Frank Bewley was born in London, England, in 1931. He grew up and had an interest in the military, so he joined the Royal Navy in 1948. Throughout his interview, he shares what it was like during his service, including traveling to many different countries. He explains how he knew very little about Korea and really only learned about it from servicemen who had been there. However, he was soon sent to Korea and served on the HMS Glory. He remembers what life was like on the aircraft carrier and what it was like to prepare for Korea. He also recalls how he felt when he lost the pilot assigned to his squadron. Frank Bewley is proud of his service.
Previous Knowledge of Korea
Frank Bewley explains how he first heard about Korea, a place he knew little about even though he had read a lot about other places. He knew that a few aircraft from World War II were there. He explains that he got newspapers with a little information, but most of the updates came from servicemen who had been there.
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Serving on the HMS Glory
Frank Bewley served on the HMS Glory during the Korean War. He explains what it was like to be on this aircraft carrier, including the work that he had to do and how the squadrons were broken up with various engineers. He also shares about the living conditions, explaining that he did not like where they had to sleep.
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Life on the Carrier
Frank Bewley explains what it was like on the carrier while preparing for Korea. He remembers the items, including food and weapons that were loaded. He also explains how they had to travel with the wind for support, clean the windows, and run routine pre-flight checks.
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Losing a Pilot
Frank Bewley shares what it was like to lose the pilot assigned to his squadron. He remembers feeling “lost” when his aircraft was gone. He also explains how he knew the pilot’s story so it was really hard to know that he was gone.
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[Beginning of recorded material]
- Bewley: My name is Frank Bewley. I was born in Hammersmith in London on the 25th of May 1931. I joined the Royal Navy on the 7th December 1948 as a volunteer, so I went to Korea as a volunteer rather than a National Serviceman. I was already in the Services.
Interviewer: Why did you . . . ? Hammersmith isn’t well known
for being, being a sea, sea nation, so why did you have a calling for the Navy?
Bewley: Well, during the war, when I was at school, I wanted to go to the School of Engineering and Navigation at Poplar, but it was evacuated to, down to the West Country. So that was my ambition, to join the, first the Merchant Marine as a . . . on the engineering or the officer side. But when my Dad
returned from the Second World War, from Burma, he refused to let me be evacuated again, even though it was after the war, to the school at . . . which was somewhere down in Devon.
Bewley: So I waited until I was seventeen and a quarter and then volunteered for the Fleet Air Arm. I wanted to do a trade and I picked aviation. So that’s what happened.
Interviewer: When you were in . . . Obviously you were in London for the war, for the Blitz, what . . .
Bewley: No, I was evacuated to Cornwall most of the time, and then towards . . . Just before the flying bombs started, the V1s, I came, returned to London, back to my original school, and carried on schooling at Addison Gardens School at Hammersmith, well, Shepherd’s
Interviewer: Do you think that your . . . ? Had you been to the coast when you . . . before the War?
Bewley: Er, only for holidays. But I did, did like Cornwall, because, initially, while I was at work, I went down and worked for six months on the fishing boats, out of Newlyn, from where I was evacuated, to Penzance. I went on the boat there. But it was a very hard life.
Interviewer: Yeah, yeah, but that sort of . . . You got a taste for the sea?
Bewley:A taste for the sea, yes.
Interviewer: And when you were being schooled, you know, obviously you had some . . . Did you ever know about this place called Korea?
Bewley: No, I never, never really heard of Korea at all.
Interviewer: Even though your father had been to Burma, in the Far East?
Bewley: No, I . . . I was well read, too, about Malaya, Singapore, Indonesia, but Korea didn’t . . . It was only reading old Second World War
about the Japanese occupation of the China area that I realised they had Korea first. But when . . . The more you read about Korea, the more you realised they used the Koreans for labour, for really low labourers. They, they had a terrible life. They used them for most of the menial tasks that the Japs wanted doing, they used
the Koreans. Plus they must have used Chinese, but . . . So that’s the only way I knew that they had occupied the Korean Peninsula. I didn’t realise what they, how they split it up, after the Second World War. You know, this again was because Russia had gone into Japan towards the end of the war, when they
weren’t anywhere near it and they went in there and caused havoc at the end when they then had to decide with the, like, General McArthur and that, who was going to have which on the peninsula.
Interviewer: Let’s move to your volunteering to the Fleet Air Arm, and that early . . . some of the early things that you got up to, pre-Korea.
Bewley: Well, before the Korean War, I was based on a squadron at the Royal Naval Air Station at Culdrose
and we had various aircraft and they were trying things to go ahead. For instance, they had a Vampire, which is a jet aircraft, and they were trying to land on the carriers with no undercarriage, so we had rubber under the fuselage and a chap called Commander Brown, who recently has been on the news and has recently died, a very famous flier,
he was the Commander of the squadron that we had there, and they tried all these things on the carriers. Which . . . It didn’t work, but they did try it, to try and make aircraft lighter by having no undercarriage. So, it used to land on . . . come back to the airfield and then put the wheels down in the normal way. And they had Sea Hawks, Attacker, which were other jet aircraft. So, I was mainly . . .
before I went to Korea, I was mainly on the, working on the jet aircraft, whereas in the Korean War, because they wanted . . . All the American aircraft which were jets were a very short period over the front line, so they wanted piston aircraft, so they would have longer over the front line, they hover, they get called in and then they go into the attack, to ground support the troops.
So they would . . . The squadron that we formed in May 1952 were old Second World War type Firefly 5s which had a pilot and a, an observer in the back. So, our, that was our squadron. The other squadron that was going was 801 Squadron with the Sea Fury aircraft, again a fighter
to give cover when you were doing the attacks. So we formed up at RAF . . . The Royal Navy Air Station at Machrihanish, which is on the Mull of Kintyre, in the May, then . . .
Interviewer: Obviously the war broke out in ’50, you’re working on aircraft . . . Which aircraft carrier were you on? Were you on the Glory then?
Bewley: No, no, no, up until, right up until 1952
I was either at the Royal Naval Air Station at Culdrose, or at the Royal Naval Air Station at St Merryn, near Padstow. Again, both had naval squadrons. When they weren’t on the ships, they were with us on shore, and we did ordinary servicing, training the pilots for the various roles.
Interviewer: Did you ever have a preference for the St Merryn?
Bewley: Well, I liked
to be in Cornwall. Padstow is nice, or you could go out to Newquay or Padstow, it’s a nice area. I did like Cornwall. And the locals were very friendly to the Navy as well. If you went out at the weekends, they looked after you.
Interviewer: Did you go down to Padstow?
Bewley: I used to go to Padstow, or I’d go on . . . A chap used to take me on a motorbike down to Penzance, because I kept in touch with the people
I’d been evacuated to.
Interviewer: When did you first know that Korea had happened, then?
Bewley: Well, obviously, we used to get the, the Naval News and in the ‘50s you had the . . . I think it was either the HMS Theseus was already out in the Far East, but it only had Seafires and . . . I don’t know what the other aircraft . . . I think they did have Firefly, Firefly 4s, really old
Second World War aircraft. So initially, HMS Triumph was probably the first carrier that went out there. The other carrier that was there was a, like a double decker carrier called HMS Unicorn, which was a maintenance carrier, and they used to use that to service the aircraft, to take them backwards and forwards between Japan and Singapore,
where most of the naval people were based at RAF Sembawang, at Singapore. But you got the news . . . You got very little in the newspapers about Korea at all, it . . . most of it had to come via Service sources. People came back and said what it was like.
Interviewer: What do you remember of being told that you were going to move from a . . .
a land base to an aircraft carrier?
Bewley Well, you regularly went on a carrier for small, short sessions to do tests or trials with certain aircraft. I mean, the aircraft . . . the carrier used to steam off the shore near Falmouth and the aircraft took off from Culdrose and landed on, and we went out on small boats and then joined the carrier,
went off for maybe two or three weeks and then came back to base again. And the other thing they did at Culdrose, of course, was the observer training place, so they had the helicopters. So, all the destroyers had choppers on board, and again they would come back on shore when the ship was in harbour, and that’s the routine of the Fleet Air Arm at that time.
Bewley: But they didn’t send you
to war situations until you were aged 21, so you mainly were in areas adjacent to other air stations around the British Isles, like Heglington in Northern Ireland or up in Scotland. You could be on a ship but you wouldn’t be in operational waters.
Interviewer: When did you know that you were going to join the Glory and become a . . .
a member of its crew, as it were?
Bewley: Well, during April, I suddenly got a message on the . . .
Interviewer: Which year? Sorry. April . . .?
- Bewley: Sorry, April 1952. As I say, I’d only just got married to my first wife, in April, and suddenly on the notice board, pinned up, ‘You’ve been posted to 821 Squadron, which . . . for Korean preparation, for
Korean service, later in the year. We didn’t actually know what date we were going to arrive in Korea, and we didn’t know that we were going to relieve HMS Ocean, which was the ship which was already out there, operating. But that, eventually, it came to be known that we’d got until May to November, when we were aimed to be
on operations in Korea, to get organised, trained, both for the ground staff and for the aircrew, to learn to operate as a . . . on a war footing.
Interviewer: Right, OK. And had you been on the Glory before? Had the Glory been one of . . .
Bewley: No, no. No, I hadn’t. Never been on the Glory. I’d been on HMS Illustrious, I’d been on Victorious, Indomitable, all the various carriers
Interviewer: How did the Glory compare?
Bewley: Well, it . . . It’s a light fleet carrier, much smaller than the big fleet carriers, much more friendly because you, you knew more people. It wasn’t so large. But there again, it tended to roll. I was always . . . Once I left harbour on HMS Glory, I was always seasick at first, every time. I never got used to it.
Interviewer: Yeah. And the Glory had a great . . . a great history, didn’t it? Because it was where the peace treaty was signed. Wasn’t it HMS Glory where the . . .?
Bewley: Yes, yes. They had that over in Japan, that’s right.
Interviewer: Yeah, so that was nice.
Bewley: And that did all the repatriation runs from . . . People that were released from Japan, they put more bunks in the, in the aircraft hangers and they shipped them out. They used that carrier to go to Canada and various places,
taking back the people that had been prisoners of war.
Interviewer: It was still a relatively new carrier as well, wasn’t it? Wasn’t it . . .
Bewley: Yes, it was. It wasn’t made until the latter part of the War.
Interviewer: OK. And, so, you said it was a friendly sort of thing . . . Just give me some idea of the layout and the areas that you worked in, on board.
Bewley: Ah, well, you mainly operate either in the hanger deck,
or on the deck itself, out in the open, unfortunately. If you had work that was mainly over four hours, you were going to do an engine change or something on the wings, or wheel changes or something, then you’d have to go down into the hanger. There’s no way you could do that, something on jacks, on the flight deck.
But all the refuelling and stuff had to be done on the flight deck, of course, out in the open, with all the fire precautions that there are. And unfortunately, some of those things have to be done in inclement weather, when it’s raining or snowing, because in the Korean operations, we actually had snow, on deck. But you do, you do
learn to do the things you can down in the hanger, as much as you could.
Interviewer: And in how many . . . Were you operating out of a mess?
Bewley: Each squadron had different mess decks, which were down well below decks, where the whole group of maybe 14 people
had one – – Well, I’ve got a picture on there, you can see. You had one mess deck table with two seats and a wall cupboard which had all your pots and pans, cups, saucers. And everything you had, you had to go away and collect from the canteen in trays and walk back with it, back to the mess deck, and then dish it out to each other.
And then, of course, you had to wash up all your pots and pans.
Interviewer: And how many men in your mess?
Bewley: Well, as I say, between 12 and 14.
Interviewer: And you were all engineers, were you?
Bewley: They were all engineers, either airframes, engines, radio, all the different aircraft trades.
Interviewer: So would each mess be the different trades, or were you all
Bewley: No, no, all the . . . For instance, all the engine room staff from the actual ship were in different mess decks. You were split. So, the Fleet Air Arm people were messed completely separate from the, like, stokers and various sea trades.
Interviewer: Do you know how many Fleet Air Arm crew there were on the Glory?
Bewley: Er, about
six or seven hundred. Yes, it was still quite large, but not as many as on one I . . . later on, I went on HMS Ark Royal, which was a . . . as opposed to 17, 18-thousand-ton carrier to a 60 thousand ton carrier. Much more facilities, and they had proper mess decks, you ate in the proper meal rooms. But not on a light fleet carrier.
Bewley: Because, don’t forget, we had to use hammocks, we didn’t have bunks like they do now. Everyone had a hammock, terribly uncomfortable things to sleep in. I don’t like them,
Interviewer: You never got used to them?
Bewley: No, didn’t like them. Well, you – – The body’s the wrong shape. It’s a complete curve, a terribly uncomfortable thing.
Interviewer: I’ve met many a sailor who,
you know, didn’t mind a hammock.
Bewley: No, I even had a, camp beds, in, in the hanger. I’d rather sleep in the hanger. But it was a bit draughty because they invariably had each, the front and rear lift, slightly down to allow the air to come through and it would be a bit draughty. And of course, the deck’s vibrating, the steel deck, all the time. But it, at least you had a
comfortable bed to lie on!
Interviewer: Ok, so let’s, let’s talk a bit about, you know, setting sail, leaving your wife and . . . When was that and did you have any emotions about it or was it just . . .
Bewley: Well, yeah, it was . . . I was looking forward to the first time going abroad, of course, I was looking forward to it, I didn’t . . . It was a bit of a shock to get it so quickly after just getting married to my first wife, but there you are. We had no children, obviously, and
it was going to be an adventure.
Interviewer: And just describe the adventure, you know, of getting over to the . . .
Bewley: Well, we then . . . As I say, we went to Machrihanish and we started to train there until eventually we joined the ship to head out to, eventually, to Hal Far, but of course on the way we did various trips, like one of the things, we visited Spain. HMS Glory was the first
Royal Navy ship to go during Franco’s time and we berthed alongside in Barcelona and let the Spanish come on board and have a look round the ship, wander round and look at the aircraft. It was quite an adventure for us, and them, because you only read about Spain in the newspapers and this . . . But it was odd, because when you walked in Barcelona, on all street corners you’d see
armed police and soldiers, because in Franco’s time they were very still militiaristic and . . . quite a shock, really.
Interviewer: Yeah, and it’s amazing what’s happening there now.
Bewley: But then we pushed on then to Hal Far, and went ashore to the Royal Naval Air Station at Hal Far. It was quite a happy time in Malta, really. We did lots of flying there, off Hal Far. The ship was in
the harbour all the time and we used to go down to a place called Maarsaxlokk which is at the Southern end of Malta, where we’d do sailing, swimming. I learned to swim there, funnily enough. I’d never ever learned to swim earlier, but I did learn to swim while I was in Malta.
Interviewer: So, in terms of . . . Obviously, when you’d been with, you know, doing your Fleet Air Arm work before, it was a lot of experimental work, whereas now
were you, was there a change in the sort of work you were doing?
Bewley: Well, you’re doing permanent work on one type of aircraft, and you had your own aircraft allocated, because we were what they called a ‘pilot’s mate’. A ‘pilot’s mate’, instead of just having airframes, one trade, you had to do six trades, up to four hours’ work. So
we’d previously gone back to the Royal Naval Air Station at Yeovilton and learned the other trades, passed some exams, did it back at the aerodrome and passed the exam that you were efficient at it, so by the time you went on to the operational squadron, you had one pilot, one observer on the Firefly, and one pilot’s mate, who . . . That was his aircraft, his name was painted on it.
Interviewer: And is it . . . Was it in Hal Far you were assigned your aircraft? Or before that?
Bewley: No, no, I got my aircraft at Machrihanish. Yes, it . . . You . . . All the way through, then, my aircraft was, was my aircraft.
Interviewer: And who was your pilot? And who was your . . .
Bewley: Lieutenant Barratt was my pilot mostly. I mean sometimes, obviously, when
four aircraft go up, they’ve got to be serviced, so four others . . . So even though they might have their name on one aircraft, if it’s being serviced, they can’t use that. But that was your sole responsibility.
Interviewer: And what was your relationship like, you know, when you met your pilot for the first time? How was it?
Bewley: Well, you were very close with the pilot, because obviously he tells you little things that, little niggling things that are on the aircraft that he wants fixing, or
They don’t actually make the aircraft fully unserviceable so that it can’t fly, but he, he’ll have a word with you and say, ‘Can you do so and so.’
Interviewer: And what about the observer?
Bewley: Well, you didn’t seem to come into contact with him much, because again, they were . . . they were mainly, when they were going on operations.
Interviewer: Did you mix with them?
Bewley: Not really, no, no. And you didn’t . . .
When we did sport, we did do sport with the officers. I did a little bit because I used to . . . We had sailing, two small sailing boats on the ship and I used to take them sailing, sometimes, when we were in harbour, I’d borrow . . . get the boat, borrow it and go sailing in Valetta or Maarsaxlokk.
Interviewer: And then . . .
Bewley: So then you might go sailing, you could go sailing with them. An officer. But they kept well
clear of you.
Interviewer: Even though you’d got this really tight dynamic?
Bewley: No, no, there’s them and us, really. Even when you went ashore, um . . . More so when you got to Japan. Because you were either at Casumo, which was the American naval base, or you went to Kure, which was the Commonwealth, where all the Australians and
Brits were in Japan. And of course, Hiroshima was only seven miles away from Kure.
Interviewer: Did you go to Hiroshima?
Bewley: Yes. Yes.
Interviewer: What was it like?
Bewley: Quite a shock. Only seven years after it had been dropped. Yes . . .
Interviewer: Still devastated?
Bewley: Yes. Well, we really shouldn’t have gone, you didn’t know you could still get all the radiation, though, did you? I mean, the . . . We should never really have gone for a wander, really.
Interviewer: Anti-guerilla operations near the Suez, or Aden?
Bewley: Well, yes, when we went through on the way to Korea, we first stopped at Aden. We went through the Suez Canal when all the guns on the ship were manned because there were still terrorists operating each side of the Suez Canal. So, the ships went to operations action stations, and they manned the
small guns along the sides of the ship. And we went through the canal, first to a place called Port Suez, which is halfway down, and then we went, headed to Aden, where again we anchored there and went ashore for a while, when we did sport then with the RAF and the Services that were there, based at Aden.
But the aircraft, once we’d put out to sea again, did operations with the terrorists in the hills in Aden. And then we moved on, then, down to Malacca Straits, off Malaya, when we got an army officer on, fly on board by helicopter, who liaised with us when
they did operations, then against the Chinese guerillas in Malaysia. Yeah. And . . . Eventually, we then steamed up and down for a few days, doing that, until they released us and we went straight in to moor in Singapore. So, we had shore leave then in Singapore.
Bewley: A happy time. Nice. I liked Singapore.
Interviewer: Yeah. Right, let’s move from Singapore, you go to Hong Kong, you prepare for operations and then let’s get us over to the Yellow Sea.
Bewley: Yes, well, we moved straight to Hong Kong then, where we met HMS Ocean and they swapped. The aircraft that they had, serviceable, we took them on board as spare, as spares. And . . .
Interviewer: How many aircraft on board?
Bewley: Um . . .
About thirty. Forty.
Interviewer: Fully crewed, or some spare?
Bewley: Well, some are spare, yes, yes. I mean . . .
Interviewer: Pretty full hangers, though, when you get thirty or forty . . .
Bewley: Yes, yes, well, you see I . . . You can take a picture of the . . . It shows you one, one squadron’s set of officers, which will give you some idea of what’s on board ship. And of course, some had already been to Korea, and some of those weren’t going home
on HMS Ocean, because she was returning to the Med., and they came on board with us, then, to continue with their operations and topped up our aircrews. And eventually – we got, we’ve the dates there – – eventually, when we arrived at either Casumo or Kure . . . where did we . . .? I’ve forgotten which one we arrived at,
one or the other. Casumo, probably.
Bewley: Casumo, yes.
Interviewer: 6th of November.
Bewley: Yes. So that’s . . .
Interviewer: And then on the 10th, you went into, into the Korean war theatre?
Bewley: Yeah, that’s when we started. And then we, we alternated with a ship called the Badoeng Straits, which was a United States Marine flying carrier, a small carrier like us again, only a light fleet size
again with piston engined aircraft, they had Corsairs and that type of aircraft on board. Again, piston engines, so they get . . . All of the main jet aircraft of the Americans was all on the East coast. Up the East Coast. The bigger carriers, the fleet carriers. Yes.
Interviewer: Did you have a lot to do with the other Commonwealth navies, then?
Bewley: Yes, we had, because all of the
time we operated, we had two or three destroyers, or frigates, which may have been Dutch, they may have been Australian, they may have been English.
Interviewer: Was there much, you know, did you get on board much? Was there much mixing?
Bewley: Well, only when you were ashore, then, either at Kure or Casumo, again because we did sport. We always played football and . . . football or rugby, they certainly didn’t play cricket out there.
And you did boxing matches and things like that. All the usual things. Some of the pilots went ashore with the army to get an idea what it was like ashore. They’d fly them ashore on a helicopter, to do a week with someone else. Instead of coming back to Japan, they went ashore.
Interviewer: Into Korea?
Bewley: Yes. So they’d get an idea what was
going on. But of course, we didn’t do that.
Interviewer: That’s quite useful.
Interviewer: So just talk me through sort of a standard day, then, on that first tour, before you came back to Portsmouth.
Bewley: Well, obviously, before you’d leave for Korea you were fully . . . all your fresh vegetables, all your, all the open area decks on the carrier were full of vegetables.
They’d stow it out on the open, on any deck that was open to the sea, you’d have potatoes and all that would have been loaded while we were ashore in Japan. Fresh vegetables and stuff. But also we would have loaded up with bombs, ammunition, aviation fuel and stuff like that, because sometimes when we were ashore we would refuel smaller ships from our carrier.
They’d steam alongside us, we’d put lines out, steam them all in line and keep topping them up with fuel. So we were then ready, the aircraft were all fully serviceable, and then on the way, they would, we would start doing flying operations, as soon as you got away from Japan, heading in.
Interviewer: In the Second World War, the carriers used to have to sail into wind because they were slow, was that still . . .
Bewley: Well, we still did that. No, you’ve to have wind over the deck, so they’re doing at least 15, 20 knots maybe.
Interviewer: Are there catapulted off?
Bewley: Well, we do free flight as well, but catapult, yes. We only had one catapult, see, on a light fleet carrier. Yes. In harbour a couple of times, when we were stationary, we did . . . aircraft took off using
what we called ‘JATO’, two rockets clamped under the wings, and they’d rev the engines up full and then fire their JATO and shoot off. A bit dodgy, really. [laughs]
Interviewer: Dodgy, but it worked.
Bewley: But that’s, that’s what you’d eventually do. And operations started, usually, at round about five to seven in the morning, so we were up at five in the morning
out on your aircraft, cleaning the windows, making sure all the canopies were clean for the pilot, and if your aircraft was arranged on deck, of course, you were out in the open. And you’d do all your checks to make sure everything was right, and then . . .
Interviewer: What checks were you running on a, on a Firefly? What pre-flight checks were you running?
Bewley: Well, we were trying all the controls, make sure you have
oxygen and stuff all topped up. You’d make sure all your oils were topped up and there was no visible signs of oil leaks. Because the Firefly, of course, is liquid cooled, so you’ve got coolant, whereas the other squadron, the Sea Furies, they were air cooled, with big radial engines. Ours was the Biggin line Griffon, like the old Merlin
engines. So, all those things were critical, that was all topped up, no leaks. You’d try your hydraulics. You couldn’t try your undercarriage because it was down, so the only thing you could do was to make sure that everything was running. Occasionally we would start the engines up, and I could do that. We would go in, prime the
engine, start it, and you’d warm the engine up. Because you were all ranged down the back end of the flight deck. Sometimes you were actually pushed out over the sea on girders that you put the three wheels on, the tail wheel, and you put the clamps on then and you’d be out of the way so that they could clear the other aircraft.
But mostly you were on deck, with the cables attached to the undercarriage to hold you down and stationary because of course the ship’s rolling somewhat, and sometimes more than others.
Interviewer: And are you doing the armaments?
Bewley: No, we have an Armourer. They have armourers, and we assisted those, I’ve got some pictures there where, while we were in harbour, we helped them load
20 millimetre ammunition, keep putting the, um . . . the, the rounds into belts to go on board ship. As you’ll notice in one of those flights that we had, we had a problem where we were using old 20 millimetre ammunition from the Second World War, and it was exploding in the wings
and we lost an aircraft, which I’ve listed in there.
Interviewer: What was it like to lose an aircraft on board? How did it affect morale? Before you lost your pilot.
Bewley: Well, it’s . . . It’s weird, really, because you, you get used to the same pilot, he’d come out and you’d see him in and strap him in, and you’d see him fly away, he’d come back, he’d be all smiles
You know. You could see the relief on their faces from it. When they clambered out, they’d be all sweating, pull their helmets off and there’d be beaming smiles, you know. Because it, it must have been terrible. You’d notice that they were all full of sweat, because some of the flight gear that they had on, and they had to wear a wet suit because if they crashed in the sea in Korea you wouldn’t last minutes unless they were picked up. So, they had
these horrible wet suits, they were all clammy, over the top of their flying suits, in case they did ditch into the water. Um . . . But of course, if it was the other squadron that had lost an aircraft, you didn’t quite get the feeling, again, if it was your squadron. Of course, you used to have a service, regular services on board
and at one of those, and then we would all arrange and say prayers and . . .
Interviewer: Buried at sea?
Bewley: Well, he didn’t come back, see? We didn’t . . . We never had anyone return that was dead, they’d all either been shot down, crashed, lost, external to the ship, so we never actually got a body.
Interviewer: So, let me just . . . you arrived in Korea in . . . When did we say? We said . . . And you had, four, five, maybe seven weeks of flying aircraft every day, pretty much, with your pilot and your observer. Just talk a little bit about the build-up to . . . Well, talk about Christmas Day. Was it Christmas Day when you . . .?
Bewley: Well, we were on an operational tour on Christmas Day, so we didn’t have any Christmas dinner, and it was
on Christmas Day when my aircraft went up. I mean, the aircraft had taken off, the first flights were again at 7 o’clock and the last was at 7 in the evening. And four Fireflies had gone up plus four Sea Furies and they went to do attacks ashore. And Lieutenant Barratt, they were doing dives, shallow dives on
either troop movements or something ashore, and he went into a dive, never pulled out, straight into the ground and exploded. So, whether he was hit by flak, because lots of aircraft that we lost were due to light flak, they’d fire anything at the aircraft, and being coolant, you only had to have
one bullet on a coolant and your engine stops and down you go.
Interviewer: How did you know that he went into this low dive? Did somebody report it back from the other . . .
Bewley: Oh, the other aircrew, that was the report, and that’s in the, logged in both the books that I’ve got there, reporting it.
Interviewer: I mean, forgive me for asking, but if there’s a suggestion that the plane didn’t pull up, was there some sort of enquiring about that,
because potentially that’s . . .
Bewley: No, no, they . . . And they don’t have . . . Like, over here, if you have a crash like that, they have an enquiry and they have an inquest, but while you’re on operations, there’s nothing like that.
Interviewer: And when did you realise that something was amiss? I mean, just . . .
Bewley: Well, they just didn’t return to the ship when they were due back. You all go up on deck and wait
because you like to watch, we always watch the aircraft land on, because invariably you got deck landings that didn’t go right. You could get a crash, see, because if they didn’t pick a wire up, it could bounce, miss the first wire, and then carry on missing the wires. Right across the flight deck, halfway down, was a big wire barrier, so it was going to fly into that
bend the propellor or do quite a bit of damage. But it would stop. And as I say, we always watched, watched the aircraft land on or take off. You keep well out of the way, obviously. But we always watched them return, and then of course you notice, well, that’s one, that’s two, three . . . No more.
Interviewer: And then you realised that it was your . . .
Bewley: Well, you realise then something’s gone wrong.
They . . . Some didn’t return to the ship, but where we operated, off the northwest coast, right up near the 38th parallel, there was an island called Pryang Do, and it was hard sand and they’d land on the, on the beach, on this island. And it had got a South Korean . . . what are they called? . . . special forces on it.
And Americans were there, they had choppers and used it to pick up their aircrew. Well, they used to land there, and sometimes we’d go over there and service an aircraft so that it could fly, take off again off the sand and fly back to the, to the beach. But if it couldn’t fly again, our servicing ships used to pick the
aircraft up and take them back to Japan, and we didn’t pick them up until we went back to Japan again.
Interviewer: So your first instinct is that, if it’s not coming back, if you see three coming back, you think ‘Ah, it’s . . .’
Bewley: ‘We’ve got a problem’. Yes.
Interviewer: Or that it might be landing at Pyang?
Bewley: Exactly, yes. Yes. But then very quickly the ship would have known and the buzz would have spread, what we call the buzz, the chatter. The officers would tell the chiefs, and the chiefs, the Chief Petty Officers and they’d tell us ‘We think we’ve lost an aircraft’.
And then we’d wait, and then it was confirmed. They’d make an announcement over the tannoy, unfortunately, that we’d lost two aircraft, because you didn’t only just lose ours, sometimes it was the Sea Furies.
Interviewer: And how did you feel when you found out that you’d lost your, your pilot, then?
Bewley:Well, you just feel lost, because . . .
What am I going to work on now, that’s my aircraft gone, now. You feel a bit lost. It’s weird, really. You really . . . And then, I knew his story. I knew he was a bank manager in Liverpool, and he’d been called up to come to Korea. He’d gone right through the Second World War, and then been called back in, because he was what they called a ‘Z Man’ which was a reservist from the Second World War.
And there he was. Gone. A very, very sorry thing.
Interviewer: It must take a while to get over that.
Bewley: Yes, you’ll see, with that list, I’ve got a listing there of the dates, the sub-lieutenants and the lieutenants, that . . . Some of them were shot down and, as I say, some of them just did various things and didn’t . . . Dived down and just didn’t . . .
didn’t come up. And you don’t know whether they were hit, or whether they blacked out or something, because you could have accidents in the, in the sky. It didn’t have to be against operations.
Interviewer: Why did you paint pictures on the aircraft?
Bewley: Well, that’s a tradition with aircraft, especially doing it from the Second World War, when all the American aircraft and the Brits used to paint it on the sides.
So there’s a series of pictures there of each aircraft.
Interviewer: Who decides what it’s going to be?
Bewley: Well, just having a chat, a suggestion to the pilot. Show him some diagrams. You know.
Interviewer: And then he says yes and you paint it?
Bewley: We paint it on, yeah. You can see there, my air . . . Unusually, one of the aircraft they brought back from Korea is in the Fleet Air Arm Museum
and on there is our lieutenant, Lieutenant Commander Gardiner, our C.O., the pilot, and then it’s got Wally Pin, Leading Airman Pilot’s Mate, like me, and the observer’s name. But you’ll see by the picture I’ve got there, that I’m down listed as his fitter, as well.
So, it’s got Leading Airman Pilot’s Mate Bewley. And you can see there on the pictures that I’ve clearly got on their aircraft, with the United Nations sign and a black leopard diving onto the ground, then all the bombs and rocket markings for each operation we paint on the side.
Interviewer: I look forward to seeing that. You’re in the Yellow Sea, you’re in,
you know, you’re in the tropics, although it was cold, you had typhoons and you had freezing weather. Just talk a little bit about how the weather affected you. You know, you touched on it earlier, in terms of both the big seas, the big winds, the cold . . .
Bewley: It’s very difficult to do servicing of aircraft because you, you have to clamp them down, under the undercarriage and the tail wheels and onto the wing tips, and secure them to wing bolts in the flight deck or
into the, if you were down in the hangar, in the hangar deck. You had to always secure the aircraft. You couldn’t have it free standing. It was always clamped. A bit difficult if you wanted to do a . . . Say, if you had a problem with the undercarriage, you would have to jack the aircraft up, so you’d jack it up and while it was jacked up, you’d then put all the clamps
back to hold the aircraft secure to do the servicing. But whatever the weather was, if you, your aircraft was out in the open, say it was pouring with rain, you’ve got to still do all your checks, try the . . . um . . . Go round and try the, all the surfaces, the control surfaces. Check the wheels, tyres,
make sure there were no . . . still pumped up, all the pressures were right.
Interviewer: Could you always fly?
Bewley: Could you always . . .?
Interviewer: Could the aircraft always fly? When were there conditions that they couldn’t fly?
Bewley: Well, if the deck was too . . . If we were in too rough a sea, then they’d keep them clamped.
Interviewer: Did you ever . . . Were you in a typhoon?
Bewley:No, we never, never had a typhoon.
The most we had was minus 16, temperatures of minus 16 when it was, the flight deck was snow, covered with snow, which we had to clear sometimes so that the aircraft could take off.
Interviewer: So, the aircraft could still take off, in . . .
Bewley:They’d still take off.
Interviewer: Oh! [both laugh] That mustn’t have been fun for the pilot!
Bewley: Yeah. Well, there you are. And slippy on the deck for us, particularly if it’s rolling. Yeah
Interviewer: Did you get many . . . Did many aircraft not make the landing, and go on overboard?
Bewley: Er . . . I could show you pictures of that. I’ve got some pictures of crashes and you’ll see that when they didn’t catch the wire, they suddenly came down and bounced, then the hook’s hanging on the back, on the tail wheel, if it misses the wire, and there’s a series of them, they’re about that [gestures distance] much apart,
big wires. And they’re just slightly raised above the deck, about that much [gestures] and then the hook’s got to catch that, and stop him almost stone dead. It pulls out, it’s on a hydraulic, but if they miss that, then they’ll hit the barrier. Invariably it would stay down, most of the time, but smash the propellor, because it would tangle in the, in the wire, and we’d . . .
you’d be up for a propellor change and an engine change because you’d . . . the engine would be shocked. So you’d be up for an engine change and at least a propellor change.
Interviewer: How long would it take to change an engine and a propellor?
Bewley: We’d do one in . . . Well, a propellor you could change in about five to six hours. An engine, four, five hours, we could get an engine out
Interviewer: So, it’s quicker to do an engine than a propellor?
Bewley: Yeah, yeh, well, you could do . . . Most of it’s all on quick release stuff, and you can then hoist the engine right out. Yes
Bewley: Yeah. You’ve only got to take the spinner off and there’s maybe three or four bolts to take the propellor off.
Interviewer: You said five to six hours for the propellor?
Bewley: Well, sometimes
you’ve got the problem of lining it up. It’s setting it up, really.
Bewley: You might pull it off and on quickly. But the engine is mainly, um . . . all the, the oil fittings and things like that.
Interviewer: OK. What about the loss of this helicopter and crew. When was . . .? What happened there?
Bewley: Well, that was in, that was in
Hong Kong harbour. When we got into Hong Kong, before we passed over . . . when we were taking over from HMS Ocean. The helicopter, the tail rotor, hit the . . . Forward of the . . . where the captain sat, you know, the island on the ship is on, to the right-hand side, half way down the flight deck. Right in front of that, there was always a
crane, which is used to lift the aircraft, and that of course has got a jib that sticks up. And the chopper came in, was up taking pictures of us entering harbour, all lined up, and it came in, and the tail rotor hit the, the boom of the crane.
And if you lose a tail rotor, a helicopter, the engine’s going to try and turn, well, the whole lot. It just starts to disintegrate, everything flies off.
Interviewer: Horrible to see.
Bewley:They’re not going to get out.
Interviewer: Did you see that?
Bewley: Well, yeah, we were lined up on the flight deck. Yeah. Straight into the Hong Kong harbour.
Interviewer: And they died?
Bewley: Oh, yeah, they died. Drowned.
Interviewer: OK, look, there’s lots and lots of different sorties and stuff, but it’s all very much of the . . .
Bewley: No, they’re all of a similar, a similar nature, yeah, you’re quite right.
Interviewer: Tell me a bit about the coronation of Queen Mary, or the death of Queen Mary. What happened there?
Bewley: Yes, well, we were . . . We were . . . She died, and we were at Kure, and we lined up. The actual jetty
was a Second World War battleship, a Japanese battleship, which they were using as a jetty. All the top structure had been taken off. So, the actual thing, we were all lined up, in between the two ships. And one side was HMS Glory and then on the left-hand side was HMS Unicorn which was this repair carrier that used to go backwards and
forwards between Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan, to give you all the new aircraft or repair aircraft. Sorry, and they did this full service on, for Queen Mary, very good. Just singing the normal hymns, you know, and they . . .
Interviewer: After your pilot has gone, what . . . you know, were you just given another pilot, or what happens next?
Bewley: Well, normally you would be reallocated to, onto another aircraft, or you would back someone else up, two of you would go onto an aircraft, so it would make it quicker to do tasks. Or you would wait until you went back to Japan and you would get another aircraft, you see. And then obviously you’d get another, another pilot. But for some reason they wanted someone
from each squadron to join the people that were in the aircraft control room to do all the – –
Each aircraft has a book which controls the servicing of the aircraft, and it’s called an A700 but that, everything you do, all the engine changes are recorded, you sign for it, it’s a fully documented piece, and those are all held in the Aircraft Control Room.
And the pilot first, when he goes in to pick his aircraft up, he goes in the Aircraft Control Room, they tell him which aircraft he’s got, he then looks at that book and sees it’s all signed up, and it’s been signed by us and serviceable, and he signs and accepts the aircraft. He might go out and have a wander round first, and then come back in, and that’s what the,
the Aircraft Control Room does. There’s a diagram of the flight deck with all the aircraft ranged, with all the numbers on, and the little dockets where we put the pilots’ names.
Interviewer: So it’s almost like an aircraft movement base?
Bewley: It is, yes. And as I say, it’s got all the documentation.
Interviewer: But it was a bit warmer than the deck.
Bewley: Well, it is, it’s right inside and there’s a little tiny window, a triangular window that sticks out onto the flight deck
that you can look left and right without going on the deck, so you could, you could see what’s happening on the deck. Um . . . And I was very happy to get in. It was quite a good job, that. And I stayed in there then with . . . There was a Chief Petty Officer, an engineer, in charge in there and myself from 821 Squadron and another chap
from the Sea Fury squadron and then we both looked after each aircraft’s paperwork. But I also wrote the aircraft logs. We had a logbook which I . . . I did copper plate, so I wrote the squadron line books in my handwriting, which is now in the Fleet Air Arm Museum. Yeah.
Interviewer: Have you seen that?
Bewley: I haven’t, no. I was saying, I was annoyed to go, after having that picture there, with my name’s on that aircraft that’s in the . . . I mean, obviously it’s not the same aircraft, they’ve used one that returned from Australia, that came off of HMS Sydney from Korea, and they paid to bring it back to the U.K. and they made it flyable, and that’s now in the Fleet Air Arm
Museum at Yeovilton. But they’ve painted it to simulate aircraft 200, the C.O.’s aircraft, in the Korean War. I never really knew what hardships the . . . we used to call them ‘Pongos’, the armies to us were called ‘Pongos’ what trouble they . . . if . . . They were the same as us, the foul weather gear that
the British had in Korea was totally inadequate and the army chaps used to get stuff from the Americans.
Interviewer: What was your winter gear like?
Bewley: Very, very poor. Not adequate. It wasn’t designed for that activity at all. Very poor.
Interviewer: And how did you feel about leaving Korea? How did you feel when the ship was told to . . .
Bewley: Oh, well, very relieved. We wanted to get home. I mean, we’d . . . It’s such a busy life, when you’re actually doing flying operations. It’s, you know, everything’s going at full swing. As I say, if you don’t finish flying at seven in the evening, when the last aircraft lands on, you’ve got to go in there then and do any little jobs, so that it’s ready for first thing in the morning. So you may not get to bed until
very late in the evening. And then you’ve got to have eaten, and invariably you just piled in, you didn’t undress or anything, you just got straight into the hammock. Or a couple of us, the two seats that were alongside the tables, someone actually slept on there. As I say, I definitely didn’t like the hammock at all.
Interviewer: So, you could . . .
you could turn in at twelve and be up at five?
Bewley: That’s right. You’d got to be up early in the morning. You’d get the . . . You’d get the call. And then you’d hear the pipe to flying stations, all over the ship, so you’d know when the . . . Because that’s to warn people not to walk on the flight deck. You’ve got to keep well clear of the aircraft.
Interviewer: What was the pipe noise, do you know? What was it? Just a single blast, or several?
Bewley: Yeah, it was like a claxon noise. A claxon.
Interviewer: OK. And . . .
Bewley: Mind you, they still used flags, oddly. If you went out onto the flight thing, they’d pull the flag up when they were on flying operations. From the olden days. As a flag actually shows when there’s . . . Mind you, other ships then could see that you’d got flying operations on.
They’d know what the flag was. Quite good. But when we were coming home, that was most unusual. When we got to Singapore, we’d offloaded all our serviceable aircraft before we’d left, but when we got to Singapore, lots of the Army and Air Force were coming home on our ship, they came on board and they, they got accommodation for them, but on the deck
we had cars and lorries they’d loaded on the tail end of the deck, right in the open and in the hangar we had stuff that was coming back to the UK. And of course, the ship had been out in the Far East and the Middle East for well over a year, so the sides of the ship were so rusty. When we actually got to Hong Kong,
back from Japan first, one side of the ship that was going to dock in Malta was painted by the ladies in Hong Kong, it was the ladies that do all the painting, and they’d come alongside the ship and painted, quickly, over the one side of the HMS Glory. And when we went into Grand Harbour, that was the side that the ship pulled in, so it still looked pretty
clean, whereas all the other side was rust, red rust, shambles looking.
Bewley: But of course, on the deck, we’d got all these Army lorries, there was no aircraft. We still lined the deck in our white uniforms, of course, to enter harbour, every time. And then when we, when we eventually got . . . we went to Gibraltar then, when we went ashore for a couple of days, and
anchored there, had a bit of shore leave. And then we got to Portsmouth and moored and our families were waiting on the jetty at Malta . . . at Portsmouth, down at South sea.
Interviewer: So that’s nice, you had a bit of a homecoming. Because for a lot of troops, it was . . . ‘Where have you been?’
Bewley: No, and they . . . Within hours of docking there, we were off, the squadrons I mean. Lots of the
seamen couldn’t do that. We had no aircraft on board, so there was no reason to hold us. We had nothing to work on. So as soon as we docked in Portsmouth Harbour, the families came on board and we showed them around and then we were issued with our leave passes and all our equipment and stuff was in the hangar ready packed to be shipped by
lorries to wherever we were going, and we went to Lee on Solent, to the airbase at Lee on Solent, where they were taking all our tools, boxes of tools, and stuff like that.
Interviewer: Do you think Korea affected you?
Bewley: Well, I think, think I grew up as a man, really. Well, I learned lots of things in various countries, didn’t I? That’s the thing I think.
I think, about serving abroad, you meet other countries and other people, especially when you go ashore.
Interviewer: But what I’m sort of driving at is that you obviously, you know, you got married and you then left and you did a year of really hard work . . .
Bewley: That’s right, yes.
Interviewer: You lost people, people died around you . . .
Interviewer: You know, how . . . Did your wife realise there’d been a change? Did it affect you? Did you, you know, feel . . .
Bewley: Not really, No. But . . . But you resume . . . I immediately went to . . . I got stationed to Lee on Solent. I didn’t go back on-board ship. When you return from leave, we had to go . . . You were posted, we weren’t going back to the squadron anymore. Each of us had got a new posting. So, mine was to the Helicopter Holding Unit at Lee on Solent. Now I had never worked on helicopters
but here I was, going to be posted to a helicopter squadron at Lee on Solent.
Interviewer: I suppose that concentrates your mind, doesn’t it?
Bewley: Well, you need it. You’ve got to learn different engines, different aircraft, different . . .
Interviewer: Yeah, but I mean is, at least you’re not, not dwelling on the past.
Bewley: Oh, no, no.
Interviewer: You’re focusing on something . . .
Bewley: Exactly. Yes, yes. And of course, my wife then got a married quarter to join me then,
at that base. Of course, we didn’t have any children.
Interviewer: How do you feel about being a Korean veteran now, then?
Bewley: Well, I don’t think it’s publicised enough, it’s one of those . . . It’s like a forgotten war, really. The people that really suffered ashore, they, they don’t . . . I mean, you see about the Vietnam War, you see about Afghanistan, nothing about Korea at all.
Very, very few programmes. Yeah, well. And if you go into the libraries, you’ve got a hell of a job to turn up a book on Korea. I’ve only got one there myself, but it just happens that my 821 Squadron Engineering Officer, Lieutenant Commander Lansdown, he actually
wrote a book about the whole of the Fleet Air Arm activities in the Korean War, all of the activities, and he got all the information from the War Department on the flights, and it’s fully documented. It’s a wonderful book. Each, each visit to Korean waters is documented.
Interviewer: Well, I think . . . I’ll have a look at that.
Interviewer: I think I’ve probably reached the end of your interview there, Frank
Bewley: Thank you very much.
Interviewer: Thank you for your time.
[End of recorded material]