Michael Fryer was born in 1933 in London, England, then moved to the town of Nayland, where he spent most of his childhood. After he left school at fourteen years of age, he began an apprenticeship at a boilermaker factory. When he turned eighteen in 1950, he signed up for three years in the Royal Army, then received basic training at Gibraltar Barracks. Having had experience in working with electrical lines and circuits, he was sent to receive eight weeks of bomb disposal training in 1951. He was deployed to Korea in 1952, and was attached to the Royal Engineers after arriving in Busan. During his one year service in Korea, he participated in the Battle of the Hook. He was rotated home in 1953, and returned to live in Nayland.
The Realities of Warfare
Michael Fryer recalls broken buildings, poverty, and the state of destitution of the Korean people. He describes the poor conditions in Seoul in late 1951. He recounts the shock he received when he encountered battered and dead American soldiers on the front line.
Finally Some Rest
Michael Fryer describes rest and relaxation at Inchon and Tokyo. He recalls that the Red Cross ran a center which allowed for both men and women from the British Commonwealth of Nations. He describes the Kookaburra Club, a recreation center located near Tokyo, Japan. He talks about food, the duration of the stay, and what they did while off duty.
Lice and Rats
Michael Fryer talks about the cold weather that he experienced in Korea. He describes the living conditions, what he wore, and how how he slept during the bitterly cold months. He recalls his experiences in encountering lice and rats during his service in Korea.
Recollections from the Battle of the Hook
Michael Fryer recalls his experiences as an ammunition carrier for troops during the Battle of the Hook. He explains seeing large amounts of explosions and men who were machine gunned down. He describes watching as the bodies of deceased men were carried down and lain in a road.
[Beginning of recorded material]
Fryer Michael Fryer. My army number was 12812664. I was in the Royal Engineers, bomb disposal.
Interviewer: And what was your date of birth, please?
Fryer: 23rd of May, er . . . 23rd of May 1933.
Interviewer: A young lad. So, Michael, when . . . Before I get to Korea and all that, where were you from? What was your life like, as a boy?
Fryer: I was, I was born in London, in Bethnal Green,
and we was evacuated from London to a little village called Nayland, which is in Suffolk, a beautiful little village. And then we spent our lives there, didn’t go back to London. We spent our lives, settled down in Suffolk.
Interviewer: What, the whole family moved there? Or just you?
Fryer: No, the whole family, yeah.
Fryer: There was my mother, my father and three brothers, who are all deceased now.
Interviewer: Did you see much of the war, then?
Fryer: Yes, quite a lot, because in the war, in Nayland there was a place called French Green, where we was living, and we used to go down to the field gate and watch all the gliders go over, and another thing is, I can remember all the Americans coming with ‘Have you got any gum, chum?’ and also they used to take us, coming to Nayland on bikes and going to the local pubs. Oh, yes, I can remember the Americans quite well, you know. Yeah. They was, they was, er . . .
They’d come from Wormingford, Lavenham, all the aerodromes. I don’t know whether you know, but East Anglia was full of them, full of American air . . . air bases, you know.
Interviewer: Yeah. How, how . . . what was their . . . How did you feel about the Americans?
Fryer: Oh, they were all right, they were, you know, nice blokes. They were mostly out to enjoy themselves and they used to knock around with all the local girls, you know, and that. They were something different, they had
smart uniforms, you know, and they looked different, but they were quite nice, you know. They’d come on our side, didn’t they, so . . . [laughs]
Interviewer: Something like that. So . . . and what about your schooling? What was that like?
Fryer: Oh, I went to school in Nayland, that was a secondary school, you know. But I never got a very good education because I weren’t really bright, really! [laughs] Just left at 14, you know, and that was it.
Interviewer: Did you ever have much knowledge of the Far
East, and places like that?
Fryer: No, never had a clue. Never had a clue. I never knew where Korea was. Now that’s told you, doesn’t it? I wouldn’t . . .
Interviewer: Had you travelled much at that point?
Fryer: No. No. The nearest to travelling was coming into Colchester. No, no, no. We were country people in a village, you know. What can I say? We never went hardly anywhere, you know. But it was all right, you know.
Interviewer: What did you do after you,
when you left school? What was your job?
Fryer: I went to work for a firm called Paxmans, which were boiler makers. And started, started an apprenticeship there, and after that, I . . . Well, when you was 18, you had to go and register, didn’t you? To join the army, well, I . . . not to join the Army, but to do National Service. But when I got there, I signed on for three years.
Interviewer: Did you either do . . . did you want to . . . when you did National Service,
you could have been in the RAF, you could have been in the Navy, why did you choose the Army?
Fryer: Well, I didn’t, they sent you in the Army and that was it, you know. Yeah. From then onwards I was a . . .
Interviewer: Why did you sign on for three years?
Fryer: I just . . . the money, mostly. I’ve got to be honest, haven’t I? They’d give you an extra couple of pounds a week. I used to get to get about 3 pounds 10 shillings a week [£3.10s] whereas a National Serviceman got about £1.50s, I think.
A different life, weren’t it? (laughs)
Interviewer: And how did you find that sort of transition, into . . .?
M Fryer: Yeah.
Interviewer: Any memories from your training?
Fryer: Oh, yeah. God . . . I done my training at a place called Gibraltar Barracks near Aldershot, and then we went on, we went on and . . . Well, when I was at Paxmans, I was doing an electrical course and all, as well as boiler making, you know, and when we went for selection after the basic
training, they, they said that ‘Anybody with electrical experience, we’re going to train you in 22 bomb disposal”. I couldn’t believe that, you know, but they did, you know. I mean, the training was very good because we went on Salisbury Plain, you know, and we learned to dig the ground with bayonets and working out circuits and re-phase things, you know, for electrical things, you know,
Interviewer: Electrical bombs?
Fryer: Yeah, yeah, yeah. But now, it’s all technical now, isn’t it?
Interviewer: Yeah. What . . . Any moments during the training when things went wrong, or . . .?
Fryer: No, not really, no. They were pretty good at what they done, you know.
Interviewer: And were you training specifically with — What year was it that you joined up, sorry?
Fryer: Er, well, that was nineteen . . . That was nineteen fifty . . . the end of fifty one.
Interviewer: OK. So how long were you training
before you . . .?
Fryer: Well, about . . . What, you mean trade training?
Interviewer: Training in bomb disposal.
Fryer: Oh, 8 weeks.
Interviewer: Right. And when did you know, then, that you were not going to be staying in Salisbury Plain?
Fryer: Well, what happened was, we went back to Gibraltar Barracks and the Korean War had started, you know, that had already started, that did,
in 1950. And when we got there, they said ‘This half are going to Korea and this half are going to, oh, somewhere in London’, I think. And I was in the half that was going to Korea. And to be quite honest with you, I didn’t even know where Korea was. It was only when I got on the troop ship in Liverpool I realised that it’s a long way from home!” [laughs]
Interviewer: What do you remember? What ship were you on? What do you remember of leaving England for the first time?
Fryer: Well, I went out on a ship called The Lancashire. And, er, well, you know, I remember standing and watching the Needles and thinking, “Oh, I hope it all goes well”. And then we went through the Bay of . . . well, you know the trip, through the Bay of Biscay, the Red Sea, the Suez . . .
Interviewer: It must have been amazing.
Fryer: Oh, yes. [coughs]
Interviewer: So just tell me a little bit about the crossing. And what was it like for you to see things like the Suez . . .
Fryer: Well, I’d never seen
anything like it in my life, you know. I remember the Suez Canal, with all them little boats coming up, selling you stuff, you know, and well, you know, through the big lakes, you know, right out into the Red Sea. I’d never been anywhere, really.
Interviewer: Did you see dolphins?
Fryer: Oh, yes, yeah, yeah. And then, we got through the Suez Canal and the Red Sea, and then, Hong Kong, through the Straits of Formosa.
Interviewer: Did you stop at Aden or Port Said?
Sorry, yes. We stopped, stopped at Aden and Port Said. They wouldn’t let us off at Aden because of the . . .
Fryer: Conflict, what have you. And then on to Hong Kong, Straits of Formosa, then Japan. I landed at a place called Kuri, have you . . .? Yeah. And then onwards, we went to a place called J.R.B.D., which was a battle school.
Interviewer: OK. J.R.B.D.1. What do you remember of that, then?
Fryer: It was a battle school where they trained you ready for Korea.
Interviewer: What was it like? How big was the site and stuff?
Fryer: Huge. And they had hills, false hills, and huts and that, you know, and they used to chase you around. It was a safety thing really, to make sure you knew what you was going into, you know. But the scenes were very much like Korea itself. I hadn’t been to Korea at this stage, you know. And then,
after that, we went to a place called Iwakuni, through Hiroshima to Iwakuni and there we got a [?Go Master] and went into Korea.
Interviewer: When you were at J.R.B.D.1 were you doing more mining, or . . .?
Interviewer: Bomb disposal. Were you on different bombs there?
Fryer: No, mostly the same stuff. Plastic had just come out then. Do you know what I mean? Plastic explosives? That had just come out then. And that was about the same, it was just . . .
Interviewer: What was the plastic explosive like? Can you tell me?
Fryer: Oh, yeah, that was terrible . . . Well, not terrible stuff, but . . . it came in lumps like that, you know, and you had to put a line into it and push a current through the line, because . . . with a plunger, do you know what I mean? Well, they’d got a plunger on the end that sends the current. Do you know what an Avo is?
Interviewer: No, explain . . . I mean, you’ve got to remember, I’m trying to get all this stuff down, so I just want to know, yeah.
So this is to explode a mine?
Interviewer: So you would . . . Just talk me through how you sort of detonate a plastic explosive mine.
Fryer: Right. You get . . . You get the bit of explosive, put it on where you want it to go, put a line out with a positive and negative on it, go back to what they called an Avo, that produces a current. Turn the handle, and then you’ve got your explosion.
Interviewer: So every single plastic explosive . . .
Fryer: No, no, some are single phase,
you know, it’s different in some cases, you know, but this is the way I was taught, anyway.
Interviewer: So if you came across mines in a minefield . . .
Fryer: Oh, no, that’s a . . . If you came across mines in a minefield, that’s a different situation. There’s things called pressure mines where . . . they’ve got TNT in them so when something goes over it, the pressure on the top forces the explosion underneath, you know. But I don’t know a lot about them, I’ve got to be honest. you know.
Interviewer: So when you were in Korea, was it mainly plastic explosives, or . . .?
Fryer: No, no. Pressure mines.
Interviewer: So, yes, then you went to Iwakuni. I met somebody who did aircraft handling actually, so he would have moved you onto the Globemaster.
Fryer: Yeah, that’s right. Iwakuni was an American base. When it was Globemaster, they flew us across to Busan. Have you heard of Busan?
Interviewer: Yes. You flew into Pusan, did you, not Seoul?
Fryer: No, no, I went, I flew into
Busan, there was boats that used to go across, that was called the Esan and the Wosan, but we went by Globemaster, American Globemaster, into Pusan and then we done a railway journey from Pusan right the way up to Seoul.
Interviewer: Yeah. When you were on a Globemaster, who was with you? Was that all engineers?
Fryer: Yeah. Yeah. But most . . . a lot of Americans, and all. So there was a flight just going over, you know.
Interviewer: And when you were in JRBD1 doing
your mine clearing, were you with other British engineers, or were they . . .
Fryer: They was the Commonwealth Division. Well, there was Australians, New Zealanders, a couple of Fiji blokes – I’ve got a picture of them, Brummie [Waugh?], he came from Birmingham, you know, Birmingham, but he’d gone to Australia as an immigrant.
Interviewer: And what was the rivalry like, between the Commonwealth . . .?
Fryer: All right, really. They’d, you know, take the mickey out of each other, but
that’s the way it goes, isn’t it?
Interviewer: Good, good. So what, when you landed at Pusan, you got off the Globemaster, were there any Koreans around at that point?
Fryer: Yeah, loads of them. They looked poor people. A shame, really. And then, as I say, we went up by railway all the way to Seoul.
Interviewer: And had you been sort of sectioned off just as engineers at this point, or just a trainload of people?
Fryer: Just a trainload of people.
Interviewer: How many engineers in bomb disposal
were with you at this point?
Fryer: About 20. Because you usually have a team with a, I don’t [remember the name], with a lieutenant in charge. He’s the expert, really, and most of them had degrees, you know. Clever people, you know.
Interviewer: And were you forming a bond with these people?
Fryer: Yeah, oh, yeah. They were nice people. They looked after their men. You know. You know, they’re
just leaders, ain’t they?
Interviewer: So you get to Seoul and you’re in a marshalling yard. How long were you kept in Seoul before you were moved onto the line, then? And from the railway, you come out of the railway in Seoul, how long were you kept there before you were moved on?
Fryer: Oh, about two days. And then we went up to the front line.
Interviewer: Any memories from that period, when you were waiting?
Fryer: Yes, scared. [laughs]
Interviewer: I bet. You were scared, yeah. What was Seoul like? What did you see of it?
Fryer: Oh, terrible.
You know. Just huts and broken buildings and poor, pathetic people who’d been, you know, who’d been, had a hard time, hadn’t they?
Interviewer: Were you shocked at it?
Fryer: Oh, yes, God, we were. I mean, when you think about living in England in them days, the state of living was nothing like it is now, but even we were well off compared with them poor people. That’s the only way I can put it, I think.
Interviewer: So, so I take it you were in a fifteen hundred tonner or a 3 tonner, going up to the line?
Fryer: Yeah, well, they used to take us up in three tonners, yeah.
Interviewer: And where, where did you go first, then? What do you remember of joining whoever you were with, in the line?
Fryer: Well, there was a big engineering regiment there called 55 Field/Park Squadron, and they were in charge of, well, they done everything, they built bridges, they, um, recovered vehicles,
like the R.E.M.E., you know, they done everything really, and we was attached to them.
Interviewer: And how big was where you were based?
Fryer: Just beyond . . . Just this side of the 38th parallel.
Interviewer: Was it, did the base have a name?
Fryer: No, I don’t think so, not as far as I remember. Oh, we were part of 28th brigade, is that . . . and 29th Brigade. The 28th Brigade and 29th Brigade, have you heard of them?
Interviewer: Yeah. OK, er . . .
So what do you remember of arriving up there and suddenly being, you know, knowing you were now very near a front line? What could you hear, and what could you see? Can you describe that?
Fryer: Well, at night time you could see all these flashes and, er, mostly . . . I can remember seeing blokes coming back from the front line, wounded, you know, and also the Americans seemed to go through hell, you know. They really looked rough. And, er . . .
the only experience, only experience I had that I didn’t like, really didn’t like, was . . . We was doing a patrol on a hill and there was about eight of us, and I fell down a big pit. All the shrubs was growing, you know, and I fell down a big pit, and when I got down there, there was these two, three Americans, who’d obviously been there a long while, you know. And they were leaning on their machine gun, obviously been killed
ages ago, you know. And that put the scares up me, I’ll tell you. I come out of that pit quicker than I’d ever . . . Do you know what I mean?
Interviewer: Then when you fell in?
Fryer: Yeah. I crawled up the sides, you know. And then, when I got out and told the W.O., he said to me, “Go back and get their I.D. [bracelets?] [unclear words] “I’m not going back there”. It frightens you, don’t it?
Interviewer: Yeah. OK, so when you were out,
could you just tell me a bit about what you were doing out there, as an engineer, and what was your main job. You were bomb disposal, where were you doing all that?
Fryer: Well, what they seemed to do, the Chinese, they seemed to get in everywhere and they pretty well . . . and the river Imjin, they used to come across the river Imjin in hundreds, you know. And they, when they got onto the other side, they put this row of, er, these rows of detonators
and bombs on that side, on our side, so when you went to go and, you know, to go and look, to go and oppose them, you’d get blown up, you know. So we used to go round with bayonets and lift them up and take the screw top off, lift the detonator out and that was it, you know.
Interviewer: So you’d be going out, was that a daily job, almost?
Fryer: Yes. Yeah.
Interviewer: So how often? How many mines do you think you sort of worked on?
Fryer: Oh, I don’t know. I couldn’t . . . I wouldn’t like to say. When it went on for 9 months, because you only done a year then, you know.
Interviewer: So for 9 months you were doing bomb disposal?
Fryer: Yeah, yeah.
Interviewer: Any problems? Any big . . . any moments where any of your mates got blown up by . . .?
Fryer: Yeah, one bloke lost a leg.
Interviewer: Were you with him on that day?
Fryer: Yes. And another thing is, another thing, where I,
I’ve thought about this many times since, it, it sometimes troubles me now. We was going through, like, an alley way. On each side was like a cliff, you know, a stone cliff and this bomb went off and that released all these bits of stone. And one of our blokes got it all over his back. Oh, dear.
That was terrible, you know. But that was caused by a live shell that hadn’t gone off. Directly somebody stamped on it, well, you know.
Interviewer: Were you walking through it at the time?
Fryer: Yeah. I was, I was about seven back, so I was lucky, weren’t I? Yeah, I’ve often thought about that. Poor devil.
Interviewer: He died?
Interviewer: Was he an engineer?
He was a sapper, same as me.
Interviewer: Did you know him?
Fryer: Oh, yeah, yeah.
Interviewer: What was his name?
Fryer: Bill Williams. I’ve often thought about him, you know.
Interviewer: And how does it affect them? I mean, yeah, at the end of the day, you’re still only a 19 year old, basically just fresh out of . . .
Interviewer: You know. How does it affect the morale of you, and the engineers?
Fryer: Well, I didn’t . . . What you had to do was get used to the fact that . . . it’s not going to happen
to you. When you’re young, you think nothing’s going to happen to you, don’t you? You know, you think you’re . . . oh, what is the word, I . . .
Fryer: Invincible. That’s the word, yeah. But you’re not, are you?
Interviewer: So when you see it so close, does it affect how you feel?
Fryer: Oh, yes, yes.
Interviewer: And what do they, what’s the process for somebody like that? I mean, how do . . . how is he taken away, where does he go, what happens?
Fryer: Well, we’d have a . . . Well, the Ordnance Corps used to deal with them and take them to,
well, bring up a bag and take them away, you know, and . . . er, what can I say? Then they had a mortician bloke, The Ordnance Corps had a mortician bloke who used to take away all the bodies, you know, and also, he’d take away the Chinese and all. Get them, do the same for both of them, you know.
Interviewer: And did you have a Padre there?
Fryer: Oh, yeah, yeah, a Padre.
Interviewer: What do you remember of the Padre?
Fryer: Padre Williams. He was quite nice, he was. And there was also a, a Catholic Padre. He was nice bloke. He come from, er, Donegal, ‘cos he always used to sing songs about Donegal, you know. Oh, yeah, Padres, they are nice people, you know, they do a brilliant job. And we used to have Communion every Sunday, you know.
Interviewer: Were you, were you religious?
Fryer: Er, no, I think I’m a bit more religious now than I was then, you know, but, er . . .
Interviewer: It was just a sort of niceness about it?
Fryer: Oh, yeah, a nice bloke, you know.
Interviewer: Did any of you, any of the sappers ever lose it? Did anyone ever have to go and see the [word unclear]
Fryer: No. Well, I never saw it, anyway, not in my time.
Interviewer: Did you go to the Inchon rest . . .
Fryer: Rest centre? Yes, yep.
Interviewer: What was that like? Just tell me about it.
Fryer: Oh, that was . . . you mean the rest centre?
Interviewer: At the Inchon, yes.
Fryer: Inchon, yes. I went to Tokyo and all, on R & R.
Interviewer: Tell me about Inchon.
Fryer: Well, Inchon . . .
Interviewer: What it was like, what the set-up was.
Fryer: Well, you went there and you had, you had three days of complete and utter rest. And all the meals were dished up nice, you know, it wasn’t out of a mess can and all that sort of thing, and they’d give you a little health check and that. It was quite nice, you know, it was a break from the . . .
Fancy you knowing about the Inchon rest centre! Have the others told you about that?
Interviewer: I mean, I know a bit about Korea.
Interviewer: I’ve interviewed a lot of people, so, yeah. And was it, was it all Commonwealth? Was there Americans?
Fryer: All Commonwealth, no, no Americans. Commonwealth. Like, I never seen an American there. I remember the, I remember there was Aussies there and New Zealanders.
Interviewer: And who was running it?
Fryer: Oh, oh . . . I think it was run by the Red Cross.
They seemed to be . . . There seemed to be a lot of Canadian Red Cross people there.
Interviewer: Men and women?
Fryer: Yeah, men and women. Yeah, yeah.
Interviewer: It must have been nice to see a lady, I suppose.
Fryer: Oh yeah, yeah.
Interviewer: OK. And what did you do there?
Fryer: Oh, you just sat around and had a rest, you know, all the food was completely different, nice, you know. A friendly place. Yeah,
Interviewer: What about R & R in, um, in Tokyo?
Fryer: Oh, yeah. We went on, flew out on the Globemaster, God, where did we leave from? Oh, I can’t remember now. We went on a Globemaster, anyway. I think that was when we were doing . . . and landed in, er, Tokyo, just outside Tokyo, and, cor, that was completely different there,
you know. That was completely . . . you know. A lovely place, Japan. It’s a beautiful place, Japan, you know. And I got there just as the spring, you know, the spring was . . .
Fryer: And all the . . . I mean, you could see, over the bridge, the Imperial Palace and all the cherry blossom trees, it was beautiful. Yeah, I really enjoyed that. And when, when it come to the end of my seven days, they couldn’t get us home because of the weather,
so we had another three days. So we had ten days in Tokyo. Yeah, that was lovely. And I was there, and there was also an earth tremor while I was there, you know. I’ll never forget that, you know. But that was absolute . . . you know, that was absolute luxury. You had your own room and . . .
Interviewer: Where did you stay in Tokyo, then?
Fryer: A place called the Kookaburra Club, which was run by the United Nations for all men serving in Korea. It was about
six miles from Tokyo city centre. You know, I walked down the Ginza Market, you know. Lovely.
Interviewer: Any other memories you could tell me?
Fryer: Oh, yeah, and it was such a lovely place, you know. And I’ve got to say . . . Oh, yeah, and we went to the . . . we got a tour of the Tokyo . . . where Tokyo Rose used to broadcast from, we got a tour of that. And then we went, oh, I told you, we went all round the
Ginza Market. Oh, and I went to, I went to the pictures there and saw White Christmas! Bing Crosby [Laughs]. Yeah. Ain’t it funny, eh? All them years ago.
Interviewer: And were you with other engineers, or just . . .?
Fryer: No, just me. Oh, no, no, no, I met a bloke there who was in the R.E.M.E.s. He was staying in the next room to me and we used to go around together. But I don’t . . . I suppose he’s dead now, I don’t know.
Interviewer: Might have been a man I met yesterday. Amazing. He wasn’t [?Barry] Pritchard?
Fryer: No, no, no.
Interviewer: OK, then. That’s nice. And what’s it like, though? So you have a lovely time like that for ten days, and then you know you’ve got to go back . . .
Fryer: You’re going to go back there.
Interviewer: To the bombs.
Fryer: Yeah, well, what can I say? I was there just over a year.
Interviewer: So you talked about bomb disposal on the [Inchon, ?Injim] and obviously some of the stuff on the lines. Were there any other incidents that you can recall, or any other, any other types of bombs that they were
playing with that you had to work on? Because I know that they used to float mines and stuff down the river.
Fryer: They did, yeah. No, I never had nothing to do with that, no. I know that, I know that they used to make little rafts and they’d put one on each corner, wouldn’t they, and I don’t know how they set them off. No, I don’t know much about them.
Interviewer: You didn’t deal with them, O.K. Talk a bit about the weather and what you remember about . . .
Fryer: God! Oh, God!
Interviewer: . . . what you wore.
Fryer: We had parkas, and hoods. The weather was unbelievable. If you left your hand out, you mustn’t put your hand on metal, because it’d just take the skin off your hand, it would. It was next to Siberia, wasn’t it? God, it was so cold, I can’t tell you. You had sleeping bags, and you’d get in them. I used to get one, get in one and get on another one. So cold, it was terrible! The weather.
And when, when you got out of the sleeping bag, well, you had to stand there for about ten minutes to get yourself sorted out. Get your clothes on as quick as you could, you know. Oh, it was terrible.
Interviewer: Were you in a . . . Were you in a hut or were you in a tent?
Fryer: A tent.
Interviewer: So you didn’t have [Unclear words lost under]
Fryer: Yeah. A tent, you know. No, no, there was no huts. That was luxury! [Laughs]
Interviewer: You were, you were, you had the luxury suite.
What do you remember about the . . .? What about things like lice, and . . .?
Fryer: Oh, yeah. I had them, yeah, I had them. They was . . . I was bloody alive with them. They were under my armpits and up here, right round here, oh, dear. And then when you came out, when we came out, the medical corps blokes used to come along with stuff, you know, and squirt it down your back, you know, and under your arms and it’d kill them all, and then you could sit there and pick them off.
I shouldn’t be talking like this.
Interviewer: No, that’s fine.
Fryer: Oh, yeah. Oh, you heard about the lice. And the rats?
Interviewer: Oh, yes, tell me about the rats.
Fryer: Oh yeah, yeah. When, at the end of each trench, you walked in, there used to be a big hole dug for the toilet. And before you sat down there, you used to look down it to make sure there weren’t no rats, you know. Oh, the rats! They talk about rats over here, they were like that, man, they used to put the
scares up me. They really did, you know. I mean, you used to get these slit trenches, you’d see them running along the top, and if you had food, you know, you had to hide it, you know, they’d be after it, you know. Oh, yeah. God!
Interviewer: What did you do? Just abandon them and get rid of them?
Fryer: Yeah, shoot at them, you know. Oh, you’ve heard about the rats, then.
Interviewer: And what about . . . You touched on the lice,
but what about skin diseases?
Fryer: Yes, I got that, cor, what do you call it? I got that on my . . . just in between my legs. Er, yeah. That was like a rash. But they soon got rid of it, you know.
Interviewer: Did you ever go to the dentist?
Fryer: No, not all the while we was there.
Interviewer: Did you ever go to the workshop in Japan?
Fryer: No, no.
Interviewer: What do you remember of napalm?
Interviewer: Napalm, you know, the fire stuff.
Fryer: Oh, yes, I can remember that. I can remember . . . You’re talking about flame throwers? I can remember one of them used on a bunker. And that was this side of the Imjin, they reckoned they’d got out, they’d broken through and got into this place and they would, had a couple of sliders there. And I remember seeing that, well, cor, dear oh dear. Should never be . . .
They just blew it in and that was the end of them, you know. Terrible stuff, isn’t it?
Interviewer: Did you ever see anything of the, like the wild cat,
Fryer: No, no.
Interviewer: Or snakes or anything?
Interviewer: Or a snakebird?
Fryer: Oh, snakes! Snakes, they were there, yeah. There were plenty of snakes. That was another thing that frightened the life out of me. You know, I didn’t like snakes.
Interviewer: You’d [?tend to be nervous] the whole time, wouldn’t you?
Fryer: Yeah, I was. Yeah, yeah.
Well, I [?can’t say that] I was brave, I mean, what can you say? I mean, you go out there, you . . . I mean, it was a different environment, weren’t it? I’m not a brave person.
Interviewer: What about having, um, did you have wash boys and Koreans that would come and help you? Talk about some of the Koreans that helped you.
Fryer: Oh, yeah, they used to . . . local lads used to come in and do your dhobi.
They’d take it away, down to the river, and clean it all up for you, yeah. Yeah, we used to have them, yeah, They were looking for work, these young lads. You know.
Interviewer: Did you ever meet any other Korean families while you were there?
Fryer: No. No. Never met a Korean family at all, no. No. Nothing like that. We was too far up the front to meet . . . Most of them was pushed back, wasn’t they? To Pusan and . . . down to Seoul, sorry, down to Seoul.
‘cos the 38th parallel’s not far from Seoul.
Interviewer: Are there any other . . . Are there any other memories that you’ve got of your time there?
Fryer: Yeah. The kindness of a lot of people, but specially the medical corps people, I think they were very nice, they looked after you. I can’t say about Korean people because I never met them, but, you know, generally it weren’t that bad.
But boy, it was cold!
Interviewer: Were you, were you there when there were any of the big bombardments on The Hook and stuff?
Fryer: Oh, was that The Hook battle? I was in The Hook battle. That was bad. That was the Battle of The Hook. That was the last bit.
Interviewer: So tell me about what happened? What were the circumstances around you during that?
Fryer: Right. Well, the Duke of Wellington’s were in The Hook battle, with 45 Field Regiment. And we, it had nothing to do with bomb disposal, we was sent up to help them. And all we
was doing, us engineers, was bringing ammunition backwards and forwards for them, er, with the Ordnance Corps. Because that was the last big battle, wasn’t it, before the, before the end of it. Oh, yeah. And my big mate, who died last year, Jim Baines, he was in that, and he was in the Duke of Wellington’s, and, er, he got badly wounded.
Interviewer: And what, what do you remember about doing that job,
because that must have been . . . I mean, you were doing bomb disposal, and all of a sudden you were . . . you know, the amount of noise. Just talk about the noise, what you . . .
Fryer: Oh, it was terrible. There was guns going off all the while, those heavy mortars, the mortars were the worst thing, because they really had, they went off, you know. But the Battle of the Hook, I think that was one of the worst battles in Korea. And that was, that’s where a lot of the British troops lost their lives.
Interviewer: And what do you recall of it? What could you see?
Fryer: Oh, oh, all the sky
was lit up, er, flares and, you know. On both sides, there was . . . The whole sky was lit up with flares, and there was a lot, a lot of people laying around. I could see . . . I can remember the Chinese coming over the top, you know, in hordes, you know, and they were machine-gunning them down, you know, they . . . they just done it for the sake of what they believed in, which was . . .
Interviewer: How far were you away from that, then?
Fryer: Er, about . . . thirty, twenty yards? They come down the hills, towards us. And the Duke of Wellingtons and the 45s were just machine-gunning them down, you know, it was terrible. But I used to think every one of them is somebody’s son or daughter, er, son or father, you know.
Interviewer: Wow. I mean, that’s a heck of a change from being based [?in a yard] and doing a bit of bomb disposal.
Fryer: Yeah, but we weren’t doing bomb disposal then, we was bringing up ammunition. I’ve . . . You’ve heard of the Ordnance Corps, the Service Corps, the Service Corps used to do the driving, the Ordnance Corps did the bomb disp . . . er, done the ammunition, you see. Yeah.
Interviewer: What about the aftermath? Did you see all the aftermath of The Hook?
Fryer: Yes. Yeah, I can remember
them bringing them . . . Because our Padre used to bless the Johnnies and all, you know, that had been killed and that, you know. And I can remember seeing them bringing the bodies down and putting them, laying them in the roads, you know, until they got picked up by various organisations, I don’t know who. But the Chinese lost so many people. I don’t know what, how they got involved in all that. But
that was the Communist time, wasn’t it?
Interviewer: I guess after a battle like that, I’m just trying to imagine what it was like for you, because you were an engineer, you’re somebody who is doing bomb disposal, and then you’re part of an enormous battle,
Interviewer: And then you’re seeing dead people, dead bodies everywhere,
Interviewer: I mean, to you, was that the time to leave? How did you feel after it?
Fryer: Terrible. Terrible. I, I . . . When I came . . . When I came home, I
I went into the BritCom General Hospital in Kuri, have you heard about that? Well, there was a BritCom General Hospital where you all had a time in there, you know. And I damaged my knee on a, oh, I forget, it was a mortice stick or something, and I went into there, but [it was] very depressing, you know, to think that all them young people died, you know. What for? What can I say?
Interviewer: Yeah. And when, how much later did you,
how much after that battle did you get demobbed?
Fryer: Well, we came back on a boat called the Fowey.
Interviewer: When was that? Do you know? 1953?
Interviewer: Do you know what month?
Fryer: Er, June, I think it was. June. I might be wrong. It might have been . . .
Interviewer: Not long after the battle?
Fryer: No. We came back and we went to . . . When we come back on the Fowey, we went to a place called Barton Stacey, where
when we got there, we was demobbed, you know. My three years was up. Then I went back to Nayland. [Laughs].
Interviewer: And how easy, having seen and been part of that, how easy was it for you to adapt, to just switch off from that life, and just get back into normal life?
Fryer: Not very good, I’m afraid. I had a lot of problems, a lot of problems with my mother. I didn’t settle down at all well. But now, I mean, it’s all gone now.
But I do think about it now and then, yeah.
Interviewer: This, for people who don’t understand, what you probably had was P.T.S.D.,
Fryer: That’s right, yes.
Interviewer: I just . . . How did it manifest itself? Just what do you remember, what were the problems?
Fryer: Oh, I was all very short tempered, and also I, I used to . . . My mother and father didn’t get on too well and of course that didn’t go down very well, but you know, in the end it all came right
I think it just . . . You’ve got to settle down, haven’t you? You’ve got to.
Interviewer: How do you reflect on Korea now then
Fryer: Well, what a wonderful country now, isn’t i t? Except for this nutcase in North Korea. I mean, he’s a . . . The thing is, he let his rocket off yesterday. Yeah. If he don’t watch out, he’s going to cause a world war, ain’t he, which . . . with Trump, and . . . I mean, I was listening to Trump this morning, on there, ‘We’ve got to sort him out’ and
They’ve got to be careful, ain’t they?
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