Keith Nutter is a British Army veteran who served in the Korean War. He grew up in a working class family in Dresden, England. His father was a milkman and his mother worked for the shoe business. He grew up during World War II in England, experiencing frequent bombing during the war. He details how he let loose during his R&R after his tour in Tokyo, how it was a regular part of daily life to lose close friends in battle, and how he just did his duties but does not remember them as completely meaningful. Lastly, he recalls his recent visits to South Korea.
Tokyo: A Hollywood of Sorts
Keith Nutter recalls his rest and relaxation period in Tokyo. He describes Tokyo as Asia's Hollywood. He emphasizes the importance of letting lose from the experiences endured while on the Korean Peninsula.
Keith Nutter recollects on losing a dear friend while in Korea. Although he mourned later at home, in the moment he couldn't shed a tear. He describes what funeral services were like while serving in Korea.
Keith Nutter elaborates on how he does not believe he did anything special during his service. He is proud but he feels he should not be honored because he simply did his duty. He recalls reuniting with his family upon his return and facing this.
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Keith Nutter: …dugout soaking wet, like I were to my dugout. It were marvelous men like that, yeah.
Interviewer: Nice. Good story. Did you ever do R and R in Tokyo?
K: Yes I did, yep.
I: What do you remember of that?
K: Whoa. Not a lot. [laughing] Oh dear. It was a–oh dear I went in the tail end of the winter, I suppose, February time, and, oh dear, you see, you go– you go–
From behind– in the line you–you got your combat, get on and you go back to one of the rear [ash lines] and there they’ve got your work sacks with your battle dress and everything else in, you see. So, you had to get changed then and you put all your combat gear in there and you’ve got your battle dress to go Tokyo. And then they fly you–the Americans fly us over. Yeah, I had five days in Tokyo. It were very nice, it were.
I: What was good about it?
K: Wow. Tokyo them days were like Hollywood to us. You know, we’d come from UK, which wa–in 1950 it was a bit bleak here, but Tokyo was all colored lights and flashing and night clubs. Oh dear, it was–we were only there five days, but anyway.
I: Do you–do you remember the hot–the bars and the hotels?
K: Oh I can’t remember much. I know–I know on our last night there.
But we’d never drunk you see, I mean in them days, the most I’d ever have is a glass of Port wine at Christmas. And on the–on the last night I think the–there were some British sailors there, and anyway, so they–they got us [kay lie] to be honest, I don’t know, I can’t remember much about… I remember coming round in the men’s toilet, you know, [flimmin head nearly where your tail’ll] and next thing I remember,
I were going up the steps and the American at the top of the steps, because it were the Americans who flew us over, he says I’m having no drunks on my pay– on my plane. And–and I though what the–anyway, he let me on. And I–I–I can’t remember much else. The plane landed evidently and I got off. There was nobody about they’d had all got off and I think I were the only Norfolk who were there. Anyway, I had to then hitch a hike up to the line.
And Major Holden, somebody must have said to Major, oh Ginger’s coming up the hill. And he come out and he stood on there with his hands like this [hands on his hips] and he said Ginger, what have you been up to? [laughing]. I dare you. I couldn’t remember much about that, that last night in Tokyo. But it was a–yeah. Well, you see, you come from very harsh conditions, you didn’t–you didn’t know whether you were going to get shot when you got back, you know
you didn’t know whether you were going to get home. So you lived quite… There was–there was a curfew in Tokyo so if you were out, you–you couldn’t get–you had to be off the streets by 11. You know, so if you were out you had to get into a hotel somewhere like that, you know, so.
I: How did you cope with, you know, did you have any other close misses and–and where you lost mates and stuff?
K: I did. On–on the patrol where I got the mention I lost a very close friend, Roy MacDonald from Ipswich.
Yeah, poor Roy got killed instantly. Chinese mortar got him–you know, well he–he didn’t suffer put it that way, yeah. He was a very good friend his dugout were next to mine. Yeah, and…
I: And how did you deal with that? How did you cope with death?
K: Well, I don’t think I shed a tear to Roy, for Roy sadly enough, I’ve shed a few since I’ve been home. I don’t
know. I what–what happens if you get killed in– well if you got killed any of–in the–in the front line got killed, the body were taken back to one of the rear echelons and then his close friends from the battalion– from the company could go back and they hold a little service. And so, I went back to Roy’s and I don’t I suppose I don’t know who done it they stitched him in a blanket, you see.
We always had one blanket in the bottom of the ruck sack. It was a–it were called a Canadian blanket, it were kind of the–what you call it a fleece today and I think it were green, mine were anyway. And that was-they said that were there to–to put the body in. Anyway, Roy were there, I don’t know whether he were in his chi–in one of these nice blankets, cause they got the Union Jack on. So, we had a little service for Roy.
And I–I didn’t shed a tear. The [padree] were there. There were about a dozen of us packs of his mates from the company. A nice little service, and then they shoot him off then to bury him in Pusan you know, and that was it. Yeah. I don’t think I shed a tear for Roy all the while I were there, no.
I: You just cope with that, it’s all around you.
K: I’m sure you do, yes. I’m sure you do, yeah.
I: How–how pleased were you to be leaving?
K: I think I were pleased, very pleased really. Your ending your two years–the end of your two years are nearly up. You’ll be very pleased, yeah you are very pleased. I just trying to think… Yeah, you’re very pleased. You get your kit together. Tou go back to the company’s Jeep to the rear [ash line].
You get your kit back and then you put your battle dress on into your comeback gear. I supposed you’re going to leave your weapon there. And then you go down, they take you to Seoul and you get a train to Pusan and then you’re on the boat and you’re coming home, you know. Yeah, it’s–it’s a nice feeling, yeah, yeah.
I: How’d you, h–h–how–what–did you have much of reception when you got back?
K: Not really. We docked at Liverpool,
we docked at Liverpool, [thinking] I don’t know whether it were early morning or not. There were no– I don’t think there were any band to meet us. If you come home as a battalion, you see, there’s generally a battalion band there to meet you’s. I–there may have been a band there, I don’t really know because… I’m trying to–I think the North Emblem Fusiliers come home with us as a battalion, so they may have had a welcoming band. Then you get off and
on the train. And from Liverpool you gotta go down to Colchester. Well, I know when we got off at London, I know I phoned Mum and Dad. Well–phoned–to come home–dad run a milk business, just delivering milk, so he got–we got a phone. Cause me uncle used to live with us so when [unintelligible] so we had the phone put in. So I knew Mum and dad had got a phone. So, when I got to St. Pancras,
I phoned Mum–and I phone Mum and she said different things, she said, well, we’re ever so proud of you got you mentioned in [unintelligible]. And I know–and I said to her, Mum, don’t say– it ain’t the fuckin’ VC, Mum. It’s the only time I said that word to Mum. [laughing] whether she heard me, I don’t know. I said it ain’t no big deal. The war is over, it ain’t the fuckin’ VC, Mum. She never mentioned it then and
I’ve never told anybody, only you. I’m– I don’t think I even told Rita that, [laughing] yeah. Anyway, we were home then, so that was alright.
I: Is that because you suddenly had sort of a release from the fact that you were home and you–you thought about everybody else, your friends and stuff because you just–
K: Yeah I–
I: you made it–it wasn’t you.
K; Once you got on the boat, you got a sigh of relief, because you see–sailed out of Pusan, your tour, that’s my war over. Yeah.
I: Why did you feel
so strongly that you, you know, it was–it was no matt– it wasn’t anything. That you’re mentioning these battles were so worthless. Why did you feel that?
K: Well, I didn’t say worthless I were proud of it, but I just done me job. You know, yeah I’d done me job. And no, it weren’t like I put a [unintelligible] Chinese trenches or something like that, I just done what I’ve been trained to do. And I done it. I didn’t fall to bits on it
You know, I suppose, I don’t know. You don’t put in for something like that you know, its–it’s it ain’t you who makes the decision whether you’re gonna be mentioned in dispatches or whether you’re going to get the military metal or whether you’re going to get whatever. So, I don’t know who put it in, I don’t know. They must’ve thought I done a good job doing what I was supposed to do, you know. K–keeping communications open, it saved a lot of people’s lives, perhaps mine included, so. I don’t know. I assume that’s what it were for a good job done.
Yep, nothing brave you know, just that I done what I was supposed to do.
I: And how do you feel now all these years later about Korea and being a veteran of Korea?
K: Well, I’m glad I went. Really glad I went. I’m glad of some of the friends I met. Some I–I served with I should say. Sadly, we’re getting a bit thin on the ground, but some of them turned out to be real good friends. We used to meet out, meet up at in the UK when we got home and it were real, it’s lovely.
It were lovely, yeah, it really was.
I: Right. And have you been back to Korea?
K: Yes I have, twice.
I: What was it like going back?
K: Well, it was–it was staggering the country what it is today. The first time, my wife didn’t want to come, because she never flew. So, I went with a friend from Wellingborough who served in the same company as me, we both went. We had a nice time, you know, we were very welcomed in Korea.
I: Right, well I think that’s probably us, isn’t it?
Any other stories you’ve got?
K: Oh I don’t think so, really. No, I don’t.
I: I’ve asked you an awful lot. Did you ever have bugle calls with the Norfolk’s? Did the battalion use bugle calls?
K: Well, only when we were in the UK. The bugle calls meant different things. There were one for last post, there were cook house call, but in Korea, I–I– didn’t hear a bugle play in Korea at all, no.
K: I remember my–Malcolm Barker saying just before we come out of the line he could hear the black watch coming, the pipes, and he said I heard them pipes coming up the road and he thought, that’s our war done, [laughing] a nice thought really.
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