Gerald ‘Gerry’ Farmer
Gerry Farmer was born in Bethnal Green, England, in 1933. He was a kid during World War II and was conscripted in 1951. After a short basic training, he took a boat for five and a half weeks until he arrived in Korea at age nineteen. He served at the Battle of the Hook and was wounded when he volunteered to drive a jeep which was hit by a mortar round. While in Korea, he heard Michael Caine mention he was going to be an actor after the war as the young men were talking about what they were going to do upon returning home. He revisited Korea in 1981 and was impressed at the transport and buildings compared to when he was there during the Korean War. He remembers the Korean people were grateful for his service. He emphasizes he went to the Korean War as a boy and came out a man.
Arriving in Korea at Age Nineteen
Gerry Farmer describes arriving at Pusan at age nineteen. He shares his surprise that it was all Americans there, and he recalls hearing an American band playing music. He remembers traveling from Pusan by train to Hill 159.
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Battle of the Hook 1953
Gerry Farmer describes the Battle of the Hook and how he was wounded. He says the Hook was action from the start compared to Hill 159. He recalls there being four or five solders in the bunker which connected to trenches and other bunkers. He adds there were different types of patrols.
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Gerry Farmer describes being wounded at the Hook after he volunteered to drive a jeep to Area 3. He remembers he was blown forty yards from the jeep, and adds he still has injuries and shrapnel in his back. He recalls being transported to a Norwegian MASH and then to Seoul where he underwent three operations.
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Eyes Frozen Shut
Gerry Farmer describes the cold as unbelievable and recalls the temperature dropping to forty-two below at one point. He remembers his eyes would be frozen in the morning because they would go to bed wet. He explains had a parka that was warm and shares they were not allowed to wear the hoods to ensure their hearing was not hindered.
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[Beginning of recorded material]
Interviewer: This is September 14th, 2017, Royal Hospital in Chelsea. Please introduce yourself, your name, and spell it for the audience.
Gerry Farmer: It’s Gerald Farmer, they call me Gerry, I’ve always been known as Gerry.
Interviewer: G. E.
Gerry Farmer: G.E. double, double R, Y. I’m really Gerald but going into the Royal Fusiliers with lots of East London Cockney boys, it was, er,
a bit posh, the name was a bit ‘nice’, you know. So I wanted to be . . . Most of the officers were called Gerald, so I became a Gerry. So I’m known as Gerry Farmer now.
Interviewer: And your last name is Farmer, right?
Gerry Farmer: Farmer. F.A.R.M.E.R.
Interviewer: What is your birthday?
Gerry Farmer: My birthday? It’s 15.9.33. You notice tomorrow?
Interviewer: Tomorrow is your birthday?
Gerry Farmer: It is!
Interviewer: Happy birthday, Gerry!
Gerry Farmer: Thank you very much, Sir. [Laughs]
Interviewer: So, how old will you be?
Gerry Farmer: Tomorrow? 84.
Interviewer: 84. You’re still young!
Gerry Farmer: Still young. My father was over a hundred, so I suppose I’ve got his genes probably. [Laughs]
Interviewer: So you have longevity.
Gerry Farmer: He was, anyway, yeah.
Interviewer: So. We’ll revisit you in 10 years.
Gerry Farmer: Absolutely.
Interviewer: I hope that I can see you here again. Where were you born?
Gerry Farmer: I was born in Bethnal Green, East London. Bethnal Green.
Interviewer: Could you spell it?
Gerry Farmer: B.E.T.H., Beth, N.A.L. Bethnal Green.
It’s a suburb of . . . like Stepney, Bow, it’s around the East . . .
Interviewer: B.A . . .
Gerry Farmer: Bethnal. Beth nal. Bethnal Green.
Interviewer: B.E.T. . . .
Gerry Farmer: B.E.T.H.
Gerry Farmer: Bethnal. Bethnal Green. It’s a, it’s a kind of parish but not a parish, it’s a part of London.
Interviewer: Tell me about your parents and your siblings, your family, when you were growing up.
Gerry Farmer: When I was growing up I had two sisters, my father was a decorator, house decorator,
outside buildings, and my mother was a housewife, mostly, but she was a seamstress in the end, I got her a job in where I used to work, in a uniform factory.
Interviewer: So were you the eldest?
Gerry Farmer: I was the eldest, yeah.
Interviewer: What school did you go to?
Gerry Farmer: I went, I went to . . . there were two schools involved, there was one called Teasdale Street, which was a junior school, and it went on to the, er,
Mansford, Mansford Street School, which in those days, it was one below the . . . We never got the training, what do they call that, where you had to take a test? We didn’t do that because it was during the war days, we were evacuated and then we came home. It was called Mansford Street, the school. It was a primary school, this one, you know.
Interviewer: So there had been much interruption to your . . .
Gerry Farmer: Oh, absolutely, yeah, I was . . .
Interviewer: Tell me about it. How was it?
Gerry Farmer: Well, I was, I was the . . .
Interviewer: How was it going to schools during the war?
Gerry Farmer: Well, I was six when the war started, six in 1939. And there came a time . . . It was a year when nothing really happened, and then when the Blitz started, the Government said that all children should be evacuated. So I . . .
Interviewer: When was it?
Gerry Farmer: I had to go to a place called Whitley Bay, which is past Newcastle, which is . . .
Gerry Farmer: Just past Newcastle, Whitley Bay.
Cullercoats. It was called Cullercoats. It was a little fishing village, you know. My two sisters went somewhere else, I didn’t see them go, but I went up there. They put a label round your neck and you went into a big hall and somebody came and picked you, you know, and if you looked, like, decent they’d say ‘Oh, I’ll have him”. So I ended up in a place with a railway man, he was, he was a railway guard on the trains in those days, you know.
Interviewer: So it wasn’t really pre-arranged?
Gerry Farmer: No, no. You never knew where you was going.
All the children just got on the train, and we all went different places. I ended up in Whitley Bay, which was quite a nice seaside town, but you couldn’t use the beaches because there was barbed wire and everything there.
Interviewer: Were you nervous?
Gerry Farmer: No, I rather liked it, really. Because it was something different, you know. All the boys were messing about on the train, having a laugh, you know.
Interviewer: How old were you at the time?
Gerry Farmer: Well, I would have been seven at the time.
Interviewer: Seven. And when did you reunite with your family?
Gerry Farmer: Well, I came back
in about six weeks, because I could not understand their accent, their Geordie accent, it was an accent of that area, the Geordies, and I couldn’t understand the teacher and my mother came and got me, took me back.
Interviewer: So did they treat you well?
Gerry Farmer: Well, they was all right, but they was a bit . . . about Londoners, I didn’t think they liked Londoners a lot. They used to think that you was a bit . . . I don’t know, I don’t know what they thought about you, but . . .
you didn’t fit in with them, because they were all people from that area, and they always thought you was up to no good, really. London had a reputation, you know, of thieving and pinching things.
Gerry Farmer: But, you know, it wasn’t like that.
Interviewer: When did you finish your education?
Gerry Farmer: I finished education in 1948 when I was fifteen. I caught . . . Within three days . . . I was going to leave when I was fourteen, but the law changed and it went to fifteen year olds. And because I was the 15th of September, and they all went back on the 9th of
September, which made me do an extra year, for the sake of . . .
Interviewer: It was like a Stage 3, according to the programme
Gerry Farmer: Yeah, it was fifteen in those days, I don’t know, it’s more now, isn’t it? I don’t really know.
Interviewer: Let me ask you this question. Did you learn anything about Korea in your school?
Gerry Farmer: No, there was nothing at all. Nobody ever knew anything about Korea. I don’t think they even knew anything about Korea when I was in Korea. [Laughs] They’d say “Where’s that”, you know.
Because it, it wasn’t in the news during the war, in the main war, was it, you know, in those days, when I was at school. It wasn’t. We heard about New Zealand and Australia and some of the territories this country had in Africa, you know, that type of thing, but never Korea.
Interviewer: Never, you never know. So what do you think about this thing, you went for the country you never knew before?
Gerry Farmer: Well, I was National, National Service, so I don’t know if you know it, if Korea knew about National Service, but every boy of eighteen had to go into the Army,
right, and I was National Service. And I actually went to Korea with boys I was in the same classroom with, you know, and then we were trained soldiers within about nine weeks. I mean, now, I think they have about three years to train a soldier, but, I mean, we got nine weeks and then we was on . . . There was no flying, there was no flights, it took us five and a half weeks to go from Southampton . . .
Interviewer: That’s actually shorter than some veterans.
Gerry Farmer: Southampton to Pusan, which is now Busan, yes?
Gerry Farmer: Pusan, when I arrived there. I don’t know if you know, but we all had to be nineteen, not 18. Boys go fighting now at 18 but we had to be 19.
Gerry Farmer: I don’t know, nobody ever told us that, but we had to be 19. When, when the ship got to Hong Kong, a lot of my friends who would not have been 19 when they arrived, which is about four days later, I think, isn’t it, about four days’ journey, four days?
Gerry Farmer: Then they had to get the next ship, so that they could
be 19 when they arrived in Korea, so I lost a few friends in my company like that, you know. I was 19 on the very day I got to Hong Kong.
Gerry Farmer: You know.
Interviewer: So when were you conscripted?
Gerry Farmer: I was conscripted, yeah.
Interviewer: Yah, when?
Gerry Farmer: Oh, it was the 7th of the 6th 1951.
Gerry Farmer: It was the day I had to go into the Tower of London. December 6th ’51. I was 18 in the September, in December I was called to serve.
Interviewer: By what time, if you were conscripted in December of 1951, you already knew the Korean War broke out, right?
Gerry Farmer: No.
Interviewer: You didn’t know?
Gerry Farmer: No. No. Nobody knew. In 1951, er, well . . . I’m not saying nobody knew, but we never knew. I worked for a company called Tilsons and they were uniform and hat makers, and I became a leather cutter. And I went in one morning and I remember . . . I’ll tell you the date, it was the 25th of June
Gerry Farmer: And I walked in, and a, a guy came along with his cycle, put his cycle in the thing and he said, “Have you heard about a place called Korea?” He said, “There’s a war starting out there, and it’s going to be a big war.” And I said, “Korea? No, I don’t know that”. And that’s the first time I heard about Korea, was on the 25t of June 1950.
Gerry Farmer: I heard about it then, but nothing was said after that.
Gerry Farmer: Well, we were, we were young then and newspapers, didn’t read newspapers, and we didn’t have television, just went about your normal business.
Interviewer: But a whole, there was [sixty] British soldiers, OK, during the Korean War, and that is the response of U.K. people?
Gerry Farmer: Yeah.
Interviewer: That really, nobody really cared about it?
Gerry Farmer: No, no. I went to Plymouth for Navy Days, and I was with my wife, and this was about . . . this would have been in the Seventies and on, on
a ship called The Bulwark, it was called, they had little things where you could look what they did, and there was this sergeant and a private soldier and he had a radio set and I said to him, “Oh, I was, I had a radio set in Korea called the [80/80] set” You put it on your back with a great aerial, you know. And he said “Where?”. This soldier said to me, “Where’s Korea?” He had to ask the sergeant, “Where’s Korea?” “Where’s Korea?” “There was a war on in Korea, didn’t you know?” And they
didn’t know, and that was the Army in the 1970s. He said, “Where’s Korea?”, he said “Oh, you know, there was a war out there.” It didn’t seem to . . . people to be involved with it, you know. It was only us who’d been there that was really involved with it, you know,
Interviewer: So is it fair to say that you didn’t think that you wanted to be in that war, at the time that, when you were conscripted?
Gerry Farmer: Er, I never knew that when I was conscripted, because my regiment was in Germany, we were all stationed in Germany in those days. We went out there and when we knew,
we knew we were going to go somewhere different, we had to go to the Hartz mountains for training, and dig into the mountainside, and we started wondering “We aren’t going anywhere where the mountains are?”
Gerry Farmer: We soon found out! That’s how we found out. Eventually they told us.
Interviewer: That you were going to Korea.
Gerry Farmer: They told us that we’d be going to a place called Korea, and they said it should be five weeks on a ship, five weeks, there was no flying in those days.
Interviewer: What is your unit?
Gerry Farmer: My unit?
Gerry Farmer: What, the Royal Fusiliers?
Gerry Farmer: Yeah. A fusilier.
Interviewer: And that is the name of the regiment? Right?
Gerry Farmer: That was the name of our regiment, yes.
Interviewer: Yes. And that belongs to 28th or 27th?
Gerry Farmer: That was 28th Brigade.
Interviewer: Brigade. Mmm-mm. And what was your specialty?
Gerry Farmer: What did you say?
Gerry Farmer: What, for me?
Gerry Farmer: Oh, we were just infantry.
Gerry Farmer: Rifleman, yeah. That was what I started as, I ended up as something different that you’ll hear about later.
Interviewer: Yes, we’ll talk about that. So, where did you depart from
Gerry Farmer: Southampton.
Interviewer: Southampton. And when was it?
Gerry Farmer: Er, that would have been in the . . . June, July, August . . . In the August.
Interviewer: August 1952.
Gerry Farmer: August. And the actual ship was called the Orwell. H.M . . . Yeah.
Interviewer: How was it, towards Korea?
Gerry Farmer: A long way.
Interviewer: Seasick? Did you have . . .
Gerry Farmer: No, no, it wasn’t like that. We had . . . We was all downstairs somewhere on three bunks, you know. It was very hot at one time, but it was . . . We all really . . . I know I
I liked it, because the first time I looked out of a porthole window, there was a kind of a mule or a camel and a guy with a fez hat walking along, you know I couldn’t believe it. We’d never been anywhere in our life and that was at Port Said. Port Said. But we couldn’t get off at Port Said because Nasser was being, he was taking over from King Farouk and so there was the . . . I think there was a war on with themselves then.
King Farouk was being deposed by Colonel Nasser, so they said it was too dangerous to go ashore, so we stayed on the ship and then moved on to the next port, which was Aden, and then it went along after that. And we went to, I call it Ceylon, but I think it’s Sri Lanka now, Columbo, and from there, er, we went to Malaya, Singapore, and from Singapore to Hong Kong, Hong Kong to Korea.
Interviewer: Korea. So it was like a cruise?
Gerry Farmer: Ah!
Loved it. It would be lovely to do that actually now, wouldn’t it, really? You know.  But there was a lot of work to be done, because as an infantryman, we had to still be training, we had to be shooting at targets from the end of the ship, and then we’d have to go down and help with the food, the cookhouse.
Interviewer: So when did you arrive in Korea?
Gerry Farmer: We arrived in Korea in the August, I can’t . . . August, September . . .
Interviewer: September, it should be September because . . .
Gerry Farmer: September, yes, September.
September. It was . . . I was 19 on the day we was in Hong Kong . . . is it about four days? It’s four days, isn’t it, by ship to Korea?
Gerry Farmer: So, four days later.
Interviewer: So four days in August . . .?
Gerry Farmer: No, September, because I was 19 in Hong Kong,
Interviewer: That’s what I’m trying to . . .
Gerry Farmer: And four days later, we landed in Korea, so I didn’t . . .
Interviewer: Sorry. You stayed until September 15th in Hong Kong and then you arrived . . .?
Gerry Farmer: Oh, no, no.
Interviewer: Because you had to be 19 years old . . .
Gerry Farmer: Yeah, but they
They knew that you would be 19 by the time you got there.
Interviewer: Ah! OK.
Gerry Farmer: Right?
Interviewer: So, Busan. Tell me about the Busan you saw. How was it?
Gerry Farmer: Well . . .
Interviewer: Describe in detail. People, landscapes, scenery . . .
Gerry Farmer: Well, what surprised us mostly was that it was all American. It was complete Americans, you know. And, and we came down, and I was about the third one off the ship walking down and at first there was an American band, walking up ad downplaying, a band,
you know. And they said, welcomed the Black Watch to Korea. We said, “We’re not the Black Watch, we’re the Royal Fusiliers”, you know. And then we all got in the big American trucks, and it was the first time I’d ever seen an exhaust pipe up like that instead of sticking out the back, you know, so it was all different. And then we went through a place in . . . It was right near an airfield called K-9, did you ever know there was an airfield called K-9, it was an American small bomber base, it was. They used to take off every
Interviewer: Yes, it’s at [Kimhir?] I think.
Gerry Farmer: Yes, well, near there was our camp, Seaforth Camp. Seaforth it was called. So we had to stay there and be what they called acclimatised to the war. We’d go to sleep . . . We were in . . . it wasn’t bad accommodation there, you know, in Seaforth Camp, but at 3, 2 o’clock in the morning, they’d ring the bell, and we’d all have to go running and get dressed quick, we were under attack, but it wasn’t, it was to get you used to what you were going to get.
Interviewer: So, from Pusan,
where did you go?
Gerry Farmer: What did you say?
Interviewer: From Pusan, where did you go?
Gerry Farmer: Oh, from Pusan, they come and took us up to [Setsiao], Seoul
Gerry Farmer: Seoul, but it wasn’t in Seoul, it was a . . . I think it was about 20 miles outside Seoul, it was called . . . you actually only know the hill names. I’ve got a book upstairs that you might be interested in, that I did, it was called 159, Hill 159.
Interviewer: Was it north of Seoul, or south?
Gerry Farmer: No, it was north, it was past Inchon, right past, up there. Past Inchon. And, and I remember the places where the train . . . oh, we went up by train, the train took about twelve hours. It stopped every now and then in the middle of the night and it . . . I remember Tegu, [Topchon], I can remember all the names that railway . . .
Interviewer: Were you able to see some of the Seoul city?
Gerry Farmer: Er, no, not at that time.
Interviewer: Because you were just . . .
Gerry Farmer: No, we didn’t see Seoul
Interviewer: What did you see from Pusan up to Hill 159? Any Korean landscape, describe the . . .
Gerry Farmer: Well, we see plenty of landscape but we went up at night. Pitch black night, you know, And we had to do, we all had to do a turn at the guard on the door, because we used to be . . . they said it was a bit dangerous in some places, you know. But I don’t think it could have been because it was South Korea and South Korea never had terrorism, did they, in those days? You was always safe. If you was behind the line, you
never had problems with terrorists.
Gerry Farmer: You know.
Interviewer: Because it’s already, you know, 1952 and the end of 1952.
Gerry Farmer: Yeah, yeah. 1952. And I found the worst part of the war was in ’53.
Interviewer: So from Hill 159, where did you go?
Gerry Farmer: Yeah, I was on 159, I was in ‘A’ Company, 2 Platoon, it was called. ‘A’ Company.
Interviewer: ‘A’ Company.
Gerry Farmer: ‘A’ Company, 2 Platoon.
Gerry Farmer: 2. Number 2 Platoon. That was about 20 of us in the platoon.
And where did you go from there?
Gerry Farmer: Well, from there, our next thing was when the Duke of Wellington Regiment came under attack on the Hook. And they, they . . . We had to . . . It was the only time we ever took over from, changed positions, was in daylight. They always used to do it at night and we did that in daylight, went up to the Hook in daylight. And the Hook was very bad for mortar
Interviewer: How long did it take from Hill 159 to the Hook?
Gerry Farmer: I can’t remember now. We all got ready, and all the equipment . . . I don’t really know.
Interviewer: It didn’t take long, right?
Gerry Farmer: It didn’t take long, we didn’t have to sleep out anywhere. And it was during daylight. And it was May the 28th we took over. 1953.
Interviewer: May . . .?
Gerry Farmer: May the 28th. And the Duke of Wellington Regiment had to come off because they,
they lost a lot of people or so up there, I think.
Interviewer: So that’s the major battle that you fought?
Gerry Farmer: Yeah.
Interviewer: Please describe the day that you saw the Hook.
Gerry Farmer: Yeah.
Interviewer; And how was it? And how did you get through it?
Gerry Farmer: Well, we found . . . We thought it was the most dangerous place. At 159, we used to do patrols, go out in the middle of the night, patrol somewhere. It wasn’t that bad, really. We didn’t have a lot of action really, you know. But the Hook was action from the start.
And there, there was a pathway that went up into the positions where we was all dug in, behind the top of the hill, and, er, there was people, dead people up there and it was terrible that day, May the 28th, it was the first time we ever seen what war was really like. Although I had seen people, not dead, you know, during the blitz in Bethnal Green.
Interviewer: What kind of scene are you talking about, people there . . .?
Gerry Farmer: Well, we were told they were Mongolians, would there have been a company of Mongolian soldiers? Would that be right to say? They were Mongolian
people. They were . . . very leathery type of dark skin, you know. And so a lot of those bodies were up there. They hadn’t, they hadn’t had time to take them off, you know. And then we got into the bunkers, and the Hook had kind of bunkers, you had four, five of us in a bunker. All sandbagged and damp and you had a pipe up where you could make a cup of tea or something, you know, and let the air out. And then it went on, the trench went on to the next bunker, and it went right along like that.
And that was The Hook. You know. And then, then where it came to our place, it went to a right angle where you went down, past the minefield, I think it was, and the wire, and then you was in the valley where the people . . . a lot of trouble out there, you know, which you’d come across, different patrols. You had to look up on, on the wall each day, in the orderly bunker and see what you were going to do, and you was either going to have a fighting patrol,
a recce patrol, to have a look, a listening patrol, and there was different type of patrols you were going to do and I had to do a few of those, and they were a bit dangerous at night. And there was also, I don’t know whether it was at The Hook, we never . . . I wasn’t there, I got wounded on The Hook, but there was a river there called the [Samacheon]
Gerry Farmer: Samacheon, not the Imjin. But we did a patrol at the Samajon one night, they said it was ankle deep.
It wasn’t. It was up to your waist, here. No, I’m sorry, this would have been at 159, the Samacheon, not The Hook. I think I’ve skipped 159. I think it was 159. Yeah, I think, because I actually tried to save a Korean soldier under fire.
Interviewer: Oh, tell me this [unintelligible]
Gerry Farmer: Yeah, I think it . . . it wasn’t The Hook. It was 159, I’m sure it was. They said the Samacheon river, we had to cross it, and once you got across the Samacheon it was
really in No Man’s Land, type of, you know, dangerous place. Well, nine of us went out on a patrol and there was two . . . I don’t know whether you know what they were called, they were KATComs, they were called. KATComs, and they were Korean soldiers but they were elderly. I think the guy that, he died eventually, was about 41, I think. His name . . . I’m sure I remember his name, Li . . . Dong Jin. And that, that was him. And they, we thought they was ammunition carriers, that
they’d carry a few things for you, you know. And we was half way across the river, pitch black dark, when suddenly there was spurts of mortars, we were coming under fire from the bank. And we were told, the Sergeant said, “Quick, have a . . .” We turned round, and because I was behind, first behind the two Koreans, when I turned round, they were behind me, and I was the last one, and they were all making their way back, still being shot at. And suddenly he screamed out, one of them,
and I realised he’d been hit. So I turned back and I got hold of his collar and dragged him, you know, and we made a bit of a stretcher for him on the bank. The other guy was O.K. But he died of loss of blood, I think it was loss of blood, on the way back. Yeah. And he . . . the very next morning, our Medical, Captain Scott, he was our Medical Officer, he called us, our patrol
down into his bunker and he said that, “I know you’ll all be upset about . . .”, you know, and it actually came across that he thought we’d be frightened that you could die so easily. But we said, no, we were more worried about the guy going, because it seemed such a shame for him, you know. All he had was a leg wound, but it was the artery in your leg, you know, and we tried . . . We carried him back, actually, so . . . That’s one thing I remember mostly about 159, that was quite an experience, you know.
Interviewer: Tell me about the day that you were wounded. Do you remember . . .?
Gerry Farmer: Oh, yeah, I remember that so well. That was on The Hook. But something changed with me, you see, that in the Army, we always used to say “Don’t volunteer for anything”, you know, but I did. They came round and they said they were short of drivers, they wanted a driver, and young boys of my age couldn’t drive, we didn’t have cars in those days, we were too poor, really. We only had
cycles, cycling everywhere, you know. And I . . . but my father had a small van that he taught me to drive, and I could, so I said “Well, I think I can drive” So they said “Come and . . .” So they gave me one hour in the back of, in a place called Area 3, it was, I’d say, about ten miles from The Hook. It was Camp Casey, it was called. Camp Casey. And that was where you had to go from The Hook for a rest week, you know. And so I became a driver and
I took a couple of ammunitions up, a couple of nights, but what happened then, they said that the Colonel, Colonel Stephen, who was our C.O., our Colonel, his driver had got mal . . . had got something wrong with him and he’d gone to Kuri hospital so they wanted a driver to drive the C.O. So they said, “You get two stripes to put on your arm, because he’s important.” Anyway, I became the Colonel’s driver. But it wasn’t . . .
Interviewer: So how did you become wounded?
Gerry Farmer: Well, that was what happened. I used to have to take him out every morning to the companies.
Gerry Farmer: Well, ‘D’ Company on The Hook, because The Hook is a kind of . . . what they had there is that they had the Chinese in front and both sides and you could be cut off. It was a dangerous place to go. And you usually got a lot of mortaring, I think they used about ten thousand mortars in one night. You know, that was what it was like, mortaring all the time. Anyway, we, we’d come up and we’d come under mortar fire, the jeep,
and the Colonel said, he jumped out and said, “Quick, get out and . . .” But I didn’t get out and the jeep, which I’ve got in my room, I’ve got these real copied photographs of the jeep, all in pieces and it’s . . . the mortar, which almost hit the jeep, blew the jeep, blew me forty yards out. Without a seatbelt. It saved my life. Without a seatbelt, because if I’d had a seatbelt, I’d have been underneath the jeep.
Interviewer: You didn’t have a seatbelt? Right.
Gerry Farmer: Luckily enough, because I got blown out of the
jeep and I got a long way.
Interviewer: Where were you wounded?
Gerry Farmer: I’ve got both legs back. I can’t feel this leg at all. It went in there, come out there, and I’ve got scars there. Also, I also had two . . . You know we had the American equipment, and American flak jackets, they call them,
Gerry Farmer: It wasn’t a bullet proof vest. We had two [Fossers] grenades on your chest, there. Well, one of the Fossers grenades on me went off when I got blown up so I got serious burns
all up here, look, all up my arms and that, you know, and my neck, and also I got the worst wound, you know, shrapnel an inch and a half went into my back here and it’s still there now. Yeah. It went between two and three knuckles of my spine, like that, and the Americans . . . I got picked up by an American helicopter, M.A.S.H., you know, and I was taken first of all to a Norwegian M.A.S.H., a Norwegian, you know, and that, what they did, they did
not take anything out, they just bandaged you up and sent you, with all the shrapnel still inside, to the American place, it’s called ‘Z’ unit in Seoul. You know. And I had three operations there. But what they did say, they couldn’t take the shrapnel out because it would do more damage than by leaving it. So they left it, and over the years I had lots of backaches and things and it was terrible, but as I got older, it got better. Do you know, I couldn’t get through the Gatwick . . . Oh, no, I tell you
even better than that, when, in ’81, we went back to Korea, and as we were going home that night, they said if anybody wanted to pay £60 more each, we could go to Tokyo for three days. So there was only about four of us who went, we just had the money, you know, and so we went there. And the best part of that was, which Korea came into that, we were on the way back to Korea, we had to get back to Korea to get the flight
home, we were waiting in Narita, the airport Narita, and I couldn’t get through their machine. They had the machine that bleeped, or something, and I had to get a certificate from one of their doctors to say that I’ve got metal in my back. You know. But the other good thing about waiting was, we were waiting, there was about four of us, my wife, my wife and a couple of guys, and we got an announcement in Seoul airport, in the airport there
saying that . . .
Interviewer: In Narita?
Gerry Farmer: Not . . . Is Narita the Korean one?
Gerry Farmer: No, that was the Japanese one. What is the Korean one?
Gerry Farmer: Kimpo. Kimpo, yes, ‘course it was. Well, we got an announcement over the radio, would us go to the desk to be told that the one who owns Korean Airlines, the guy, he was a fighter pilot during the Korean War and he’s going to take us to a
restaurant somewhere out, a fish restaurant, so that was nice, wasn’t it? And, and I even heard a song in Korea that I could do, but I’ve forgotten the words, “[Arirang]
Interviewer: Arirang, yes.
Gerry Farmer: Arirang, arirang . . . I tell you what, I sang that to the courier that took us to that restaurant.
Interviewer: Do you want to sing it?
Gerry Farmer: I can’t now. I can’t remember the words. All I can remember is how it went, [sings tune to repeated word Arirang] Then it goes [sings tune to ‘da, da’]
I knew it so well. I loved it, because I like folk songs. Beautiful.
Interviewer: You came to a country that you’d never heard about, you know, and you were injured, heavily wounded. What were you thinking? “What the heck am I doing here?”
Gerry Farmer: Can I . . . I can tell you something that you would know, and I’ve always wanted to know if it was right. And it was this. There was a night, there was a patrol went out, I wasn’t involved in it, and they came back with a Chinese officer they captured.
Gerry Farmer: Yeah.
And they were waiting for the S.I.B., the Special Investigations Branch, to come and take him away. And one of my friends, who was actually part of that patrol, said “Do you know what he said? He said he was educated at the London School of Economics”, yeah, “and he was rather a nice guy”, you know. And he said “Do you know why you’re here?” and the boys said “No”. Well, we didn’t know why we were there, we knew there was a war on and we was going to fight somebody, but we didn’t know the reason. There was no reasons.
Gerry Farmer: Yeah.
And do you know what he said? He said, “Have you heard of tungsten?” So, the boys said to him, “No, we never heard of tungsten”. He said that it’s metal that can make warheads and things. “And do you know where the tungsten mines are?” he said. “In South Korea. So why do you think the Americans are here?” But our officer said, “It’s rubbish, it’s political, it’s not true.” Who knows? I really don’t know. But I remember that story about tungsten mines being in South Korea.
Interviewer: And there are uranium too.
Gerry Farmer: Yeah?
Interviewer: Uranium, that is the material that is needed . . .
Gerry Farmer: I don’t know about that.
Interviewer: . . . for nuclear bombs.
Gerry Farmer: But he, he was sort of implying that the Americans were there for the money rather than like the Communist type of thing.
Interviewer: I mean, all those countries . . .
Gerry Farmer: But I remember that story well, because you could say, “Right . . .
Interviewer: But you didn’t know why you were there?
Gerry Farmer: No. Nobody ever told us why we was going there. What it was, we were going there to help the Americans, in a way. The Americans was at war . . .
Interviewer: You didn’t know that you were there
to deter North Korean Communists from coming into South Korea?
Gerry Farmer: Well, it didn’t really matter to us because, I mean, Communism . . . We wasn’t Communists, but we wasn’t all sort of like right wing. Where we come from, we should have all been Communists, really, because we all had nothing.
Interviewer: You had a strong Socialist tradition?
Gerry Farmer: Yeah, from like, East London, it was pretty poor, so I don’t know if Communists would have been better or not, but we wasn’t, we was all . . . My Mum was Liberal and my brother was . . .
Interviewer: But still, Great Britain was the strongest nation up to the World War 2?
Gerry Farmer: Oh, yeah.
Interviewer: The richest nation in the world?
Gerry Farmer: Yeah, but . . . No, it wasn’t . . . Eventually, we started realising that . . . Well, we were having the same thing, like with Scotland, isn’t it, in a way? I mean, the North Korea want to take the whole of Korea, don’t they, really. And does the South Koreans want the whole of the north? So, there’s always going to be trouble, isn’t there?
Interviewer: Did you regret at any point . . .
Gerry Farmer: No.
Interviewer: . . . that you were there?
Gerry Farmer: Never. Never.
Interviewer: Even when you had been wounded?
Gerry Farmer: No, never. Actually, though, I was glad I was wounded, actually, because I got out of the front line, which was pretty dangerous, and I had some good times in the hospital. I used to be wheeled out by the nurses into the sunshine and it was ‘Z’ Unit, is there still a place called ‘Z’ Unit? I mean, it was . . . I’ll tell you where it was. It was in Seoul, and the window where . . . my bed was by a window where there was a domed thing which was the Parliament building, it looked like St Paul’s cathedral.
Interviewer: Yeah, yeah.
Gerry Farmer: Well, that was where the ‘Z’ Unit was.
Interviewer: O.K. Did you have a camera with you?
Gerry Farmer: Er, well . . .
Interviewer: At the time?
Gerry Farmer: Oh, at the time? No.
Interviewer: How did you get all those pictures?
Gerry Farmer: Well, I really don’t know, but I’ll tell you, there’s lots of things in there that I think some of the boys might have had a camera and did it, but we signed the Official Secrets Act and we was not allowed to film. We could not talk about things and not allowed, you know, to do filming. But I’ve got lots of pictures and I’ve got a book that I wrote about . . . it’s not only about me, it’s about life in
Korea in a war. And, and it ends up with the pages . . . I’ve even got the, not the real ones, I’ve got . . . the real ones, I don’t think I’ve still got them, but they were taken, photostatted, you know, I’ve got, reprinted them, and I’ve got the actual ones of, like a Korean woman’s face, with words that I don’t understand, but what they were saying was, “What are you doing here?” They used to come over by shell fire and spread out, and I’ve got a couple of those, you know.
Interviewer: What was the most difficult thing, other than that you were wounded, while ou were in Korea?
Gerry Farmer: Well . . .
Interviewer What was the . . .
Gerry Farmer: Well, if somebody said . . . Korea was pretty hard, you know. The cold was unbelievable. Do you know, it was Christmas of the ‘52/’53, and it was 42 degrees below. The Korean Base Gazette, they produced a regular paper that we used to read, and it put ’42 degrees below’
And they used to . . . You could wake up in the morning and you couldn’t open your eyes because they was frozen together, because of the wet of your eyes, you know. And we were told “Hold your nose” because you couldn’t breathe sometimes, you’d wake up and your nose had got solid with ice.
Interviewer: That much cold?
Gerry Farmer: Well, we used to go to bed wet. You know, if we come out and it had been raining, I mean, we used to have three colour systems, like traffic lights. There was red, you could never go. Amber, you could go but it would be a bit dangerous,
you’d have to have four wheeled drive jeeps and things, and green, it was summer. So you had really hot summers, you could cook an egg on the bonnet of a car. That’s how hot it was. But the winters were terrible. And we was . . .
Interviewer: And that really bothered you?
Gerry Farmer: Yeah, well, I mean, we wasn’t really, had the clothing. We had what they called a parka, and the parka . . . In the museum, which is in the Tower of London, they’ve got a Korean Museum part, you know
with a parka, but we wasn’t allowed to use the hoods. Wasn’t allowed to use them.
Interviewer: Why not?
Gerry Farmer: I don’t know, it had something to do with hearing anything in the night, or something, they said. You can’t have a hood on. You could be charged for putting the hood on, you know.
Interviewer: Did you have a sleeping bag?
Gerry Farmer: No, no, nothing like that.
Interviewer: So you just . . .?
Gerry Farmer: No, no, there was nothing, there was nothing like that. Well, we used to make our own beds out of a kind of frame with telephone wire and stretch it across and lay on that, but . . .
Interviewer: No blanket?
Gerry Farmer: No. Not in the bunkers, see, because bunkers was just front line
stuff, where all you did is you went to sleep and you went out to fight. But when you went to Area 3, Camp Casey, it was much nicer. You could have a shower . . .
Interviewer: But you didn’t have a bunker all the time, right? You had to sleeping . . .
Gerry Farmer: During the day, you . . .
Interviewer: . . . bags or a trench?
Gerry Farmer: Oh, yes, trench, you had to go . . . then, you had to do what you call standing sleep . . .
Interviewer: You’d stand just like this?
Gerry Farmer: Yes, just go to sleep . . .
Interviewer: Without a blanket?
Gerry Farmer: And you just had candles to look, that’s how my eyes got bad, with candles, you couldn’t hardly read sometimes, you know. So, er, that . . .
Interviewer: You must have been really cold.
Gerry Farmer: It was really freezing cold. But we did have, like the army do, we had one blanket, I used to laugh about this, that we used to carry it on our back, and we paid, we paid one shilling for that.
Interviewer: You had to pay?
Gerry Farmer: Yeah, but it was for your burial. It was the dignified thing, they . . . You paid and you kept that with you, because you didn’t get a second . . .
Interviewer: You had one blanket?
Gerry Farmer: Everyone had one, one blanket, all rolled up.
Interviewer: And you had to pay?
Gerry Farmer: You had to pay one shilling
Interviewer: That’s ridiculous, isn’t it?
Gerry Farmer: Yeah, but it was a dignified blanket, like. It was a dignity of death, so if you was killed and they couldn’t mess about doing you a grave, they put, they buried you in your blanket. And that’s what it was for.
Interviewer: How much were you paid?
Gerry Farmer: How much were we paid?
Gerry Farmer: I think when we went in the army, it was just about eighteen shillings, eighteen shillings a week, and seven shillings of that, you had to compulsorily send it home to your Mum. To your mother. Yeah.
Interviewer: Yah. And during the war, how much were you paid?
Gerry Farmer: I think it went up to about three pounds. Er, of what you did. In the army you got what sort of rank. When I got rank to go, it went up a couple of shillings, it wasn’t much. We were the worst paid people in Korea.
Gerry Farmer: The best paid, they reckon, was the Australians, and the second best was the Americans. You know. But there was other . . . One good thing about Korea what I rather liked was I got to know other people, not know them, but know that there was other people. Like when we were in London and England, you didn’t know
anybody, but there was twenty? . . . nineteen people, nineteen different countries in the Korean war.
Interviewer: 21, yah. So tell me about the foreign troops that you were fighting together. What . . .? Australia?
Gerry Farmer: Well, the Australians, yeah, the Australians. They were a bit . . .
Interviewer: What was the unit?
Gerry Farmer: Yeah, it was the 3rd Battalion, the 3rd Battalion Royal Australian Regiment. The 3rd Battalion, that was. And they was a bit, a bit more . . .
They seemed a bit more braver than us, they all wanted to go and fight all the time. [Laughs] And one thing I did know, Fosters, what they talk about, Fosters drink, they didn’t like Fosters, “Never drink Fosters”
Interviewer: Did you get along with them well?
Gerry Farmer: Yeah, yeah. They was all right because they was really us in a way, wasn’t they? The Australians. Well, I did have a bad time in hospital, when I was pretty, pretty rough, you know, and next to me there was an Australian guy and he had . . .
Getting legs off in those days was unheard of, it’s not like Afghanistan or anything like that, but he had his legs blown off when he was priming grenades and they went off, and he lost a couple of his legs. Well, he never liked me, and I don’t know why, and I was . . . I went in there one day and he was shouting on and that, “You Limey b…s” and he was swearing at me, and I said, “Look, what have we actually, what have I actually done to you?” “I’ll tell you what you’ve done to us” he said. “You send us all out as convicts
and when we build the place up, you all want to come and live there!” I said “I want to go home. I don’t want to go to Australia” [laughs]
Interviewer: Why not?
Gerry Farmer: When I was on 159, I . . . we were told that . . . I’d only just become a driver and so I had this jeep and I got called to the bunker, Captain French his name was, and he said “You’ve got to take the jeep out in the middle of the night
with three, three signalmen, three guys who do the signals”, and on the back of the jeep, I mean, this is old fashioned, you couldn’t do it nowadays, was a big roll of wire on a broomstick, and I’ve got to drive up this mountain road somewhere and he’s going to play this out to the guys in the field and they’re going to make a telephone where you’ve got a number and you could say if anyone’s in trouble, they’ll know it’s there. And he said, “No smoking, because the Chinese can
see every little movement.” The jeep was in pitch black darkness. I mean, a mountain road that wide [demonstrates very small space], you couldn’t even turn a jeep round, and I think that was the [Samajon], I think it really was, because what happened then, I seen these little red dots and they were smoking, and I thought, blimey, I thought they was fireflies, I didn’t know about firefliers, but anyway, the mortars started mortaring them. So, they’ve come running back, I’ve jumped in the jeep, belted off a bit panicky, missed the turn,
and went straight over, and we rolled and rolled and rolled and went upside down into the [Samajon] which was about 20 feet deep there. Yeah, this is in the middle of the night, and we fought to get out, I tell you, I’ve got claustrophobic, I haven’t been in a lift, I don’t use lifts now, because of that. I’ve walked up all my life.
Interviewer: You were in that jeep and . . .
Gerry Farmer: Yeah, and there were two, three others.
Interviewer: You were not wounded at all?
Gerry Farmer: No. Yeah, but the Corporal that was there, he was a Corporal, he, the bars that hold the thing on cut his head open,
he was pouring with blood, and we all landed upside down, in pitch black dark, and we, I thought we . . . well, we couldn’t get out. It filled up with water and suddenly we punched our way . . . because the canvas side door was, it wasn’t like metal, because the jeep had canvas doors didn’t they, and we forced . . . [Brief interruption as someone comes in, says sorry, goes] . . . we forced our way out of it and the lucky part of that was, what became of it
Oh, the funny part of that story, about that Captain French, he’s still alive now, he’s a really old man . . . We went, we made our way, scrambled to the bank and we clambered up the hillside, all rocky and rocks, and all, and we didn’t know what to do, because we was in nowhere, pitch black dark, it was in, I think it was about March, March, it was in March, pretty cold, and we heard this engine, so one of the boys said, “Oh, we’ve got captured now”
“It’s the North Koreans, you know, it’s bound to be.” But it wasn’t. It was Canadians. A Canadian truck was coming back from somewhere and they was laughing at us because we was stranded, wet, all wet, and they said “Where are you?” And we used to have signs, you know, maroon and blue signs with 87, and that was where we was. And he said “Oh, we’ll be passing there, we’ll drop you off.” So, the first time . . . I never knew what Jack Daniels was, about the drink. So, they said, “We’d got to get Jack Daniels” like. So, it was a little truck.
We got in it, so one of the boys said, “Who’s Jack Daniels?” “Where’s Jack Daniels, we’ve got to say thank you for picking us up.” He said, “No, Jack Daniels, it’s a drink”. So, we were all having this drink, you see. So, this boy’s covered in blood. So, we get back to our unit, outside the medical bunker, in the middle of the night, and he comes out, and this boy’s covered in blood, and the bell goes, and he says “I’ve got incoming wounded” so he can’t see to this boy. Well, we . . . So, we all disappeared and went back to our beds, soaking wet. And I was about . . . I wasn’t even asleep, and a torch in my face,
and it was the Guard Commander, who was on guard, and he says, “Captain French wants to see you.” So I got back there, and I stand to attention, and the Captain . . . I hope he reads this, because he always makes me laugh . . . I stand to attention and he says to me, “Where’s my jeep?” So I said, “It went in the river, Sir”. So he said, “Well, it’s not so much the jeep that I’m concerned about, but you’ve left it unattended.” And I said, if it’s going to get daylight, I’mm
going to get shot at from the hills”. I mean. So, he said, no, what I’ve got to do is, I’ve got to get a recovery vehicle to go and get that jeep, because it was called the S.D.S. jeep, Signals Despatch Service, it was like a company runner, where you used to run and give a letter, they used to have to do it in the jeep. And so, these people got pulled out of bed, with this truck with a crane on it to come and get the jeep, they’re moaning at me because I’ve been in the river. We couldn’t find it. So now, when we go to the Tower of London
there’s an old boy who creeps in and his first is, “Where’s my jeep? Is it still under there?” I said, “I bet it’s rusty now”. But that’s a laugh, isn’t it? That’s how you can have a laugh in something tragic, isn’t it, really? [laughs]
Interviewer: What a story, huh?
Gerry Farmer: Ah, I went up to 355, have you heard of a hill called 355?
Gerry Farmer: Well, I had to drive my Commanding Officer up to there one day, and at the bottom there was a, a barrier, that we didn’t know, and I stopped and out of the, this hole
in the ground came two Americans. And they had yellow scarfs on and, you know, and they leaned on my jeep and put their faces right next to the . . . I mean, you know how, a Colonel, you couldn’t look at them, and saying “Hoy, buddy, you can’t go up there today.” So the Colonel says to me, he didn’t answer him, he says “Tell him who I am” so I said, “He’s the Commanding Officer of the Royal Fusiliers.” So they come to attention and saluted him, got on the phone, on the little phone, and they said “We’ve got some royal guy here,
and he wants to go up.” So they give him permission to go up. But they said, “We’ve lost two vehicles today”, and when we went up this line to go through to 355, there was big lorries that had gone off the road and been blown up. And what we was told, that was called the Murder Mile, I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of that. We called it the Bowling Alley. To go from there to the top was dangerous for one reason. The Chinese couldn’t see you because of the hill, but they could see the dust rising from the vehicles and they would shell the dust.
So clever, eh?
Interviewer 2: What was the story you had about Michael Caine?
Gerry Farmer: Well, Michael Caine . . . I didn’t get involved with any of it, but they laughed about it. There was a group that went out on patrol with him, because he was ‘D’ Company, and when you did patrols you had to go to the head of the line, you had to wait before you went down. 159 had a tunnel down, a camouflaged tunnel, and when you got to the bottom there was a telephone wire to say that you . . . it was a one-way vehicle, could only go one way. And what they were, you had to wait to go out on patrol
and go out at a certain time. So, Michael Caine was with his little group of guys and they said, “Here, what do you reckon?” . . . I met one in the Tower, a few years ago . . . He said, “You know that Michael Caine, he was sitting there, and we all said, because we were bored, “Let’s all say what we’re going to do when we leave the army”. So one said “Oh, I’m going to be a taxi driver’ and ‘a bus driver’ and ‘a train driver’ and all silly things like that. What do you think Michael Caine said? He said he wants to be an actor.
Gerry Farmer: So they said . . .
Yeah, yeah, this is in Korea. So, they said, “An actor? You want to be an actor? What do you want to be an actor for?” So, another guy says “Go and get a job and earn some money, you see, there’s no money in being an actor.” And I said, “Oh, that’s the greatest thing to say, wasn’t it?” He’s a millionaire now. He’s got a couple of flats up here now, hasn’t he? Do you know these flats by . . .?
Interviewer: Yeah, yeah.
Interviewer 2: He wrote a letter to me last year, actually.
Interviewer: He was all right, but I tell you what, he wasn’t . . . I’m putting myself up a bit here, but he wasn’t a Cockney. And I’ll tell you something about Cockneys, we’re born in the sound of Bow bells,
which is not Bow, it’s called, it’s a church called the Bow Church in the City, and I was born in the London Hospital, so we’re all Cockneys. But he called himself a Cockney in a book, but he was born, he was born across the river. Elephant and Castle. And when you cross the River Thames you become a little bit posher. [Laughs]
Interviewer 2: One other thing I wanted to ask, I mean, you’ve mentioned it a few times and you mentioned it then, at the end, about the nervousness. What was it that made the Chinese such a, a fearful enemy, and
just describe some of the . . . what you knew, the trumpeting and the, the whole kind of contact experience.
Gerry Farmer: Me, personally, used to find them clever. Like, you know the Chinese like fireworks and things like that which they, they was supposed to be the people that invented them, and they seemed to be a clever type of people, but they seemed to know what they was doing. We was always there . . . We all did what we didn’t want to do, it wasn’t, we didn’t want to fight in Korea, we didn’t want to be in the army. National Service. And I’ll tell you, National . . .
The Chinese were pretty good at what they did. I mean, it was a shame for them, because I think a lot of them was in National Service, conscripted, and after one big attack which was 159, there was a few people laying there and they had to be collected up, you know, and they was only young boys, in, in . . . they used to have white uniforms, sometimes, you know, and, yeah, I found . . . I found them not that bad, really.
Interviewer 2: You, you obviously went out on all these patrols,
Gerry Farmer: Yeah
Interviewer 2: Different types of patrol.
Gerry Farmer: Yeah, I done a few patrols.
Interviewer 2: How often were you in contact?
Gerry Farmer: Very, very rare on 159. It was pretty easy, easy going place really. We used to do a few . . . It come very close to being dangerous one night, a friend of mine, er, who, we, we’d meet together now and we give each other a hug, and I think it’s only because we bound together in fear. We went out on a, a listening patrol, which is the other one I didn’t mention, a listening patrol. And they
they put two of you here and two of you somewhere else, all in the valley, you know, and while we were laying there, we could hear the crunching, and a Chinese . . . it might have been Chinese or North Koreans, pitch black dark, went by us, about the length of this room. They went by. They used to have what we called burp guns, and a burp gun, I’ve actually held one of those in the army museum, and I don’t know how they ever carried them, really heavy, big round things, and they used to go ‘burp, burp’, you know. And you just stopped breathing for that time when they went by, because they’d have just . . .
I wouldn’t be here today if they’d known it was us there. We were armed up anyway, we used to have sten guns. Sten guns we used to use, you know. 303 rifles were too big to carry in Korea.
Interviewer 2: What, on patrols?
Gerry Farmer: Yeah, on patrols. Sten guns.
Interviewer 2: Interesting, because if you were in your sort of gun emplacement and you used a 303 . . .
Gerry Farmer: Well, a 303’s were our . . . although 303s were our main weapon, I never used a 303 in Korea, because Korea was close combat stuff. And, and
303s were range, wasn’t they, really? I mean you could shoot a thousand yards, couldn’t you? The thing is, Sten guns, and a lot of them used to jam because when you hold a Sten gun, we all used to hold it with the . . . er, where the rounds were, you know. Instead of holding it where you should hold it, we used to hold it there, so when you tried to fire it, you jerked it a bit, so the round wouldn’t go. You know. So obviously you got told off for that. And they used to do 32 rounds and only let you
put 28 in because the springs were weak. You know, the British Army was so . . . And do you know, when you went out on patrol in Korea, you had to go and sign for stuff. Like the Americans got all this equipment now, hadn’t they. But we had to go to the stores, they’d say “What patrol are you doing?” “Oh, ambush patrol” “Firing patrol”. They’d give you a flak jacket, two Fosses grenades and they, and they, when you come back, they look, have you opened anything, you know. Oh, a bandolier of 50 rounds, like the old Mexican days,
and they used to say, “Have you used anything?” as though they didn’t want you to use nothing, you know, and put it up on the stores all nice, you know. So that was, the British army was like that, we never had the equipment, didn’t have the equipment at all. You know.
Interviewer: Have you been back to Korea after the war?
Gerry Farmer: Yes, I went back in ’81. I was one of the first re-visitors to Korea.
Gerry Farmer: 1981, with General Farrar-Hockley. But it was mainly the Gloucesters he took back, because the Gloucester Regiment got well known, more well-known than what we were.
Interviewer: How about after that? Have you been back to Korea even after the . . .
Gerry Farmer: No, that was the only time I’ve been back to Korea. Yeah, it was that. And also Japan for three days, which, er, well, I ended up in Japan in hospital, as you know by now.
Interviewer: So the Korea in 1981 and Korea now is radically different.
Gerry Farmer: Well, it was, it was different then, everything was different. I was in a hotel called Hotel Lotte. Do you know Hotel Lotte?
Gerry Farmer: Well, that was a really beautiful place, you know. And, er, but when I seen
Korea to begin with, you know, there was lots of cardboard shacks where people lived, and the war was on, I suppose, you know. And it was a strange feeling. But Korea was so different in ’81. And their transport was good, you know. And they really looked after you. I went back with a, a coach, about forty of us, but not Fusiliers, they were Gloucesters. Gloucesters had more of a name in Korea, didn’t they, because they [had a lot] taken prisoner. And we had a police escort through the
streets and went to, went to Broadcasting House, and they showed us around the cemetery. Well, from Seoul, we went down to the cemetery, which was in Pusan,
Interviewer: Pusan, yes.
Gerry Farmer: Where my best friend there, he was the last soldier to die in the Korean War. Corporal Ted Darby.
Interviewer: So how was Pusan?
Gerry Farmer: Pusan?
Interviewer: In 1981. Pusan. You saw Pusan twice, wasn’t it?
Gerry Farmer: No, it was [perfect].
Interviewer: In 1952 and 1981.
Gerry Farmer: Yes. It was like a little,
little America, actually. They built it like . . . you know, not like London.
Gerry Farmer: Yeah, I mean, it wasn’t like London, it was all built up, nice places, you know. Really good, you know.
Interviewer: So, what did you think about that?
Gerry Farmer: I thought, we thought it was wonderful, because what we found was the people, when they knew you was a Korean veteran, although we wasn’t in uniform, they would give you a slight bow and they would really . . . it was a kind of grateful feeling that we’d been to Korea and fought in the war.
You know. We couldn’t believe it. And it was the first time ever I see a shopping mall, the underground shopping mall. And the girls in their kimonos, you know, were standing outside waiting for it to open and bowing as you walked by and it was unbelievable, yeah.
Interviewer: When you left from Korea in 1953, November,
Gerry Farmer: Yeah?
Interviewer: Did you think that Korea would become like that?
Gerry Farmer: Yeah, I think I did, I …
Interviewer: Did you ever . . .
Gerry Farmer: No, we never really knew the outcome, I mean, the war was never really ended, was it, really? I don’t believe it’s really ended
now, has it? There was never an actual armistice.
Gerry Farmer: When I went back to Korea in ’81, I went across the Freedom Bridge into North Korea, where the talks are.
Interviewer: Yeah, I know, in Pan . .
Gerry Farmer: Is that Pongyan? Not Pongyan?
Gerry Farmer: Panmunjom. I went back to Panmunjom and we had to sign a thing with the Americans to say we could go over, no cameras or anything like that, and there was this hut there where they used to talk and Korean guards who you mustn’t look at because they wouldn’t like it, you know.
So, yeah, we did.
Interviewer: So, what is the impact of your service as a Korean war veteran . . .
Gerry Farmer: Oh, great.
Interviewer: . . . upon your life? Even after you came back from Korea? What is the impact?
Gerry Farmer: Well, the one thing you could say is, you go in as a boy and you come out as a man, and it’s as easy as that. You know. You do things that other . . . If I’d thought going to the dentist was a bit frightening in my days, you want to try Korea for a night, and then you’d go to the dentist every day. And that’s the way I thought about it. It made you realise there were a lot harder things
that you could achieve by doing that. And you was doing something good for the country, actually. Because even . . . Can I tell you one quick story? I was in a, a PC World place looking for, like, cameras and televisions, and there was a young guy, they looked Korean but you can never be careful about Koreans because Chinese sometimes look like Koreans, if you say, you’re Korean and they’re Chinese, you can’t say, “Well, I’ve been fighting Chinese” can you?
Gerry Farmer: So the thing is, there was this young girl and this
guy and they had their backs to me but on her shoulders she had a baby, but about a 3, 4 year old, I thought, three year old baby.
Interviewer: Where was it?
Gerry Farmer: In London, when I lived in Chigwell, in Essex. I lived in Chigwell in Essex, you know. And he was smiling at me, this baby. So I was going like that [waves] and smiling, and do you know what? She turned round and looked and she said . . . So I explained and said, “Look, I’m from Korea, [unclear]” And do you know, he thanked me?
That guy thanked me. He said, “I thank you for that I’ve got my wife and family.” And I felt really good about that, you know. He actually thanked me. He said, “Thank you for what you did for us.”
Interviewer: What do you think is the legacy of the Korean war and your service? What is the legacy?
Gerry Farmer: The legacy? It’s just, you just feel like that you’ve achieved something for somebody. I think we’ve achieved . . . When you think, looking at Korea, and Seoul especially, has . . . I’ve seen Seoul on the news,
and it’s really like, it’s really like America, isn’t it, it’s nothing like London, is it? But I’ll tell you what, Hotel Lotte was tall in those days, and it’s all tall buildings, and their transport system, the trains, you know, on time. Their trains have been about two minutes late in 20 years, haven’t they? You know.
Interviewer: It’s more like London, actually. We have our very similar subways . . .
Gerry Farmer: You want to try the District Line which I use when I go to my daughter’s, when I go to my daughter’s on the District Line. I tell you what, there’s always something
funny going wrong, whether it’s signal failure, it’s terrible.
Interviewer: So the legacy is . . .?
Gerry Farmer: The legacy is just, er, you feel like you’ve helped to achieve what Seoul and Korea is like now. And I hope it stays like that, because we know what the news is like, and it’s looking a bit dangerous now, isn’t it?
Interviewer: That’s the unfinished business, I mean, the unfinished aspect of the Korean War.
Gerry Farmer: Well, there was no armistice, was there?
Interviewer: Just armistice.
Gerry Farmer: Well, the armistice, but you know where you sign off to say the war is ended,
Interviewer: Right, it’s called the Peace Treaty.
Gerry Farmer: There was about a two-mile difference, wasn’t there?
Gerry Farmer: [Wildlife and people], and . . .
Interviewer: Do you know the Korean war is known as the ‘forgotten war’? Right?
Gerry Farmer: Mmm . . .
Interviewer: Why is it, and what can we do about it? How can we make it known to our future generations about your legacy and the legacy of the Korean war? And [unintelligible]
Gerry Farmer: Just what you’re doing. Just tell them what we did, you know. And I mean, like, when I came home, we all knew what we’d done but I’m looking on it a different way now, because you get nostalgic when you get older don’t you? But I found that I had to have treatment for, er, post . . . P.T.S.D., which is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which I had after being blown up. But the three words, that P.T.S.D., they said, “Without thinking sum Korea up for me.”
And I’m sorry to tell you, I put it down a bit, I said “Wet, cold, tired, hungry, nervous” And they were the things that came into my mind about Korea – wet, cold, tired, hungry, nervous. And that’s what it was. We was always nervous. We were always wet, not . . . it rains a lot in Korea, doesn’t it? You get a lot of rain in Korea, don’t you, that’s why you’ve got lovely greenery . . .
Interviewer: A monsoon area.
Gerry Farmer: Yeah. Yeah. And . . .
Interviewer: It’s been a wonderful, wonderful interview. Thank you
for sharing . . .
Gerry Farmer: There’s so much to tell you.
Interviewer: And you were heavily wounded in the battle of The Hook.
Gerry Farmer: Yeah. [Says ‘hello Sir’ to someone off screen]
Interviewer: And you’ve been back to Korea. So, on behalf of the Korean nation, I want to thank you for . . .
Gerry Farmer: Yeah, I was . . .
Interviewer: . . . your honourable service
Gerry Farmer: Yeah
Interviewer: . . . and sacrifice, and we’re going to edit this and use it in the classrooms so our young children will now about your legacy.
Gerry Farmer: Yeah, good. And I had two and a half months in hospital I was, too. Two and a half months with that, and that never really got made better, you know. But
I had a lot of good, funny stories to be told as well. You know, it’s all bad at the time, but when you look back on it . . . Most of my friends, did they really like what they did? At the time, no. But you look back now and say, “Wasn’t that a good two years?” What you achieved, you know. The journey alone to Korea was really something, wasn’t it? I mean, five weeks on a ship and then getting off at all the ports, Malaya, you know, and Hong Kong.
Interviewer: Something very good came out of your service. What good came out of your service and that is . . .
Gerry Farmer: Well, it made a man out of me. I went in as a boy and came out as a man, that was for sure.
Interviewer: You’re the man.
Gerry Farmer: I’m the man because there’s a lot of things don’t frighten me now. If you want to be frightened of something, like I said, going to the dentist, think of a night in Korea, on patrol, and you’ll go to the dentist without any worries! [Laughs]
Interviewer: I like that metaphor. Thank you very much.
Gerry Farmer: O.K. Sir. Nice.
Interviewer 2: Thank you.
[End of recorded material]
 Said 6th, but should be 12th – see later reference to December.
 Sounds like ‘sixty’ but number does not make sense in context
 Interviewer starts asking question while Gerry Farmer is still speaking, words lost.
 Google just gives it at Pusan East
 Possibly Samjin?