out there ever thought that they wouldn’t come home, that kind of thing, you know.



It’s the old business you’re young and indestructible.  But yeah.

I:          Did you enjoy swimming in the Imjin?
D:        I had a couple swims in the Imjin, yeah.  In fact, that chap who died in the aircraft when it hit the sea wall, Ken Goodfield, he couldn’t swim.  And I remember teaching him to swim in the Imjin.  And I thought well, when he went and crashed in there,



obviously I hadn’t taught him enough.  Mind you, the river, when it’s like that, it’s flowing very harshly.  But yeah. I swam.  Well, it was a good way of doing a wash, wasn’t it, because in the wintertime, I mean, I don’t tell people cause they won’t believe it.  But you know the metal tins that 20 cigarettes used to come in?  We used to get free issue, 20 cigarettes.  And one of those full of water



on top of this ammo box fire thing, and we’d wash and shave in that in the wintertime, you know.  But no, we never had any showers.  Somebody said you smelled.  I said we most probably all smelled.  It wouldn’t matter.  But yes. It was nice to swim in the Imjin in the summertime, yeah, cause the summers were nice there, yeah.  It was just the winter, the wet season and then the summer, yeah.  Summers were quite pleasant, yeah.



I:          Well Dennis, that’s a lovely interview.  Really interesting as well.  I’m so pleased there’s a RAF in there.  I mean, obviously about the Sunderland’s, you know, to have observation flight and to have a story so close, you know, to the front line.  And you’re a great orator as well.  So, thank you very much.