Robert S. Chessum
Robert Chessum served in the New Zealand military for both the Air Force during WWII and Army during the Korean War. While in Korea he achieved the rank of Temporary Captain and saw fighting action at the Battle of Kapyong. His occupation during Korea was with artillery, providing support and preventing Communist forces from defeating Commonwealth Forces. Robert Chessum shares how he was wounded during his time in Korea by an enemy mortar, evacuated to a hospital and eventually became Camp Commandant in Japan before returning to Korea. He also saw action during the Hill 355 and Hill 317 Campaigns. Robert Chessum is proud of his service and the relationship his country has established with South Korea.
Battle of Kapyong
Robert Chessum describes the Battle of Kapyong. The Chinese were on the Offensive until Kapyong. Robert Chessum was part of the 16 New Zealand Field Regiment providing support to the 27th Commonwealth Brigade. He describes being on a full offensive prior to the Battle of Kapyong and how his unit became really efficient as an artillery unit. Robert Chessum provides a complete description about the prelude to the Battle and ultimate Battle of Kapyong.
Memory of Engagement and Artillery
Robert Chessum describes a Chinese threat at one moment because his unit was too far forward due to a Chinese Offensive. He describes the New Zealand artillery, providing specific details on the various guns. He then describes becoming part of the 1st Commonwealth Brigade.
Hill 355 and Hill 317
Robert Chessum describes being a Temporary Captain on the assault of Hill 355 and Hill 317. He was wounded during the campaigns by mortar fire. He was evacuated to a hospital for a week and transferred to Hero Camp in Japan. Robert Chessum eventually came back to Imjin after a six month recuperation and was eventually discharged in 1952.
Forgotten Men of the Unknown War
Robert Chessum describes how the Korean War is "forgotten." He explains how there was nothing for the troops when they returned. Robert Chessum also describes how changing the perception of the Korean War will be difficult, because teaching about war is unpopular.
[Beginning of recorded material]
R: My name is Robert Stanley Chessum.
I: Um hm.
I: Could you spell it, your name?
R: Chessum. C H E S S U M.
R: I’m 94 years of age.
I: But, what is your birthday?
R: My birthday is the 27th of May, 24.
I: Twenty-four. So you are 94 year old?
I: I don’t see many wrinkles from your face. Where did it go?
R: We’re only supposed to show where smiles have been.
I: And what happened to your forehead?
R: I fell over and hit my head on the footbath.
I: Oh. Are you okay?
R: Yes, I’m
I: When did it happen?
R: On Wednesday.
I: You mean the day before yesterday?
I: Whoa. I’m so sorry to see that.
But you look fine.
R: Oh, I’m feeling better now.
I: You wanna have something in your face, cosmetic, to, to look nice today.
I: Ninety-four year old. You are very, you look very healthy, sir.
R: I’m still [INAUDIBLE]
I: And where were you born?
R: I was born in Wirkworth.
I: Could you spell it?
R: W I R K W O R T H.
I: Oh. Slowly. W, W A R
R: W O R T H.
I: O R T H. Wirkworth.
I: And it’s in New Zealand, right?
I: Please tell me about your family when you were growing up, your parents and your siblings when you were growing up and when you were child.
R: Uh, my parents were both British born. They came to New Zealand in 1912 and 1914.
I: Um hm.
R: Uh, I remember in my family of five children, uh, three boys and two girls. I was the middle with an older brother and sister and a younger brother and sister.
I: So you were five year-old or six-year old boy when the Great Depression broke out in 1929.
I: How was it? How as it to live around that difficult time?
R: I’m sorry. I don’t understand the question.
I: How was it in the middle of the Great Depression when you were growing up? Was it difficult?
R: Well, it was the Kor, it was the year Depression. My father had a small farm
I: Um hm.
R: And he was ready struggling on the farm working and there and still went into debt.
We, we had a very depressed childhood.
I: Yeah. Must be very difficult, right?
R: Very difficult but, uh, he went into debt for four years, and then it took four years to get out of debt once the Depression was over.
I: Oh. Yeah, it was difficult time for everybody.
R: Yes, it was.
I: So tell me about the schools you went through.
R: I only went to one school. It was the Wirkworth School.
I started there in ‘29
R: and I left when I was 13 to start work.
I: So 13 is like, uh, 27. No, no, no. no. When did you finish your school?
R: What’ll that be? ’38 I think.
R: Um hm. Early ’38.
I: And this is the question that I ask to everybody. When you were in school, did you learn anything about Korea?
R: Yes. We
R: just learned it was, uh, occupied by Japan. After that, we learned nothing of battles.
I: So you knew that Korea was the colony of Japan, but nothing else.
R: Nothing else.
I: Uh. And after you graduate the school in 1938, what did you do?
R: I worked in a store.
I: Yes. And how was the salary at the time?
R: Fifteen shillings a week.
I: Wow. And with the 15 shilling, what were you able to buy?
R: Not very much. It was, uh, but it cost one hundred and six hundred shilling and a half for a haircut
I: Uh huh.
R: Uh. A newspaper cost a tuppence.
I: What about a gallon of milk? How much was I t?
R: I wouldn’t know. We lived on a farm and we had our own milk.
I: You don’t need milk to buy, right?
I: So it was just little, and when did you join the military?
R: Well uh, at 16, I joined the Home Guard that which was the volunteer part time thing. I was, as I 18,
I went into the Army in the ASC
I: What is ASC?
R: Army Service Corps.
R: And after about less than a year, I was transferred to the Air Force.
I: Oo Why?
R: And, uh,
I: Why was, were you transferred?
R: Well I asked to volunteer, and those of us who were volunteer we just [INAUDIBLE] anyway.
R: And so I, I volunteered for Air Crew. I started training as a pilot
I: Oh, you were a pilot.
R: No. I, I didn’t graduate from the elementary course. So I remastered as a Wireless Operator Air Gunner
I: Um hm.
R: and went to Canada for my training.
R: After, uh,
when I graduated, I was commissioned as a Pilot Officer
I: Very good.
R: and then
I: When was it ?
R: That would be in, ,uh, early ’45.
I: No, no, no. Early ’45.
I: So you become the pilot.
R: A Pilot Officer is a rank equal to Second Lieutenant.
I: Uh huh..
R: I then went to, from Canada, we
went to, battleship to, uh, New Caledonia, sat there shortly and then back to New Zealand.
I: Um. And
R: And then the war ended very quickly before we got onto operations, and I was discharged from the Army, from the Air Force.
I: And, and you were discharged as Army?
I: So what happened? You didn’t fight. You didn’t fight during the World War II.
R: Did all my fighting for nothing.
I: Lucky. Very lucky.
I: And what happened then?
R: Well, I went back to, uh, work, and I was working in [Neulin in Crown Lenin] Park Police.
R: And I was there until the Korean War started.
I was [INAUDIBLE] the War started I volunteered.
I: You volunteered?
R: Volunteered, yes.
I: You were not afraid going to war?
I: Wow. So in s19, when did you volunteer?
R: I volunteered with being in, the War started in 1950, didn’t it? So I volunteered almost immediately they called for volunteers. And we went into camp,
I think in that August .
I: What camp did you go?
R: I went to Tokapura Camp
I: Uh huh.
R: Did a short, uh, identification there and then down to Waoiuru
I: Um hm.
R: And they closed, I had been Air Force. I joined a group of other officers
Infantry Navy, Air Force, etc. and did a conversion course to Artillery.
I: Artillery. Wow. You’ve been changing a lot.
R: And after the course, I was granted a, a First Lieutenant’s rank
R: and appointed to Gun Position Officer of Able Troop.
I: So how, what kind of training was it ? Wasn’t it hard for you to learn all those things because you were Air Force, and gun
R: But we had to learn all the basic
R: not lot of, of, of Artillery [INAUDIBLE] It was very, very quick training. Rather superficial.
I: Um hm.
R: But, uh, by the time they’d
put on the training we were supposed to be op, operators and Artillery officers.
I: Um. Were you married at the time?
R: I was married with two children.
I: Two children.
I: When did you marry?
R: I married just shortly after I cam back from, uh, the Air Force, uh.
I: So 1945?
I: Uh. And is she your wife that you married?
I: Oh, okay.
And when did you go to Korea?
R: In Kor, we left for Korea in November ’50, and we landed on New Years’ Eve.
I: Um. Where did you land?
R: In, uh, Pusan.
I: So, you, tell me when you landed in, uh, Pusan and then you going around and seeing Korea for the first time,
what was your image? Be honest and, you know, candid with me about the Korea you saw for the first time.
R: Well, when we first took a look, we said whoever lost the war should take over the whole country.
R: That would be South Korea at the, at. It was the, well, it was in the middle of winter at that, but the whole place appeared poverty stricken.
I: Um hm.
R: The people looked poor and, uh,
there’s nothing very impressive about it at all.
I: Um. So what were you thinking to look at those countries, so destroyed and impoverished and so on? What were you thinking?
R: Well, I thought
I: Did you regret?
R: We felt the Korean people had nothing.
I: Uh huh.
R: It was a, it was not impressive at all.
I: And from there, where did you go?
R: Well, uh, I spent a short, uh, period in Pusan.
R: until we’re equipped and then went up to, uh, Miryang I think it was called
R: where we cala, calibrated our guns
R: and then were there for a week or so and then into action.
And the first place we went into action was [Changhowongni]
I: Uh huh. And what happened? Who was the enemy?
R: But we were there, uh, we were there, uh, supporting the 27th, uh, Commonwealth Brigade
R: Australian, Canadian and two British Regiments
I: Um hm.
R: And at that time, they work, it was a counteroffensive.
And so for the next two or three months, we were in a sort of advance, moving all the time and, uh, we sort of learned our trade there, I believe, were not very efficient first off. But by the time we’d been gone for a month or two shifting [INAUDIBLE] the, uh, Regiment became very, very efficient as a, as a unit.
I: So that was only 1951, right?
I: Yes. And by the time U.N. Forces went up to North Korea, but they had to come down because of Chinese intervention at the end of 1950.
R: Yes. That had been the Chinese Intervention had come, and they retreated almost to Pusan
I: Um hm.
R: and, uh, and then they started the counter offense up
I: So what was your role, and what did you do? Tell me about the battle where you were positioned and how did it happen to you? Give, give us detail. Where was it?
R: Well, the, we just moving steadily North all the time, and that, and that, uh, went until we reached, uh, Kapyong.
R: And, uh
R: By the, by that time, I had been transferred to be the, uh, the Command Post Officer of the battery and, uh. So, so at the Battle of Kapyong, I was, uh, responsible for all of our programs of my whole battery.
I: So you were still the First Lieutenant?
R: Yes, the First Lieutenant.
I: But you were in charge of all this battery?
R: Well, the whole battery is the, I controlled the fire from Africa and [INAUDIBLE] I controlled the fire of both troops and coordinated it.
I: And what was your unit, uh, all the New Zealand Army? Can you tell me
R: It was the 16th New Zealand Field Regiment
I: Um hm.
R: The Royal Artillery
And tell me about the situation there in Kapyong. How was it? Who was the enemy, and how was the battle, and what was the kind of situation?
R: Well, originally we were, they, at Kapyong and the, uh, New Zealand Royal Troop Infantry withdrew, and the area was
taken over by a Korean division. And, uh, they, we were there to give them, uh, fire support.
I: Fire support.
R: Yes. And when the, uh, attack started, the Korean Division disintegrated.
R: They were War troops, and they just, they, and the British rushed in to try and stop the gap. And, uh,
for the initial start, they withdrew two of the batteries and, to give support while I did the, formed a, uh, front. And 161 Battery stayed forward to support the troops [ the Rear Guard was INAUDIBLE].
R: And, uh, eventually once the [INAUDIBLE] action
in 161 was withdrawn, flew, uh, went back and joined the Regiment. And then, from then on, we were in one position supporting the Australians and the Canadians who had formed a front. And that was when the, uh, major battle started. And it lasted three days. The New Zealand Regiment fired more shots at any Artillery that’s been fired in the, all of three years
in the, uh, Western Desert.
R: It was just solid firing and that, and because of the solid firing, the, the, uh, Australian position was never really threatened. They held[INUAUDIBLE] they absolutely stopped the, uh, attack.
I: Hm. When was it? Was it during the summer of 1951?
R: That was in, uh, April, 1950, uh, 1951.
I: Wow. You remember so much. You have such good memory. At the age of 94. Wish I could do that.
R: Yes. Well, I was in such a responsible position where I was and the things I had to do
I: Um hm.
R: and so it was, uh, I remember, I remember very clearly.
I: Can you reveal some secret, how many cannons did you have New Zealand, uh, Regiment at the time,
and how many soldiers were there? Who was the enemy, Chinese or
R: British Regiment was 24, 25 pounders. But we also had support because [INAUDIBLE] three of us, Americans 155 had to be six guns, And there was also a battery of two 18 [INAUDIBLE] which we could call on for fire
R: if we need it.
I: Do you remember any specific episode you might have lost your life or dangerous moments during your service in Kapyong?
R: Well, the, the nearest I came to danger was
I: Um hm, yeah?
R: that was, uh, when we were forward cause, uh, we were waiting for instructions to withdraw.
And the, uh, enemy came closer and closer, and lasted, the time we fired on them, they were within 300 meters.
R: And they hadn’t given warning to move. And so I actually pulled everything out and lined them up ready to go accept the guns, and at the last minute I ordered the guns to move, too. And thought that the orders to move out came at the same time.
I: Um. So you had to withdraw?
R: Uh, well we wasn’t gonna be overrun.
I: Oh. So Chinese or North Koreans at the time? Enemy?
I: So finally, what happened in that battle of Kapyong? Did you win or what happened?
R: Well what the, uh, [STAMMERING] It was a win. The Chinese came to complete holes.
I : Um hm.
R: And they, uh, [INAUDIBLE] because they’d run out of, uh, food and their mission, they come and they
and they had about, what they carried with them. And if they don’t succeed in the first week, that stopped.
I: They stopped.
R: They stopped.
R: And then they can be rolled up. On the other side where the main battle was that we were not certain but at the Imjin
R: they overran all the British positions they had. But they didn’t get fare enough, and then they were,
within a week, they’d recaptured all the ground they’d lost.
I: Did you move from Kapton to Imjin?
R: Well after that, we moved to Imjin because they had formed the, uh, First Commonwealth Division
R: By that time, the Canadian Force was there. And so there was a Commonwealth Brigade, a British Brigade and, and the, and the Canadian Brigade, three brigades.
I: New Zealand, too.
R: And there and, uh, three lots of artillery that has to, British artillery, the Canadian artillery, the New Zealand and they would come, now we were complete Regiment, uh, Division.
I: So after you, uh, settled down in the Kapyong, you moved to Inchon, I mean the Imjin River
I: And then you form a first
I: Commonwealth Brigade
R: First Division, yes.
I: and fight against Chinese. Yes. Wow.
So you were in the true big battle.
R: What’s that?
I: You were in the two big battles.
R: No, we were, uh, I was, I wasn’t in the Imjin Battle.
I: You weren’t?
R: Well, it was fought at the same time as Kapyong.
I: Uh huh, okay. So you didn’t move to Imjin?
R: And when the both battles were over, that’s when we moved across and turned the others.
I: Okay. Where did you go? From where did you go from Kapyong?
R: Well, uh, the Imjin.
R: In June, month of June.
I: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And where did you go from Kapyong?
R: Went across to the Imjin.
R: And there, we stayed there for the rest of the War.
I: Um. So what was it like? Everyday, the routine, you wake, woke up what time and then where did you eat and what did you do and what did you do while you were resting, things like that? Can you give
us a kind of, uh, routine of once specific, typical day?
R: Once we got to Imjin, Imjin, it was a routine because it was a static. The, uh, positions were never moved again, up in that area. And breaking the patrols over the Imjin and that and uh, it was like a, just static warfare
from then on.
I : Um hm.
R: Uh, uh, later in Oc, in October, they staged a, an assault from the Chinese line two objectives, two main hills, 15, 355 and 317.
I: Um hm. Yes, go ahead. And you, you were part of those 355 and 317?
R: By that time, I was transferred to Fox Troop, was a Troop Commander and my role changed. I was with the Infantry as a forward observer then.
I: Forward Observation. That’s a very dangerous, isn’t it?
R: Well, it can be.
I: So you did actually patrol with the soldiers together?
I: But you were a First Lieutenant at the time.
R: I was, well, I was now a Captain.
R: Well, temporary Captain.
I: Um. So you were very high up there, but still you did patrol all those areas as a Forward Observation.
R: Yes. And, uh, when the offensive started, uh, I went forward with the Infantry. The first attack was on a, a hill in the rear of 355
which they captured, and then the Canadians went up forward and took the hill. And the next day we did a, went to, uh, 317, and that was also captured.
R: And at that time, I was wounded and had to be evacuated to, to, uh, Japan and at a hospital.
I: Why? You were ended, wounded?
R: Yes, not seriously, but just enough to need attention.
I: Uh huh. Tell me how, how did it happen?
I: How did it happen?
R: Oh, just, uh, mortar fire.
R: And, uh, after I’d been a week or so at the hospital, I was transferred to base camp as the Camp Commandant at Hero Camp in Japan.
R: And I stayed there for six months.
I: Um hm. And then?
R: And after six months, I went back to Korea
R: and I was appointed
I: When was it?
I: When was it when you went back,
R: Uh, March
I: 1952 March, right?
R: March ’50.
I: Uh huh.
R: I was appointed as Battery Captain[INAUDIBLE] of 161 Battery
I: Um hm.
R: And I remained there until
R: Still at Kapyong.
R: We’re still at, uh, Imjin
R: And then I returned home in October of, uh,
I: ’52. So you were there very long, almost like three years, right?
R: Yes, about three years.
R: And, uh, and then I was discharged from the Army. I’ve been back to Korea twice.
I: When was it?
R: I went in the 2004 Revisit
I: Um hm.
R: And then two years later, they sent a small party over for the dedication of the, uh, village,[INAUDIBLE] at Pusan, and I was fortunate to get, chosen to go for that.
I: So tell me. This is very important, uh, part of the whole interview. When you went back to Korea in 2004 and 2006, oh, before that.
When you were in Korea from 1951 to ’52, were you able to see around Seoul?
R: I did go through, uh, I visited Seoul, yes, [STAMMERING] on my way back from, uh, Korea. I went through Seoul to get to the, uh, Battery and saw Seoul.
I: And how was it? Tell me the
R: It, well it was, it was a wreck, wasn’t it? There was nothing there then. Buildings where the, demolished and, uh, there was nothing, uh, nice about it. But when we went back, of course, it was unbelievable what they, what they, the number of bridges which were built across the Hahn River and that, my roommate at the Revisit was an engineer.
He designed bridges. And, of course, he, uh, went and invested, investigate the approved bridge and he, he was absolutely amazed at what they’d done.
I: What were you thinking when you see all those change gone? Huh?
R: Well, it was almost unbelievable what had happened to the country.
R: The whole country looked like
completely old building site.
I: Too many building. That is the problem.
R: Yes. It was amazing to see the, um, blocks of, uh, apartments go up. They didn’t build a block, one block. They built 10 at a time, [INAUDIBLE] almost along side where the fields or farmers were working in the fields. It was, uh, almost unbelievable to see the change.
I: When you left in October 1952 Korea, okay, when you left, had you ever thought that Korea would become like this today? Why not?
I: Did you underestimate Korean people, or what happened?
R: Well, but having seen how slow anything moves in New Zealand
I: Uh huh
R: it would have been a, if they wanted to build a road here, it takes years to do it.
There, they built the road, and within a year, the road was there because between when I went there one time, the next time they had virtually opened a new road from Seoul to Pusan.
R: And, and that’s, the new road was there. And the new road was there. And, uh, cause on that second visit we did a bit on the, uh, on the, uh, train. They did a rocket train, 300K an hour at the time
It was just unbelievable.
I: It’s amazing, isn’t it?
I: What was the most difficult thing during your service in Korea? If I ask you to pinpoint among many, one thing that really bothered you or really difficult?
R: Well, the first year was the weather because it was so, probably the worst winter they’d had for years. And we were not properly equipped for it.
when was, what was it at the second time, the most difficult?
R: What do you mean the second time?
I: When you went back from Japan to Korea, right, and you were the Cap, Captain in the
R: Uh, well, uh, there was about [INAUDIBLE] at all
I: Not at all.
R: But, I mean we had all our supplies. We had all, everything we need,
and it was, um, it was, uh, quite the, entirely different situation and I preferred the first time where the men were in the hardship and that whole thing. They said we’re doing something the second time, it was, uh, it was, uh, the spark had gone out on the welcome, the men were not the same.
I: Um hm. Were you able to write
letter back to your wife and children?
R: Oh, yes. We had break in the mail. The mail got through pretty regularly and, they, uh, they used the, uh, airmail forms to send.
I: So it must been very hard for your wife without you and taking care of two babies at the time.
R: Uh, well [STAMMERING]
I: Um hm.
And did you send the money back to your wife?
R: Well, normally you had, make an allotment. You have dual pay, and they have our pay, and for the children and you pay a lot of it that goes back to, to subsidize that.
I: Uh hm. Now, do you know the rank of Korean economy now in the world? Korean economy, the rank.
R: I’m sorry.
I: Do you know the Korean economy, the rank of Korean economy in the world?
I: We are number 11 in the world.
I: In terms of GDP size. Number 11. It’s a, ahead of New Zealand.
R: Oh. Well, yes, it would be.
I: Uh huh. What do you think about this whole transformation? You didn’t think that Korea become like this when you left, and now it’s
11th largest economy, most substantive democracy in Asia. What do you think of all this transformation? Are you proud?
I: Well, uh, uh, like most men in the Brigade Force, we feel we have a stake in that, that [INAUDIBLE] and we’re proud to have done so.
I: But the problem is not many countries actually talking about the Korean War in the History class. Not in New Zealand, either.
Not too much. Little bit, and it’s been known as Forgotten War.
R: Well it is the Forgotten War, and here in New Zealand the Brigade Force meant [INAUDIBLE] ourselves the Forgotten Men of the unknown war.
I: Why is that? Why is it Forgotten War? Why does it have to be remaining as Forgotten War despite very good thing came out of your ser vice during the Korean War?
Korea become 11th largest economy. It ‘s a beautiful, strong country. But why is it still has to be Forgotten War?
R: Well, I don’t know. But the, the, [INAUDIBLE] We felt we’re forgotten when we came back [INAUDIBLE] we were forgotten.
R: But they, nothing special was done for us when we came back and, uh,
I: But now it’s special, isn’t it? Korea is
special because there was nothing vertical is standing, not much, when you left Korea. Now it’s all high rise.
I: It’s a very special but still we don’t teach. So how do you think we can change that reality in education here in New Zealand?
R: It, it’s very difficult because it, uh, it’s teaching about wars is not popular in the education system.
I: Um hm.
And, uh, and no one really wants to know.
I: Um. Do you, you must have a lot of children and grand children and great grand children.
R: I’ve got
I: How many?
R: Nineteen great grandchildren.
I: Nineteen only great gran, great children?
R: Nineteen great children.
I: Wow. And
are there any teacher in the school?
I: Are there any teacher in, uh, in the school among your great grand children or children or great?
R: Uh, yes. I’ve got two or three that are teachers.
I: What do they teach?
R: Just general, they’re not specialists.
I: Okay. Uh, if you have any children or great children or great grand children teaching
History, you let me know because that’s what we are trying to do, not just doing interview here, but we want to make this interview into curricular resources so that teachers can teach about the War that you fought for and make it as not Forgotten War. That’s what we are trying to do.
I: Any special episode that you wanna share, you wanna say anything about
the War that you fought, fight for?
R: I can honestly say that I’m proud to been a part of the Korean War, and I’m proud to be at the end. One of the greatest things I found was the way the Korean people treated us when we went back. Uh, when, uh, we couldn’t pay for a taxi,
and they, they, they have a special treat that they gave us when we went anywhere public in Korea,
R: And in time in New Zealand, if I meet a Korean person, they’re some are strangers they come and thank me for my service. And, uh, we know that the Korean people appreciated us. even if New Zealand don’t.
I: Um hm. Yeah, that’s a Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs of Republic of Korea
running Revisit program for the veterans like you so that they can come back and see the changes.
I: Yes. That’s very nice, isn’t it? But we are thankful to your service because you fought for us to give us opportunity to rebuild our nation. So this is how we want to preserve your honorable service.
I: Now you’re with your wife and your nephew?
R: He’s a, he’s a cousin. His father fought in Korea, too.
I: Oh. So please introduce yourself. What is your name?
FEMALE VOICE: I’m Beverly Chessum.
B: Um, I’m Robert’s wife.
I: And when did you marry him?
B: Sixty-one years ago.
I: When was, so sixty?
B: No, I mean 58.
I: Fifty-eight . And what about you, sir?
MALE VOICE: Uh, my name’s Royce.
RO: My, uh, father is my mother’s first cousin.
I: Uh huh.
RO: But my father also was in the Korean War. But he died in 2002.
I: What is your last name?
RO: Wiles. W I L E S. Royce Wiles. My father was Lindsay William Wiles, and he was also in the K Force.
I: L I N D S A Y?
I: And his last name?
RO: Same. W I L E S. Wiles.
RO: He went from this area. He lived in [Roturang].
I: And when was in Korea?
RO: I think, I’m not, ’50,. ’51, ’52. I’m not sure. But it was a, probably you many know more. When was he?
R: I think he went with the second reinforcements.
R: So that, he was, if, to the best of my knowledge, it wasn’t the original draft that went over after.
RO: But then he was born 1930, so he was only
20 or 21 at the time.
RO: But he was in the, the military corps. at school beforehand maybe.
I: So your first name is Royce, R
RO: Yes. R, R O Y C E, like Rolls Royce but no relation.
I: And Beverly.
I: What do you know about the Korean War from him?
B: Not much.
I: Not much.
B: Because he doesn’t talk about it very much.
I: That’s why it becomes Forgotten War. You made him forget the war.
B: But, uh, no.
I: Have you been to Korea with him?
I: No, not at all. What about Royce? Have you been to Korea?
RO: No, I haven’t, no.
I: Oh. Now the Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs, they are inviting back their family, remaining surviving family back to Korea. So if you’re interested in, you can talk to
VA Office here. what do you know about the Korean War that your father fought for?
RO: Maybe not some good things cause I know he never ate rice again.
I: Oh. Tell me why? Why, why?
RO: He said the rice was so bad that they ate there. I don’t know the detail. He didn’t talk about it much. But he liked his New Zealand food and his roast potatoes. So he didn’t like the food. He said there was a lot of violence, um. Maybe it was a bit rough. I’m,
really I don’t know the details. It was before my parents me, so I don’t know much more. Um, he, every year he went to the RSA functions for [INAUDIBLE]. So the K Force group was very strong.
RO: The New Zealand RSA is quite a strong group. I don’t know, within New Zealand’s RSA, how’s the K Force regarded, just as
R: Uh, for a long time, they weren’t. But I first became
Secretary of the, uh, for the RSA, someone objected to a Korean veteran being the Secretary. And I pointed out that I had served overseas as well in World War II. Otherwise, they would have rejected my appointment.
RO: So you were seen as second class after the second War.
RO: Not as good as the
R: No, with, we, uh, I was second to the K, uh, K Force men, the second class members.
I: Have, so what do you know any, do you know anything about Korea now, South Korea, it’s economy or society, culture, anything?
I: What do you know? Tell me.
RO: I’ve worked in Kabul for nine years.
RO: I used to have lunch with one of the Korean Embassy staff.
I: Where do you work?
RO: Kabul, Afghanistan. I went as a volunteer as a civilian.
RO: So I used to have lunch with one of the Korean Embassy staff whom I won’t name.
I: Uh huh.
RO: I know he was furious with the slow internet.
RO: Because Korea had super fast internet, and he was going very, he had a lot of trouble adjusting to a slow speed of internet outside Korea.
RO: Um, I know it’s highly developed. I know they have major industry and lots of K pop, and you have all that stuff, you know, and, um, and I haven’t been there,
I mean, I study, I know the borest history of Korean War and I know the military.
I: Um. So you were hearing what, uh, Bob is saying about the Korea 1951 – ’52 and the Korea that she saw in 2004 and 2006. What do you think about this whole transformation but still is forgotten and not many people really, not much covered in our history education.
RO: In New Zealand, Asia is, was ignored a long time. It’s never part of it. And even then, we studied, when I went to school in the ‘60’s, we studied Japan. Again and again but never Korea.
RO: So maybe that was
I: When was it?
RO: In the 1960’s.
I: Even 1960’s.
RO: We studied every year Japan. But maybe because the, the, the, the second war loomed so great.
RO: Whereas Korea was like a, a side act
I: Um hm.
RO: for the world. So maybe that. Um,
Sorry, what was the question again?
I: So what do you think about this whole transformation and we don’t, you know, teach about it and we don’t talk about it. And how we can overcome this? Can we?
RO: I’m not sure of the, when I was growing up, Made in Japan or Made in Hong Kong was derogatory. And then it became fantastic. You wanted those. And now Korea’s come into that same category. You buy a Korean car. It’s never gonna break down.
So you can see that trajectory.
I: Um hm.
RO: Um, I don’t know. I think, I’ve got too much to say on that. I’d better shut up.
I: So this is what we made. Show it to the camera, and that’s uh, could you read it?
RO: Korea’s Place in Teaching World History.
I: Yes. That’s the book that we published, my foundation, World History Digital Education Foundation with the [INAUDIBLE] National Council for Social Studies.
It’s the biggest Social Studies Teachers Association in the United States, and teaching about modern Korea, no, how Korean economy was growing like so speedy and so successfully, and as you mentioned, the internet and all this digital technology in Korea is fascinating. So we created lesson plan and primary and secondary resources about those two and two topics, and we are
training Social Studies teachers in the United States. That’s what we want to do here in, in New Zealand, okay? So we want to create lesson plans so that teachers can teach about the Korean War even tomorrow, yeah, after reading this. And that’s why I’m going to have a series of meeting with the scholars and professors and teachers in New Zealand. So that they can learn about Bob Chessum. What do you think?
Do you think it’s feasible?
RO: Absolutely cause we shouldn’t lose the lesson
I: Um hm.
RO: And so to capture it and Bob, I’ve never heard Bob talk about the War like that. So that was interesting as well. So, it’s a very good opportunity to capture things from someone who’s 94.
I: You look like a 64.
R: I don’t feel like it.
I: Especially at this
RO: He feels 104.
I: You are ambitious.
You ought to feel like a, 44.
RO: His father lived till his 100th year.
RO: So he wants to be the same, yes?
R: I always felt how good. But, uh,
RO: Yeah, why not?
I: Why not? Sit, look at it. You never heard of him speaking on the Korean War like this, right? So when young children in New, schools in New Zealand like here, will, [Roto]
I: [Rotorange] do you think children might be interested in knowing more about the War that he fought for? Do you think? What do you think?
RO: I don’t really know.
RO: Technology may be more interesting to them than some history.
RO: But also the teachers are not interested. The teachers are the key to get it approved.
RO: They have to have developed an interest into something like that.
I: Exactly. That’s why we want to provide this lesson plan so that they can teach and then we going to have a conferences to train them and make them interested in this topic.
RO: But Korea is,
Korean culture is much more than the history of the world.
RO: I’m sorry. There’s a whole lot of other stuff there. Is Korean taught in New Zealand?
I: I don’t know. You tell me.
RO: I don’t think so . It used to be taught in Australia in one place, but it maybe stopped.
I: So that’s why this book doesn’t have any copy about the War. But after the War.
RO: Uh huh.
I: Okay? So that’s what we are trying to do, and if you know of any Social Studies teacher here might be interested in doing this together with my foundation,
we are hiring them and paying them to do work, writing lesson plan by the teachers for the teachers and so that they can talk about Korea with their young students.
RO: I think it’s better to ask the teachers what they need.
RO: then I say well, here’s what we want to give you.
I: Um hm.
RO: If you understand the point.
I: Yeah, yeah. Your point is great. And that’s what we are trying to do. We wanna approach and connect with the teachers.
So if you know of anybody, please tell me, okay? Let me know. Sir, Bob, you are proud Korean War veteran. For the 70th anniversary of the Korean War, it’s actually ridiculous because it’s been 70 years that War has not really finished. We are technically at war. But we have to commemorate the 70th anniversary. What would you say to the world about the war that you fought for? That it’s become 70th?
R: Well, my knowledge when Korea, of the War, my terms of service but on the [INAUDIBLE] for service for the duration of the War and six months afterwards.
R: So theoretically I could be called back into the service in Korea. Perhaps if I knew that a North Korea they want, bring to the peace table.
I: Look at this 94 year-old soldier’s spirit. Wow, you can bring him down.
I: Amazing, sir.
B: Still cheeky.
I: Wow. You will go well over 110. How about that?
I: Any other message you want to leave to this, uh, leave to this interview?
R: No. I think that a lot is
being done now and especially for the education of Korean veterans children and grand children, and I think that continuing relationship with Korea is fantastic because having seen what the Koreans had and what they have now, New Zealand has a stake in Korea. And that should [INAUDIBLE]
What a beautiful interview it is. Thank you so much, Bob, for your fight, and we never forget, and we will make sure that this will get into the classrooms so that young New Zealands will learn from you, will listen from you, okay?
I: Thank you, and take off that bandage soon, okay? Great.
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