Maurice Morby was born in Wellingborough, England. He joined the Royal Army in 1949, volunteering for service in Korea in the spring of 1951. After arriving on the HMT Orwell in Busan, he was assigned to the 28th Field Regiment, Royal Engineers as a supply truck driver. He describes accidentally walking into a minefield while on patrol during Operation Skunk. He talks about dogs that were used to discover enemy mines. His unit was stationed on the east coast of Korea and he describes the his amazement at the transformation of the country, in addition to his appreciation for the courtesy shown to veterans by the people of Korea after the war.
Journey to Korea
Maurice Morby describes about his journey from the United Kingdom to Korea on the HMT Orwell. He describes seeing dolphins, sailors singing on deck, and their brief stop in Singapore.
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First Days in Korea
Maurice Morby describes his first impressions of Korea and the journey from Busan to Seoul. He talks about arriving at Busan harbor, picking up vehicles, and the arduous 3-day drive to Seoul through difficult terrain.
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Maurice Morby shares a story of a ghostly encounter that he had during one evening's guard duty. He describes seeing what he thought was an old man dressed in traditional Korean clothing. He and a fellow soldier chased the man into a long inescapable alley and opened fire. Despite what seemed like an impossible escape, they never saw the man again.
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Dangerous Letter Writing
Maurice Morby tells a story about writing letters while sitting on a log in camp. He describes bullets coming in from all around and diving behind the log for cover. In the end, they discovered that a nearby British unit was test firing weapons nearby unaware of his unit's camp location.
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Maurice Morby describes his unit's encampment near a factory. He describes the size of the camp, where and how they slept, how they dealt with cold weather, and what not to do with beer.
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Chapters and Verses
Maurice Morby describes his job of picking up and delivering supplies. He talks about how they communicated about supplies, how his truck was loaded, and the difficult overland journey.
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"We're in a Minefield!"
Maurice Morby describes accidentally walking into a minefield while on patrol during Operation Skunk. He talks about the terrain, how he and a fellow soldier made their error, and how they escaped the potentially dangerous situation.
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Mine Clearing Dogs
Maurice Morby talks about dogs that were used to discover enemy mines. He describes the dogs' duties and one particular encounter with several dogs in camp.
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Second Hand Mail
Maurice Morby tells a story about what he called "second hand mail." While eating lunch one day, his unit's encampment came under heavy artillery fire. He describes that later it was found out that the artillery fire was from friendly tanks, their shells ricocheting off of a nearby river.
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Secret Supply Mission
Maurice Morby describes delivering secret cargo on a supply mission. He talks about his discovery of what the cargo was, a fabricated decoy tank that was switched for a real tank that needed to be serviced.
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28 Days for Smoking
Maurice Morby recalls the story of when he and a fellow soldier were caught smoking on guard duty and received a 28-day sentence in a military jail. He talks about the circumstances that surrounded his infraction and describes his experience as a military prisoner.
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An Encounter with Danny Kaye
Maurice Morby tells about his encounter with Danny Kaye, an American film actor, while on guard duty one dark evening. He describes a vehicle approaching his position without stopping. Alarmed, he fired warning shots in the vehicle's direction without knowing the identities of it's passengers, Danny Kaye and a famous American singer.
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Maurice Morby talks about his revisit to Korea. He describes the his amazement at the transformation of the country and his appreciation for the courtesy shown to veterans by the people of Korea.
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[Beginning of Recorded Material]
M: I’m Maurice Morby, 22287478 sapper, Royal Engineers, 28th
Field Engineer Regiment in Korea with Stores Troop. That was the nearest stores dump that has ever been to the front line in any action.
I: Where are you from Maurice and what was your life like as a boy before Korea, before any of that?
M: Well, originally, I come from Wellingborough. I had scarlet fever as a child and were in the scarlet fever hospital in Wellingborough. Then I was sent to the convalescent town in Shorncliffe. Where I been there for just a few days and war broke out and we all got sent home again. And literally, I just went through the war like any other child.
I: Was Wellingborough affected? Was Wellingborough… did it have a lot of war activity?
M: Not a lot, but what we did do was very damaging. We had a bomb dropped on the market square, which completely demolished a cafe with people inside it one Saturday afternoon. Made a right mess of everywhere in the area obviously. My father was involved in that. He had just come back off of a long run with his lorry and he got “Express Transport” in white on both sides the lorry.
And as these planes passed over and he started another run, my dad said, “I think he’s after my lorry,” he says, “with the white writing on. I’d better remove it.” So, he moved off and somebody said, “You’ll be wanted in the market square Cyril.” He went down to the market square, and he said it was carnage and that he used his lorry as an evacuation vehicle to take people up to the Rock Street clinic in Wellingborough.
Where they were treated and then sent on to different hospitals. But that was a very sad Saturday afternoon that was.
I: And did you remember that?
I: In a situation like that do your parents keep you away or are you just free, is it a free roam?
M: Well, they advised us not to go, but you know what lads are. You go anyway [LAUGHS]. But my next-door neighbor they went out on this particular Saturday.
And they had a corner shop, off-license, and they decided on their wisdom to go out that day which probably just as well they did. When they came home in the evening, walked into the lounge and Mr. Richard said, “My God, what the hell is going off here?” And that was about a 6-foot scaffolding pole had come through the roof, through the bedroom floor and sticking 6-foot out into the lounge. [LAUGHS]
And then, shortly after that my dad was upstairs getting dressed going down to the market, like mum and dad always did on a Saturday. And “Them bloody kids have been on that barn again!” And mum said, “I don’t think so.” “Yes, they have,” he said, “there’s a hole in it.” “Well, how can kids put a hole in a corrugated roof?” “Well, they have,” he said. Soon as he was dressed, he went down to have a look.
Felt along the top of the logs with a sacking over them, where he kept his logs for winter. And pulled out a big lump of shrapnel. [LAUGHS]
I: And when you were, as a child did you have, what was your education like?
M: Just the normal state education that I think was, worked very well, not like today, where they keep changing it from one day to the next. So, not only the children but the teachers don’t know whether they’re on foot or on horseback half the time.
I: What did you do most, geography? Global geography? Did you know about the Far East?
M: Yes, we did geography. Yeah, in the curriculum yeah, yeah. But I must admit though, I hadn’t a clue where Korea was. I knew it was in, somebody said it was in the Far East. That was as much as we knew. Cause when we eventually got there, it was a different perception of what you think you’re going to see.
I: Yeah. So, let’s talk a bit about that. So, you know, post-war, as a young person, how you know, what did you do after you left school? And how did you get to, took you to national service?
M: No, I didn’t do national service, I was a regular soldier. I joined the Army Cadets at 13, along with my friend, John Hopkins. We were pals since we were 10-year-old. We told the commanding officer at the time that we were 14 and we joined the cadets.
And soon started rising up through the ranks because we were really dedicated. We both wanted to be soldiers. I went on a PT course down at Shorncliffe, physical training school and they learned halfway through that it wasn’t the course we’re supposed to be on. It was a course for wounded veterans, rehabilitation.
So, in actual fact, we actually passed a physical training school, which were rare then, to wear cross swords. Which we thought was very good. And then I went to Northampton; my dad was dead against it. My mother said, “You can go down the street and get killed by a bus without joining the army.” And I was still adamant, I took time off work one Wednesday afternoon, went to Northampton.
Took the King’s shilling and just had to wait for a medical. Which I passed day one. And then from there on, August… ‘54 was it … yeah no, I joined up in the August and I did my time at 1TRRE.
at Melvin Wells, where after six weeks we had to have another medical where my MO told me he needn’t go into any detail to discharge me from the army, he could do it without any other medical assistance. But he thought that I better go to Ronkswood Military Hospital anyway and be checked out.
But he had no doubts that they would discharge me. I had to go back to the barrack room with a chitty. One of the lads had to fetch all my meals for me and I hadn’t to do anything strenuous at all. And I thought, “My God what’s the matter with me?” Went to Ronkswood Military Hospital for this examination and had two or three doctors went over every part of my body and then they said,
“Right, if you go out and wait in the corridor there, we’ll be with you in a bit.” And that was the longest ten minutes of my life. They came out and said, “Well sapper we don’t know what you’re doing here, but all you want is your tonsils and your adenoids out and we’ll have you in as soon as possible.” So, a couple of weeks later I finished up going back to the hospital to have my tonsils and adenoids out and I was so far ahead with the training because
like the basic training and all came into the Army Cadet Force, that I didn’t sort of miss any of that. I was well up on that and I passed out at the same time with the rest of the lads.
I: Oh yeah, must have been scary not knowing what on Earth is wrong.
M: [LAUGHS] Very.
I: What year was that?
M: Uh…be ‘49?
I: So where did you go next then and what were you doing and why the engineers?
M: It just the selection board and could two or three regiments that could go in and that appealed to me more than anything because you do watermanship, mines and demolitions, infantry. It’s a regiment where sort of anything goes.
I: The buildup to spring ‘51 you’re enlisted engineer.
Are you training for a career, or have you got no idea that you’re going to Korea at this point?
M: No, I was at that time, the whole regiment had moved up to Ripon in Yorkshire. Three stat was 36 Army Engineer Regiment. All moved up to Yorkshire and was going down for my breakfast one morning and on the notice board was a… letter to all the troops in the camp
for volunteers for Korea. So being a 19-year-old, gung-ho sapper, I thought this is for me, so I volunteered. My friend volunteered but he didn’t get it, he had to stop where he was cause he was a fantastic drill instructor and that’s where he was due to remain for practically all his service and I was shipped out to Korea.
After I’d been there just over 12 months, who should come out but John. [LAUGHS] So we had 6 months together and then I came home, and he had another 12 months to go.
I: Once you’d volunteered, is your role as an engineer suddenly changed or were you shipped off almost immediately? I’m just trying to work out if you’ve got specific engineer training for Korea.
M: No, we didn’t have any specific training.
We’d all trained in infantry training, mines and demolitions, fieldcraft, field geometry, and watermanship. So, we’d had a basic ground in all around and odd port authority, we did a bit of that. So, we were pretty well suited for anything that they wanted us to do.
I: Tell me about the trip, you know, going to Korea. Who did sail with, what were you on, what do you remember of the journey?
M: We went out on the Orwell HMS, HMT Orwell, which was a very nice boat. [Stand-easies], like bunk beds. Which was a good trip. Nothing to shout about really.
I: Had you been out of the U.K. at that point?
M: No, that was first time out the U.K.
I: So, must have been amazing to be going to like…
M: Oh, it was, yeah, especially when you see the
porpoises swimming alongside the boat, for miles they followed us. Amazing thing. One night that always sticks out in my mind was we had the Welsh regiment on board. One or two went up on deck, nice breezy summers evening and they started singing. Then some more arrived, then some more, then some more. And I think we had half the regiment up on deck, all the Welsh choir, all singing the Welsh song. It was a beautiful, beautiful evening, and I’ll never forget that.
I: A sort of calm before the storm almost.
M: Oh yes, yes, especially when we, we went to… three different ports on our way out. Obviously, lot you do on the way out to the Far East and Singapore brings back memories. [LAUGHS] It was funny,
the little lad on the quay there with pineapples, “One English shilling!” So, gave him a shilling and got a whacking big pineapple and one of the Navy lads with us had been to the, there before so he knew where the NAAFI Club was. “Out the gates, turn right, just keep on walking till you come to the NAAFI Club.” And course put, put the, he said, the pineapples on the table, out come the jackknives, the juice went everywhere.
The manager came over [LAUGHS] and said, “God, what a mess. It’s been long while since you saw a pineapple, isn’t it?” [LAUGHS] “Never mind,” she said, “Leave it, we’ll clear it up.” That was, and I wanted a drink when I got in therebut, it was, oh it was absolutely parched, it was scorching hot. So, I goes into the toilets and try to get a drink from the tap, God it was [LAUGHS] lot of warm water [LAUGHS]. But yeah, it was quite an achievement that.
As was the journey back from Korea with the Navy boys. We got rather naughty.
I: Tell me about that in a bit.
M: But I’ll tell you more about that in a little while.
I: Yeah, so obviously Singapore, the beautiful pineapple, that was probably the last moment of luxury then because the next time you could smell Korea.
M: [LAUGHS] Yeah, yeah, you could smell Port Said as well before we got to Port Said. One of the sailors, “Have you got much farther to go to Port Said now?”
He said, “You should know laddie,” he said, ‘you’ll smell it before you see it.” [LAUGHS] Oh dear.
I: Do you remember seeing, do you remember the first sight you had of Korea?
M: Yes, vividly. As we pulled inside to go into the harbor, there was two huge rocks, faces. It was absolutely, they were absolutely huge.
Pusan Harbor and we had had to sort of go through this channel. And I said to my mate, “My God, I hope we haven’t got to climb up there.” “No,” he said, “I think it might even out a bit.” And then we go in, farther we went in, farther we went in, there was a big square harbor which was, oh, thank goodness for that [LAUGHS]. But that was very, very daunting going through them rocks, I tell you, into Pusan Harbor.
It really was. Busan, as they call it now, why they changed it I don’t know. Cause we still call it Pusan.
I: Yeah, and what do you remember of pulling up, do you remember the Negro band?
M: Oh yes, there’s a Negro band there when we got there and then we went to the, more or less like a transit camp. We had to go down to the motor pool and pick up all our vehicles.
And then we convoyed up to Seoul. And that was a hair-raising ride that was. Two nights and three days, from Busan to Seoul.
I: Did you travel in day or night?
M: We were travelling right up until late evening, every day, because there was no roads. Not as such, they’re only sort of tracks that had been made by vehicles that had been went up that same route.
But there was no laid down roads. Humps and bumps and [LAUGHS].
I: Did you see smashed up trains and stuff like that?
M: No, no, not on our route, no, no. Not going up we didn’t, no, no.
I: And how many of you were travelling together? How many engineers are you with?
M: Oh, we had a whole, we had a whole lot. There was HQ, there was Stores Troop, there was Plant Troop. It was one hell of a big convoy going up.
I: And you were, you were 36 Engineers Stores?
M: In England, I was 36, in Korea I was 28th Field.
I: So, you yeah, you get to end of the line, you’re then basically transferred to some 3-tonners? Is that right?
M: No, I was driven, I drove in one of the biggest lorries that the British had there at the time. It was a 10-tonne Leyland Hippo, there’s only three.
I: You were in one of them?
M: Yeah, Jack Donnelly and another chappie.
Another Scotsman and myself. Yeah, there’s just three.
I: Were you the driver?
M: Yeah, yeah. On the boat, they said, they asked if anybody got any HGV experience, and I said yes. I hadn’t really but I’d driven a Leyland Hippo right in the square at Aldershot three or four times and really enjoyed it. And I thought well if I can drive this, I can drive anything. Cause I done an MT course anyway and passed my test on a 3-tonne Bedford.
And I thought I can handle one of them. And luckily enough, when we were sent to the pool to pick up our lorries, I got a Leyland. I was very chuffed about that. That was my pride and joy, that lorry, it really was.
I: Was it called a 10-tonne Hippo?
M: Leyland Hippo.
I: Was it, was it articulated?
M: No, no.
M: Flat, flatbed, yeah.
I: Okay, so you drove up to the line?
I: In convoy?
I: With anything onboard?
M: Yeah stores. Yeah obviously.
I: What stores were you carrying?
M: Oh, I can’t remember that. All sorts [LAUGHS]. Barb wire, pickets, anything, sandbags. I had a real good load. I had a real good load. Plus, a lot of people’s kits as well.
I: Do you remember that first journey? Is there anything that stands out on it?
M: Not really, no. It was just boring really. A lot of it was countryside obviously. A lot of the peasants hadn’t seen lorries the size that we’ve got at the time. And they used to come out banging tins and running behind it, chasing the devil away. But no, they got used to it in the end. It was, it was rather funny though to see that happen. [LAUGHS]
It was okay up until we got to Seoul. And then we thought all our birthdays had come at once because we couldn’t go straight up to our harbor area, we had to go to this factory first. Which was a factory that manufactured these spindles that they, takes the cotton and things for the spinning mills, for the textile mills.
That was rather funny because it was in a complex, in a square. If you can imagine a square, in the bottom right-hand corner was a gatehouse and a big opening. The gates had gone, bang in front of you, right across the top, was old offices and to the left was the actual factory.
With an alleyway only the width of an ordinary alleyway but it went back about 100 meters or more. And I think it was Roy Brotherton that was my RPO that night on roving picket. We studied this gatehouse, just looking down, surveying all that was going on. Nice moonlit night and all of a sudden, this figure came towards us.
It was a little old Chinaman, with his arms up his sleeves, his little black cap, his baggy trousers, and baggy jacket, and he was waddling towards us. And our orders were, shoot first and ask questions afterwards. I couldn’t have shot an old man. He looked harmless to me, although we were trained on him. And he got up towards the alleyway, and we were walking down towards him.
And we kept shouting “Come in, anywhere, anywhere.” No, he wasn’t taking any notice wherever he was, and he turned and went into the alley. Well, that was it. We both ran to the alley, we only had about maybe 5, 10, 15 yards to run. Got to the alleyway, I dropped down, opened fire straight away, spraying up the alleyway. Roy was above me and he let go as well.
And I think we just have about emptied two magazines of Sten rounds up there. Nobody came out the other end. Now he didn’t go through any of the doors because we thought those doors are booby-trapped, so nobody had touched them during the day. They were waiting for daylight to make sure that they were all right before anybody went in. The intelligence officer came out, obviously split us up straight away and he says,
“Right, Morby what did you see?” So, I told him. “My God,” he says, “That’s strange.” Then he interviewed Roy and asked him what he saw. And he told him the exactly same story and he was quite convinced that we hadn’t colluded. Well, we hadn’t. And he said, “Well, all I can say is that you’ve seen an apparition or a ghost.” He said, “It’s strange,” but he said that “There’s no other answer to it.”
And to this day, it sticks in my mind that little man waddling up and going down that alleyway. Did I shoot him? Did Roy shoot him? Was it a man? Was it a ghost? And on our revisit…
I: How long was the alleyway?
M: It would have been a good 100 yards.
I: So, he couldn’t have just turned in…
M: No, no, no, no, he couldn’t have done a run that long cause there was, we got a generator at the other end. Not facing the opening.
But to the left of the opening and there was an engineer was working on this generator and he of course, he looked round as soon as the rounds started coming out the end. And he said, “Nobody come out.” That’s how we know nobody come out. But… Strange.
I: That’s interesting, not heard a story like that before sir. Okay, all right carry on the story for me, cause you’ve obviously got some good memories.
M: Right, we moved up then to…
Our permanent harbor area.
I: So, where were you on the west coast were you?
M: No, we’re up…
I: The east coast, sorry.
M: I don’t know where we would have been. We were up near the Imjin River bridge. So, we would’ve been on the… on the east coast surely.
M: I think.
I: And there was a harbor there was there?
M: In Busan?
I: No, in the, you said the harbor area. Is that where you…
M: No, that’s what they called them.
They weren’t camps or anything, they’re called a harbor area. And we moved up there, we’d been up there… oh, two or three weeks. And we sat out one night on a great big log, just outside our tent. Writing a letter home, me and a couple of others. And all of a sudden, [gun noises], and there was rounds spurting everywhere to the right and left of us. We immediately fell over the back of this log.
And “What the hell’s going on?!” And then I was under the bursts. God blimey, our hearts were pounding, didn’t know what was going on, didn’t know where it was coming from. It seemed to be coming from somewhere in front of us. And immediately some of the infantry regiment rounded about and plus I sent our patrols out to see what was going on if they could catch anything.
And it turned out it was [training]. They had some raid guns in for repair and they were test firing them and nobody told them that there was in their line of flight that there was a camp over there. So, I think we were very lucky to get away with that.
I: What was your harbor area like? How big is it?
M: Oh, it was a fair old size, like a football pitch very near.
There was a big pit that we dug and the canopy off my Leyland went over the top of that for a cover. And most of us others were in a big marquee, and we had heating. It was a 50-gallon drum, that was drip fed by fuel from outside.
That could be very dangerous. You just had to keep it on this certain, drip, drip, drip, so that it was enough to keep it alight and keep the heat coming out. And the one mistake to make was to go to the NAAFI tent and buy two or three bottles of beer. Which was Asahi beer, which was nearly always frozen,
and stand it round the heater. Which was your biggest mistake you could ever make because before very long there was, pop, pop, pop, and you’ve got no beer left. [LAUGHS]
I: Yeah, I still like Asahi now.
I: I like Asahi, nice beer yeah. Always cold as well.
M: Yeah. It’s an onion beer they used to tell us, I don’t know whether it is or not but that’s what the general rumor was at the time. Yeah.
I: And you had beds then, did you count beds?
M: We had beds, that we’d, we made our, uh, carpenters, good ole R.A. carpenters, formed up a bed frame, and from this factory, we were in, they was miles and miles of webbing. About two inches and a quarter inch thick and uh they laced it onto these frames like a mattress. And that’s what,
that’s we had for beds. And the sleeping bag that we had to keep rolled up and sealed during the day time in case that rats or snakes or anything got into them, but oh no, no proper camp beds, no. In fact, um I had a letter come from home, it used to take about six weeks to come, that said, um, with a copy of News of the World,
all this new winter kit that we got, uh; parka jackets, parka trousers, and all these fancy hats and this and that and the other. Yeah, we had the English BD, we hadn’t even got them. And that was six weeks after we were told in England, told in the paper we got all this marvelous kit. It used to get quite chilly, quite chilly.
I: What were you doing now, what was your sort of, what was your primary operational role there
as a stores person?
M: Up and down from Seoul, from a wood yard down there that was the only place in oh well the only place that could produce twelve by twelve lumber that we used to bring back on pace for bridge building and one thing or another. And we used to go down and
pick up a load from there. The lorries were verses from the bible, and the wagons, the goods were in, were chapters. So there was nothing to give away. To say that uh, go down to the railhead and pick up a load of barbed wire, you had to go down and verse so and so, chapter so and so, and you knew
what you got to get. It was for radio obviously, radio secrecy. And at one point, uh, well, the first time we were loading, uh, we used to call them” guks”, I don’t know why, and, uh, they were loading the lorry for me, or helping loading, and they were just slinging it on any old how and, uh, I think they would have only got three ton on if they had done it the way they wanted.
So, I said, “No, no you gotta stack it, stack it.” So, they got up to stack it so it was level with the sideboards, and then in rows, oh, about the diameter and a half of a football and about 12, 14 inches high, um coils and they used to stack coil easily. And a course by the time you got that
on you got a good eight or nine ton. You knew you’d got it. Because on the way back we had to go up through a mountain pass and as soon as you hit this pass it was four, three, two, one, four-wheel drive and that was the only way you’d get up there with that load. And uh, that could be quite tricky sometimes if you missed it. I don’t know how you’d a got away and
you’d probably roll back down the bottom.
I: Did you ever see any guerilla, was there any guerrilla activity on the road?
M: Yes, yes uh, one night, one day rather is what they call Operation Skunk, and uh everybody that was capable that wasn’t on sick had to go on this
hunt and we went up into the surrounding hills looking for anybody like that. And because we had a barber, a Korean barber, who turned out to be a North Korean Sergeant, uh so he wasn’t very popular with our RSM. And, and, they were shipped off on this Operation Skunk, cause I say up in the hills going around it was rather amazing
really because the grass on top of these hills was only about three-quarters of an inch and it was thick like somebody had cut it and it never used to grow anymore. It was lovely. And we were wandering around and we came to this pill box in the middle of an area. So said my mate are we going to have a look? I said not on your “nelly”. Not just me and you we’re not. So,
he said, “Well let’s move up a bit in the open here.” So we started moving up and he said stop. I said why, what’s the matter? He said there’s a plate on that wire, we’re in a mine field. “Oh God,” I said, “that’s all we want, isn’t it?” So, he said, “Look you stay where you are, you’re a married man.” ‘Cause I’d got married jus for I came away. “And, uh
I’ll go have a look.” So he inched his way up to the wire. Walking like a fairy. And a load of the lads there they came over and the officer had got a map of area and he said, “You’re all right lads. They’re anti-tank mines you won’t set them off.” So very stealthily we walked up to the wire and they held the wire down and helped us over. But, uh, me heart was in me mouth up at that point. (laughs)
I: You were lucky.
M: Yes, very lucky
I: I wouldn’t want to test whether or not you…
M: Oh no, I wouldn’t no. Especially if they were laid in what we called the dif pattern. You wouldn’t take more than the yard before you did one. It didn’t matter which way you went. You’d catch one that was what they were set to do.
I: Did you do mine laying?
M: Not over there, no, no.
I: Did you take mines away? Diffused mines?
M: Yeah, we had dogs for that.
I: Oh, it, tell me about the dogs?
M: Very, very clever dogs. Uh, in fact too clever. They were in a wooden box mostly, these Chinese mines, so that you couldn’t detect them, but the dogs would find them. And we had been out on a run one day and came back eight or
nine o’clock at night and the dogs had been let loose for a run and they wouldn’t let me out of the cab. [Laughs] They would not let me out of the cab, they were there barking and snarling and showing their teeth. I thought “Well I hope somebody comes and gets me”. But, yeah, other than that they were excellent for the job that they did, excellent.
I: Did they have specific handlers?
M: Yes, yes, yeah,
yeah. Very, very clever dogs.
I: And they were used for mine clearing?
M; Yeah, mine clearance, yeah. There probably was something to do with Lt. [Kadoo] Hudson a gentleman soldier, couldn’t say two words without stuttering, bless him. And he was an explosives expert and a real explosives expert he really was.
We were told that he was heir to poor sunlight, hence the name Hudson. At one point he devised a piece of equipment to get stores over from one hill to another during the fall when they… it used to flood, when the river used to flood. [unintelligible] They used to run down the valleys and the hills and you couldn’t get
anything over. So, he devised this bit of kit, put the, some the big round posts into the ground and one on the other hill on the other side, and he got this rocket motor that he’d been down to Kimpo Airport and scrounged and he was gonna give a demonstration to all the
big commanders over there, Brigadier General Castles, that we used to call Black Jake, that was our commander. Commander of the Canadians, the Australians, the Americans they were all there to see it. And he got a SWR into the, into these timbers on a T strut dug into the ground. And in order to [unintelligible] to set it off, which he did do,
and off it went, and it went and it went, and it took the SWR and it pulled the timbers out the ground and uh, he looked around and said “Well, F me, and it’s a gun to the Kremlin.” Joe Wilby and I got into a jeep, drive off, left them all standing, nobody said a word.
I: Did you see that, did you?
M; Yeah [laughing]
quite a laugh.
M: But he was a gentleman, a gentleman. He went along before us, and when he got to Kimpo aerodrome, he put his hand in his pocket and pulled out a big roll of won and he said to the lads, to his driver, “Here you are, when you get back get the lads a good drink, when you get back.” Now, not many do that. He was an absolute gentleman.
I: How much contact did you have with him? Was he…
M: Oh, all the time.
All the time. Yeah, he went up to the Americans on the [laughs] on the Imjin once cause they got trouble, ’cause they, uh, boats they’d got, they couldn’t get them out because they frozen into the river and, uh, he said, “Yeah, he could, he could clear them.” So, he pushed a fifty-gallon drum of fuel over,
and slung a match in. That’ll clear it, [laughing]. Which it did. [laughing] Sigh, he was quite a character. Yeah, then on another occasion, we were all enjoying our lunch, dinner time for what it was. And, uh, all of a sudden explosions, incoming mail. God Blimey!
The shells that were coming down that landed in the bottom of our stores, there was barbed wire and pickets flying everywhere, just could not understand how the Chinks, could reach us from that range. And uh that turned out to be that the Chinks had got a very nice hobby building big rafts then putting burned out
old vehicles and filling them with rocks or anything with weight on. When the river was in fast flow or a flood sending it down the river to knock bridges down. Very clever idea. And it worked. I went down to where…
I: How did it create explosions though?
M: Well, the tanks were set on top of the ridge firing down on them,
and they couldn’t get the trajectory quite right. And they were skimming off the water and coming off landing in our harbor area. So we were getting second-hand mail. [laughs] It wasn’t very funny at the time, but we thought it was very funny afterwards.
I: Yeah, so your own guys shooting these…
M: Yeah, yeah
I: Yeah, that’s the first time I’ve ever heard anyone say anything positive about the Chinese but what it was quite an ingenious idea.
M: Oh yeah, yeah.
I: How far upstream were they coming down …
M: Oh, I haven’t a clue, not all that far I wouldn’t a thought. No, and then on another occasion we were taking some stores up to one of the artillery places, and uh, got to this bridge and we, and they said you can’t go over there and we said ‘Why?’ Well, they said the rafts are coming down again. So at one point,
one clanged into it and it started to lean a little bit, and then with the current as it was within twenty minutes it had gone. And I had some pictures of that but I lent them to the RBL for their trailer for a show they
put on a little while ago, and I haven’t had them back yet. So, I’ll have to chase them up for that. I have three photos: With it intact, starting to go and then gone. So, we never did get across there.
I: How big was the bridge?
M: Oh, quite a distance, quite a distance. You know when you see on films, these cowboy films or one thing in those days with big wooden structures. With the big long legs,
uh, that’s what it was like. Were nothing metal, the only metal one was put over in the end was getting towards the near the end, when they put the Imjin bridge over. That was metal.
I: Did you ever have to cross the river?
M: Yeah, yeah, yeah, bring across the river, yes, we had to go up to the artillery. One night in particular,
we were taking a load up to some unit or other. We knew not where. We had a big compound in our harbor area that was always screened off and nobody would tell us what was going on. They’re all screened under the military secrets act. They weren’t to tell us what they were doing. And their all chippies in there, carpenters and different trades.
An uh, they came up to me one night about 6 o’clock, all right Morby back your wagon up to the compound will ya, but don’t’ get out the cab and don’t look around. Oh okay, so I backed up to the gate and there’s this banging and shoving and oh uh, clanging and walloping. And I thought well there’s a hell of a lot going on here and this officer got in beside me and uh, he says ‘right, off we go. I’ll tell you where to go.’
I said, “What we got on.” And he said well you’ll see when we get there I suppose. And off we went. And we went up to the artillery and when we got up there, well when I went to set off I thought: must have a good load, well you put your toe down to pull away with a full tonner and there’s nothing on it. We get up to the artillery and he said,
well you can have a look now it won’t be a secret now. It’s a dummy tank from the top of the tracks up so when it sat in a tank emplacement to look at it, it looked like there was a tank in there. The gun, the mortar ports, everything was absolutely perfect in detail. You could never have told the difference. So they used to pull the
Centurion out take it back for service and put one of these in. So, if they were there havin’ a look like they usually were. They wouldn’t have noticed a difference that went out went in. They wouldn’t have noticed a difference.
I: That’s amazing, yeah.
M: Very clever, very clever. Well, went out one night to uh, we didn’t know where we were going but these officers did.
And they said, “Follow the truck in front.” So, we just followed the truck in front. We went up the mountain pass, and well, hill pass. Like many mountains, we had to go around this bend and I thought I’m not gonna get around here ’cause the lengths of the [Leyland]compared to the lengths of a three-tonner, and I took the mirror off on the nearside,
on the offside and there used to be a rail run right down the side of the Leyland. I took that off and when we got up to where we were going to unload, we were just this side of no man’s land, and the chap behind me, he said, “Do you know man you were damn lucky *** ’cause when you went around that corner that bad bend around there your two back wheels were off, were off,
they were over the side.” So, uh, I said, “Oh!” and then it started. “Bang, Wooo”. You could see, you could hear the bang there where the gun come from. You could see the flash where it landed, and then, if you were quick enough, you coulda seen the flash where it came from. And the noise that them shells make when they come over is well, is
enough to make anyone think twice. It really is. There’s a real bombardment going on and all it was was covering fire for us because we were camouflaging a road. And uh, all these big props went up and the camouflage netting and what have you. So, it, when they came around from one bend to go through this netting
they couldn’t be observed by the Chinese because it looked like the hill just carried on going around. There was no, no break, sort of. I read in a book, a little while ago that on of the funniest experiences that one of them had was while going around on this, on this big bend all of a sudden they come to a big netting tunnel. I thought “Yeah, I know about that.”
I: Tell me about some of these, you know, not patrols you did, but guard duty. Where you were managing, where you were watching?
M: Well, they weren’t guard duties as we know them in this country, standing at a gate or entrance to a camp or anything. What we used to call roving pickets. And uh, John Hopkins, my friend and I, were on
roving picket this one particular night. We came in late off of a run and as soon as we got out the car one of the Lance Corporals came over, a scouter, and he said, “You’re on guard duty tonight, um, here in the square here at seven o’clock.” or whatever time it was. “Yeah, ok.” So, we were congregated there. He walked over and he said, “Right, split yourselves up, makeup whatever
shift you wanna do, and I’ll see you at the guard tent.” And away he went. So I said to John, “Well, that’s funny. He’s never checked our weapons. He hasn’t checked to see if we had any ammunition or not.” He said, “We know we all have, but he shoulda checked.” Anyway, we all got checked in and we were on the ten ’til midnight shift. And it came to about one o’clock and I said it’s about bloody time
he came out and took us in. ‘Cause it was, oh, well below 17, 20 odd below zero. And uh, I said to John, “It’s no good. I’m gonna have a cigarette.” So, we stood beyond this big bale of sandbags and where nobody from the sharp end could see us. And we had a cigarette. Along comes this scouter, this Lance Corporal: “Who was that smoking?” And I said that it was me.
“Oh yeah, oh and were you smoking Hopkins?” “Yes, I was. Why?” He said, “*** No, I mean that you know the orders.” He said. So, he says, “Well, just up the road there on the Imjin bridge the Americans are working on that bridge. You see they’ve got arc-lights, spotlights, god knows what lights, their welding.” He said, “And your cribbing about us having a cigarette beyond these.
Come off it!” He said, “Didn’t you get a letter from home this week? Has she fall out with ya?” “That’s it you’re on charge.” So, he said, “Oh, yeah, what for?” “Smoking on guard duty!” I said, “Yeah, okay. We’re on the charge then.” “Down at the OC’s caravan at nine o’clock.” “Yeah, right.” So, we goes down to the OC’s caravan for nine o’clock. Who comes down but the RSM? “What are you doing here Morby? Hopkins?” So, we told him. “Well of
all the stupid outcomes.” He said, “I’ve never ever heard anything as daft as that.” He said, “Don’t worry. I’ll go in I’ll get all the charge sheets. I’ll tear them up and I’ll rip him off a strip, as well.” And he went in but what he didn’t know and what we didn’t know was that the OC had come down earlier that morning and he’d already got the charge sheets in his hand. So, we went in and the usual paraphernalia. Blah, Blah, Blah. “Do you have anything to say in your defense?”
So, I said, ” Yes, sir.” I said, ” The guard wasn’t formed properly, and he never checked any weapons. Never made sure we had ammunition. Never sorted the shifts out. Told us to sort the shifts out ourself.” I said, and that was it. “So, right,” he said. “Out you go. Bring Hopkins in.” So, John went in. “So,” he said, “You got anything to say in your defense?” And he said, “Yeah.” And he told him the same.
“Right,” he said, “Fetch that guard commander in here.” So, he took him in, and straightway reduced him to the ranks. Which we liked. “But,” he said, “but you know the rules. You know the orders. Any guard offense, no questions asked, twenty-eight days.”
So, it was, “Yeah, oh, right. Thank you very much.” [laughs] We had to go up to the military police compound
for twenty-eight days.
M: So, the military police said, ” What are you here for? What went on?” So, we told them. “Oh, that’s bloody ridiculous.” They said, “Don’t worry, you can have a month holiday. So they said if any of your lads want to bring you cigarettes or anything, tell them to chuck it over the wall and we’ll put it under your mattress. And one of them worked in the Officers’ Mess and every night brought us both a glass of Cointreau.
Like that from the Officer’s Mess for a drink at night before we went to bed.
I: Well that was a cushy twenty-eight days.
M: Yeah, we were supposed to be digging this pit. And we sit there having a cigarette and laugh at a joke with the MPs. “Here, you’d bet start digging there’s an officer coming.” [laughs] And that’s all we did for twenty-eight days.
M: And that’s why I never got to the rest camp ’cause I’d already had a
I: Tell me about this moment you had with Danny Kaye?
M: Yes, um, it was a very dark night in.
I: Were you on a picket again?
M: Yeah, on the picket. 1952, and uh, no 1951 sorry. 1951, spring of 1951. Very dark night, no moonlight at all. And it was regimental orders
there was no lights on vehicles. I think it was a mile or a half mile before and after a bridge. So, we stand outside the gate one night just looking down the road. Looking at this vehicle that was going down with headlights blazing and it turned towards our area. So, it got within thirty or forty yards, and I stepped out into the road and “stop, stop, stop”. So, it still kept coming.
So, I just cocked the Sten Gun. I let a few rounds go over the top of it and it stopped. Two people got out and using the word, “Who goes there black,” and the answer was swan. No response. “Uh, we weren’t given your password when we came into your area.” So I said, “That was a foolish thing, wasn’t it? Advance one and be recognized.”
They both started, I said “one” and one stepped and the other came up to me. So, I said, “Right.” So, he said, “Staff, master sergeant somebody or other, from the marines.” So, I said, “Oh, yeah.” I said, “Uh, what are you doing here then?” “Well we’ve got
Danny Kaye and This lady singer with us. So, I said, ” Oh, yeah. And my mate here he’s uh, brought this King Faruq for Egypt. So we best go back and have a look hadn’t we?” So he goes down to the Jeep and he, there sat Danny Kaye as white as a sheet of paper, and the lady with him. I think her pants changed color. She was a singer. Very famous American singer I forget who she was now. That’s 65 year ago.
And what we weren’t told, and at the beginning of that particular week a big military caravan was brought into our harbor area, and nobody knew what it was for. We thought perhaps it was gonna be for officer accommodation or something. But obviously, it was Danny Kaye and this lady. They were doing a USO show. And he wasn’t, he wasn’t to pleased this American.
But he said he did appreciate that were doing our job properly. [laughs]
I: So, Danny Kaye, did they stop off in your harbor?
M: Yeah, they stopped off in the harbor area.
I: Did Danny Kaye do a quiet little show for you?
M: No, no, no, he just did the, uh, the USO show which was at the camp farther down the road.
I: You said that you went out before your friend Hopkins?
I: How did it feel to be
you know to come out before him? How did you feel about leaving Korea?
M: It was funny really because as I’d said we’d been pals since were ten year old. We wanted to join the cadets. My dad said, “Well, you can’t join that you’re not old enough.” I said, “I think we are.” So we went down and they see, they, we say we want to join, and so they said, “You gotta be fourteen.” So I said, “Yeah, I was fourteen.” Well John was almost fourteen. So yeah, okay, so we joined the cadets.
And then uh, very quickly we joined the band and the drum and bugle band. Uh, which was the best drum and bugle band in the country, I think at the time, Wellingborough.
I: You didn’t get to [Nether] hall by any chance?
M: Not that I know of. I know we had the Breaston Highland Pipe Band down there at one time in a drum and bugle band competition, and we beat them.
M: We beat them at Fineland in a competition there. It got down to the last two bands and the judges in a tent. They couldn’t actually see the bands at all. They could just hear them. They couldn’t see them. It came down to the last two. It was us and the Breaston Pipe Band and we came out top of the shop. Which we were quite pleased with.
I: Have you done a revisit?
I: How did you, what was it like seeing
Korea on a revisit?
M: From seeing a builder’s yard and a destruction site, to what it was. Was absolutely unbelievable. The courtesy of the people. You just couldn’t put a word for it. They used to, we had to wear a little plaque that was English on
one side and Korean on the other. And it said like you were a Korean veteran or whatever it used to say. And we weren’t allowed out from the hotel at all without grey flannels, blue blazer and your cap, and your medals. And people used to come across the road to shake hands with ya to say thank you for what you’ve done for my country. It’s out of this world. And then we were coming back
from the ideal home exhibition one year and a young lass was standing up in front of me. We were gonna get off at the next stop. Or I thought we were, and this young lady bent down, and she said,” You, you in Korea?” So, I said, “Yes.” “During the fighting?” So, I said, “Yes, I was.” “Oh, thank you so much for what you did for my country. Oh, I got to get off.” And she had to
go and we both sat there looking. Well, you know, it makes you feel about so big.
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