John Boyd served in the 28th British Commonwealth Brigade as a Signal Officer. After brief training, he was sent to Korea in October 1952. During his one-year deployment, John Boyd’s brigade fought to maintain the Jamestown Line which is a series of defensive positions from Kimpo and the Yellow Sea to Kumhwa and Seoul occupied by United Nations forces. As a signal officer, John Boyd used a variety of communication techniques and machines to maintain communication including Morse Code, a superheterodyne receiver (radio receiver), and a Wireless Set No. 19. Fire was a constant enemy during his time in Korea. He is a proud veteran of the Korean War and is active in the British Korean Veterans Association.
John Boyd's Call to Service
John Boyd remembers being called to service in the winter of 1951 and he wanting to join the Royal Air Force (RAF). Unfortunately, he recalls being told because of a knee injury he would never be more than a clerk in the RAF. He tried several other options before finding a route to take. When his call up papers arrived he was assigned to the Royal Signals Corp.
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Traveling to Korea in 1952
John Boyd details his travels to Korea. He was sent by ship and many trains to meet up with his brigade at the 1st Commonwealth Division Headquarters north of Uijeongbu. As he had never traveled so far from home, he recalls the excitement of seeing dolphins, flying fish, and much more. He explains the various places they stopped on the way to Korea.
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John Boyd's Life and Duty as a Signal Officer
John Boyd shares details of his various duties as a Signal Officer. He explains the living conditions including some of the sleeping arrangements. He reminisces about an occasion where he was left alone and was not sure what to do.
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Fire! Another Korean War Enemy
John Boyd remembers having to deal with several fires during his year in Korea. He recalls one such occasion when a space heater caused a fire in the signal office and the subsequent chaos that followed.
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Korea 1953 - The Last Few Months of the War
John Boyd recalls the last few months of the war were full of anticipation as the talks were taking place at Panmunjom between the Chinese, North Koreans, and the United Nations. He recalls seeing a barrage balloon hovering over the site of the talks. As the weather began to heat up while they were waiting for the conclusion of the peace talks, valley fires increased in numbers and things became quite dangerous.
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3rd Battle of the Hook and the End of the Korean War
John Boyd recalls the devastating Battle of the Hook against the Chinese during the last push against communism. He notes that they were always getting messages in regarding how had been wounded or killed. He remembers that artillery fire often went over their location. John Boyd details his duties during his final days in Korea.
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[Beginning of recorded material]
John Boyd: Yeah, I was born on the 23rd . . . 23rd of January 1933 in Stock, in Essex. My father was from Scotland and my mother was from Suffolk, and I had a younger brother called James. Because both my parents, although they lived so far apart, they both had an older brother called James and a younger brother called William. Er . . . sort of moved around quite a bit,
in Essex, spent a lot of the time in, near Chapel St Mary, during the war, when we had a . . . my father worked on a farm, he was a cowman, and, you know, we had a fairly good time when we were growing up. We had to go to school with gas masks, just up in the local, Tilbury Upper Ward, I think it was called.
Um . . . Stayed there until I was eleven, and then I had the 11+ examination and I never heard the result. Nobody sent me a result. Don’t know what happened to it. And I went to St Chad’s, St Chad’s School in Tilbury, then. That was supposed to be a very good school. And after I’d been there a week, I got a notification
to go to John Henry Burrows Intermediate School in Grays, so I went there, and a year after that it changed to being the Essex County Technical School. So that was my school. I passed out of there with the School Certificate.
Interviewer: Can I ask, you know, you were obviously a bright lad, because you passed your 11+ exam . . .
John Boyd: I didn’t know.
Interviewer: Well, maybe. Did you ever
remember, you know, your old geography lessons about Korea?
John Boyd: Don’t remember anything about that then, no. It came out when the Korean War . . . it came out in the papers where Korea was. I mean, a lot of them didn’t know where it was when they went there, especially if they were in their [classes?]. And I went to work on a farm when I left school. Well, I went to Henry Ford Agricultural Institute for a year
and when I was there playing football, I dislocated my left knee, badly. And after that, I dislocated it twice more. Fell over in a . . . fell off my bike, and then I dislocated it in a cowshed. Slipped over. So when I went to, for a, into the Army, first of all they called, you had to go in and sign on in a police station, and I went to
Wanstead for a chest X-ray, and then a medical, and then you did tests and things like that, and I tried to get in the RAF and they said “Oh, you can’t go abroad, with your . . .’ You know, it wasn’t that bad, but they said ‘Oh, you’ll never go abroad in the RAF, you’ll only end up as a clerk’. Well, that didn’t appeal. ‘Or you’d be a
radio operator, at least not many people can do morse’. ‘So I’ll join the Army, then’. And I went to see this big old Brigadier. I forget his name. He said ‘What do you want to go in?’ I said ‘I want to go in the paratroops’. ‘Oh’ he said, ‘You can’t go in that’. In those days, you couldn’t go straight in it, they wanted to take people who’d done basic training first and got a bit of a trade. And I said, ‘All right’. Well, my Uncle Jim had been
in the Artillery, and he’d been in, he’d been in India, and his father had been to India as a seaman. And I thought ‘I want to go as far as I can’ and “No, you can’t go in, you can’t go in the Royal Artillery”. And I thought ‘ohhh’ [sighs]. “Well, I’ll go in the tank regiment then. “Oh, you can’t go in the tanks”. I said, “What, what can I go in?” and he said “You can go in the R.E. or the R.E.M.E.” Well, my Uncle William had been in the Royal Engineers during the Second World War and
and he kept saying “Go in the R.E.M.E., go in the R.E.M.E., that’s what you want to go in. Get a good trade in the R.E.M.E.” And he said, “Oh, I’ll put you in . . .” and I said “R.E.M.E.” and he said “All right, I’ll put you down for the R.E.M.E.” Of course, when the calling up papers came, I was working on a farm, so they waited until the harvest was over before they took any farm workers. And, er [coughs] I got called up on the 6th of December,
got the calling up papers, and the first word that I saw was ‘Baghdad’. ‘Oh, I’m going abroad already!’. Oh, no. Baghdad Lines, Catterick Camp, Royal Signals. He’d never offered me the Royal Signals at all. So a load of us went up there on a, on the train, and some of them were saying “Oh, you aren’t going there!” because apparently, you know, regulars in the Royal Signals, some blokes had broken out
camp to go on down the pub and all that sort of thing so the whole troop was punished. So they got two of the blokes who had done it and they took them in the washroom and scrubbed them with scrubbing brushes [laughs].
Interviewer: And that’s what you were letting yourself in to.
John Boyd: That’s what . . . We weren’t in that, we weren’t regulars, in Baghdad Lines to do . . .
We did a couple of weeks before Christmas and did a couple of weeks afterwards.
Interviewer: This was which year? ’51?
John Boyd: 1951, yeah. I’ve got a . . . the only bit of equipment I’ve got left is the same cap badge I was issued with in 1951, you see that? [holds it up]
John Boyd: I don’t know how I managed to keep it. We did the basic training, and of course the Scotsmen in the troop
they didn’t do Christmas, only did the New Year, so they stayed there to keep the place aired and then they went on leave over the New Year. When we first got there, it was freezing, in December in Yorkshire and the window was broken and the door wouldn’t shut. So it was very, very cold the first night
and you were just getting off to sleep and some Corporal comes running in and “Wakey wakey, with your feet on the floor” and [groans] “Oh, God!”. I wasn’t ever very good at getting up in the morning, but . . . Then you’d go out and do your training and parading and that sort of thing and in the evening you’d do a bit of spud bashing, and doing the potatoes. And after that we went to a place called Bourlong Lines
where we was supposed to do two weeks on fatigues. Well, we did three weeks, and there were four of us in the Officers’ Mess. The two smartest were waiters, and then this fellow called Bartell, we called him Battle, we were in the kitchen, doing the washing up and things like that, for three weeks. And the sad thing is, there was one fellow in a bed next to me, very quiet, never said a word,
and, er, after 2 weeks we had a 48 hour leave, and he never came back. And then the next thing, we saw him, we were on parade, and he turned up with his arm in a sling, and he’d seen a . . . He didn’t intend to go back. He’d seen the R.M.P.s coming up the garden path and he’d got a cleaver and chopped the ends of his fingers off. But they still had him in.
And, er . . .
Interviewer: [Off microphone, unintelligible]
John Boyd: Yeah, it was. And we went to do our trade training at a place called Gallogate. Gallogate lies above Richmond, it’s quite a steep hill up there. So we were up there in some old barracks and things, all scattered all over the place. And once, when we lined up for pay, this Sergeant says “Well, you’re going to get so much but
you’re not going to get it. You’re going to get a shilling for your Sports Fund, a shilling for barrack room damages and a shilling for something else” and somebody said, it wasn’t in our barracks, he said “We’ve already paid our barrack room damages”. The sergeant said “You can’t have” “Yeah, we’ve got receipts for it” and showed him the receipts, and there’s two fellows had gone round and managed to steal some receipts out of the office
out of the office and forged the officer’s name and had got one and six [1 shilling and six pence] off of everybody. We never saw them again. [laughs]
Interviewer: O.K., look, we’d better move towards Korea, John, because you’ve obviously got good recollection of stuff. Let’s go to . . .
John Boyd: Well, when we came to the end of the training, they lined us up on parade and said “Everybody who’s over 19 is going to the Far East. You’re going to get two weeks’ embarkation leave and you’re going to the Far East.
You’re probably be in Korea. And everybody under 19, you’re going to get one week’s embarkation leave and you’re going to Germany.” And right, Germany was nothing really, I wanted to travel. Wanted the Army to take me as far as possible. We got down to Newton Abbot, there’s a place called Denbury, near Newton Abbot, Rawlinson Barracks, and we all turned up on the same day, in the same place, in the same troop.
What a noise! The young lads under 19, they’d stayed up in Catterick for another week and just been home for a week. So we were all on draft for Germany. So some of them said “Well, this isn’t fair for a start” and, no, “You’re all going to Germany”. So we were all packed up, and it was a Saturday, I think it was a Saturday morning, and we were waiting for the lorries to take us down to the station, off to Harwich, and an officer came in with two
Irishmen, Kelly and Rainey, and he said “I understand I can find volunteers in here for Korea”. I went “Yes, you can!” And he took eight of us. He could have got more but he only wanted eight. And he took us to his office in another troop and he said, he got on the phone and he said “I’ll get some embarkation leave”. We got another eight days’ embarkation leave! But when
we’d been there in this other troop, we’d done nothing. If anybody comes along, make it look as though you’re busy. But when we got back in that troop, we did everything. We did all the fatigues, all the guards, all that, you know, marching up and down with your rifle, all that sort of thing, until we were finally called up and went to Southampton on board the Empire Orwell. Well, a lot of us had never been to sea, obviously.
All I’d done was go over on the Tilbury ferry. [Laughs] And then, so off we sailed, with all sorts of odd bods on it, some RAF, some Royal Navy, some Welsh regiments, some King’s regiments, and all the corps, and we didn’t stop until we got to Port Said. Port Said, I suppose. Then they refuelled, and we carried on down the Canal,
out to the Red Sea. Well, you know, we were travelling then. You’d see dolphins swimming alongside the ship and in front of the ship, leading it, as if we were another big shark or something. Or another whale.
Interviewer: Yeah, beautiful.
John Boyd: Yeah. Of course, we’d never seen anything like that. And flying fish. All sorts of things. We stopped at Aden for a little while, got ashore at Aden. That’s the first time we were allowed ashore. And then back on, and
then to . . . er, Columbo, and, and got another bit of shore leave there. But when we got . . . We were on the guard deck, which is on the waterline, and in front of us was a Guard Commander’s office, he was usually a sergeant. And in front of that, by the sharp end, were the cells. You know, if anybody [laughs[ . . . if the ship [?hit] anything, the guards were the first to
get it. So we all took turns on guards, various places in the ship. And I was on guard when we got to Singapore, so I never got ashore. When we got to Hong Kong, all the other . . . all my mates were on guard, and I went ashore on my own to Kowloon and wandered round. And we picked up the King’s Regiment at Hong Kong. We dropped people off at other places
R.A.F. and various places on the way, so there was plenty of room on there for another battalion, and we took . . . We went from Hong Kong directly to Pusan. They call it Busan now, because in the Korean language they don’t distinguish Ps and Bs, or Ts and Ds. So we dropped them off, and anyone who was in a corps, R.E., R.E.M.E., Royal Artillery, they took us across
to Japan. Well, that’s . . . You’ve got these beautiful green islands, rising out of the sea, and they took us to Kure, which is – – Hiroshima is not just a city, it’s a prefecture, it’s like a big county, and that’s part of it. And we went over a hill into a village called Hiro, and that’s where J. Reinforcement based.
We were there about four days, and I was amazed at how friendly the Japanese were towards us, I couldn’t really believe, but I think now a lot of them didn’t know what happened in Hiroshima. I’ve been back there twice since, but I didn’t go when I was there. We were only there for four days. And then we get back on a small ship called the Po Yang, and half . . . One hold held Canadians and we,
we were in another hold. And I didn’t get on with the Canadians, they were very stand-offish, they were. When we got to Busan, we were all disembarked. They took the Canadians away first and we had to stand around for two hours, waiting to be taken to Seaforth Transit Camp. Because the battalion down there, King’s, had to be sorted out and go there first and then they – –
We had a Canadian sergeant there, and he was very nasty. Didn’t like him at all. Then we get on the train which went virtually not much more than a walking pace all the way up to Seoul. And when we get there, we’re off the train into a sort of barracks place there, and we had a wash and shave, got the pipe along there and all the taps, coming out
of a big trough . . . nice and cold! [laughs] Well, it wasn’t too bad, that was at the end of September. And when we were there, of course, Seoul was very badly damaged, houses half fallen down and rubble all over the place, and I noticed a little crocodile of schoolchildren come along in red and white uniforms, on the way to school, and I thought, ‘You know, life’s going on’
in Seoul. Anyway, then we got back on another train and it comes out of Seoul to the South and turns up north to Uijeongbu, then they took us to First Commonwealth Division headquarters, where the code name for that was Fort George , you had Fort George Main and Fort George Rear. And nobody knew we were coming so we had to bed down in a, in a canteen on a wooden floor.
And the next things, they’d sorted us out, allocated us, and we went to see a Major Denton, who was a Commander of 3 Squadron. You don’t, you don’t know how . . . First Commonwealth Division Signals regiment, every troop is allocated a certain place. And he was in 3 Squadron, that would be J, K,
and L, and . . . and N. And the odd thing about Major Denton, obviously, he was a veteran of World War 2, his eyes were different colours. One eye was blue and the other eye was half brown and half green. Very unusual. And he asked Bill Hepworth, who was our . . . “
Where do you want to go?”
You know, “Where do you want to go?”, that’s a silly question really. He said “I want to go where the Black and Whites are?” He asked me and I thought, ‘I’m fed up with volunteering, I don’t mind where I go’. Then he asked Cooky, the old Cooky, dear old Cook, where he wanted to go and he said “Oh, I want to go with the Black and Whites too, Sir”. I thought, ‘That means I’m on my own”. We piled into a jeep, the three of us, went over the Imjin, up this winding road and
through a . . . It’s all hills and valleys and things. And they dropped me off at a . . . Well, it said ‘Troop Office’ and I thought ‘Where the hell am I?’ Then they drove off. Never saw, never saw much of them after that. And I was standing there, and I thought, ‘What am I doing here?’ I’d got my kit. And I saw a bloke up on the hill with a tent, and I thought, ‘Where am I supposed to go?’. And I’m standing there and this,
this little fellow comes walking up the road, ambling up the road, and I suddenly realised he was an officer. He was Lieutenant Humpage. Oh, yeah. So I had to get up and salute, didn’t I, and he said “You’ll find out the troop line’s up there”. “Where?” Right up this hill, you got to walk up. Well, coming from Essex, you’d never seen hills like that. So we,
I walked up there and saw some of the blokes there. One of the fellows, I recognised his name, but some of the others said “Where are you going to sleep?” I said “I don’t know”. They said “We’ll get you a couple of beer crates”. So they made me up a bed out of two beer crates, my big pack, my small pack and two kit bags. And then they said “You’d better go and get some blankets”. Over another hill and to the main camp. I walked
into the stores and they said “Oh, you’ve come for the sleeping bags”. “Have I? Oh, I didn’t know that”. So I went back and they sent a lorry round for all these kit bags, everybody got two kitbags, two sleeping bags, and you put one inside the other and wrapped it round with blankets to keep warm. And that’s what . . . I went and got that and shared all these sleeping bags out, everybody got two.
It was beginning to get cold at night then, in just the beginning of October.
Interviewer: What hill was it? Do you know?
John Boyd: No, I don’t know what it was. I haven’t got an answer. I have had a map there and I can’t really spot on the map where it actually was in that we were sort of in a middle position.
Interviewer: And were you assigned to . . . Who were you with?
John Boyd: Royal, er . . . That was 28th British Commonwealth Brigade. We had two British battalions and two Australians.
We had the Durham Light Infantry and the Royal Fusiliers and the First and Third battalions of the Royal Australian Regiment. And the artillery was provided by the 16th New Zealand, Royal New Zealand Artillery, and the medical supplies were the 60th Indian Field Ambulance. The advantage of them is that when you went there for anything, you walk in the tent and the
char-wallah came up and gave you a mug of warm tea. Sweet tea. [Laughs]. Everybody started going there and they had to say, “No, if you’re not in 28th Brigade, you’ve got your own field ambulance to go to.” You know. You went up the top of the hill and you could see fighting and shell fire going in and the . . .
Interviewer: So even on your arrival you could see this fighting going on?
John Boyd: Oh, yeah. You could see fighting going on and tracer bullets
flying to and fro and that sort of thing, on the front line, because the hills are quite high, and the way it is that you get hills and very fertile valleys all the time. And, er . . . I think we were only there for about, about a week in that position. They put me in the signal office manning a 19 set. You’ve heard of 19 sets?
Interviewer: I was going to ask about that.
John Boyd: I don’t know whether you know, but all the
lettering on them is Russian. They’d been allocated to the Russians and they hadn’t delivered them, so we got them all with Russian cyrillic alphabet on them. [laughs]
Interviewer: How big are they? Describe them.
John Boyd: Eh?
Interviewer: Can you describe them for me?
John Boyd: Well, you’ve got a . . . it’s about that big [demonstrates] on a desk and there’s an aerial thing on the side of it which you tune in, a couple of big dials there, one for frequency, one
for, er . . . your . . . You set that up, your aerial and you lock it all in when you’re on your frequency. And they’re called superheterodyne so you can send and receive at the same time. Well, I used a lot of Morse after that. We used to learn Morse and some people take to Morse, I think they’re sort of musicians, people who hear Morse,
they can get . . . I managed to, not too bad on it. We did quite a bit of it and then we moved location and I was on a digging party out to the left, where the Hook is, or near there. And we’d get Korean workers with us, quite a lot, we got on well with them. And there was one fellow, Pyong Chi Bok his name was, he did all the laundry.
When you were out there, you’d get issued . . . We had a tin with 50 cigarettes, they don’t seem to do it now. [Laughs] Mostly Dunhills or Senior Service cigarettes. They had a top on and you’d move the little clip across, hit it down and unscrew it, because it’s all sealed up. We used to give them to [?Bok] because I didn’t smoke much at the time.
Well, I still haven’t since. I said “It might stunt your growth”.
Interviewer: Did you give that to your Korean boy?
John Boyd: Yeah. Well, he was, he told us that he was 43, so . . . And some of them were younger than that. One of them said he was from Pyong Yang. I said “Well, you’re North Korean”. “Yes,” he said “I’m North Korean” [Laughs]. Anyway, in a . . . I got on a, the G.C.V.
There’s a different . . . the General Corps Commander radio out to the battalions, and there’s another one, the Quartermaster’s C.V., which, they didn’t do much night work. And I was on there for a while with a couple of fellows, one of whom I remember, a Don Dallimore. He died a couple of years ago. I had met him since, but he died a couple of
years ago. So that was doing a lot of night shift on that. The trouble is, one or two blokes had been sent to the military correctionist establishment for falling asleep on duty. Well, that was a bit much because you’re sitting there with a radio droning away there. And I got put on a Q.C.V. another time and had a big 52 set and that,
that’s a separate receiver and transmitter. And you know, when a transmitter’s off, there’s just a little bit of a drone and it sends you to sleep. I kept getting outside to keep awake. I was terrified of getting found asleep. And then I got in a signal office, and the signal office is where they do all the paperwork and they had a Morse telephone, a Fullerphone, which I . . . and I got on that for most
of the time I was there. I picked up Morse quite well and you have a fellow on the switchboard, called Field and Fortress, and a superintendent, who was usually a lance corporal or a corporal, and we had all the telephone lines linked, with a . . . In the Royal Signals you get radio operators, you get linesmen and you get drivers. So every vehicle had a designated
driver. And this was in a, in a three-tonner. And at one stage we had a nice wooden floor next to it and a tent and a heater, a space heater, and I was with this fellow, Frank Best, and we’d been for our dinner first, because the officers serve you, on Christmas Day, and we went up to relieve the others first, and we
get up there, and there was a jerry can with a screw top, and that had been left there, somebody had gone to get the petrol and left it with the top unscrewed. And the radio mechanic was up in the three tonner, sorting something else, and they all got down and the petrol got knocked over, and it swept all across the wooden floor. Frank picked it up again and
said, “Ooh, ah, somebody knocked it over there” and we’re standing watching this petrol seeping towards the . . . and [?Joe Parish] says “Oh, we’d better turn the heater off” and he went out like that and whoof! the whole lot went up, and there’s messages in a . . . sticking out paper, and that all went whoof like that. We got at . . . We rushed out and we tried to get sandbags, but they’d all frozen solid and Frank gets hold of a blanket and he said “I’ll smother it” and he goes like that [demonstrates] and it went up in his hands.
Whoof! Like that. And we had a fellow on the switchboard called Gil [Gerry?] Tordoff. Well, after the war, he played first class cricket for Somerset, I found that out since. Um . . . Well, I knew he was playing first class cricket, but I didn’t know it was the same Tordoff, but I believe it is now. And it went and . . . Staff Officer Captain Morrison came out of his tent.
Cor, he [unintelligible] “Why didn’t you blokes say something?” And the whole lot went up. Another captain got in the one tonner and he drove that out of the way. He couldn’t drive the three tonner because it was connected to all the test points, couldn’t move that out, and it burned away like that. He said “Go and tell the command vehicle” and I ran in there and found an officer and said “The signal office is on fire!” and he grabs the telephone, and I said “It’s no good, that’s gone as well”.
“There’s no telephones” And I ran down to see our troop lines and I shouted up to the Sergeants’ Mess and we’d got a Scots sergeant there, and they told him “The signal office is on fire”. “Argh, rubbish” he said. “If it’s on fire, I’ll buy everybody in the Mess a drink.” It cost him £2.50. [Laughs] And then, I got down to our, our line sergeant and told him. First thing he does is grab
for the telephone. “It’s no good, it’s burned out”. And we were up there trying to put it all out, but we couldn’t stop it, it was burning solid. And they’d got some blokes who’d just turned up that day, or the day before, and they put them on guard, like to guard the fire, make sure it stays out. They got so cold, they really did. [Laughs]
Interviewer: Did they?
Frank Boyd: Yeah. [Laughs] Anyway, then we got a, had to get a new three tonner in and the . . . the three tonner, of course, it wasn’t connected to anything and they wanted to connect it.
Interviewer: How was it connected? Was there a generator?
Frank Boyd: It was connected to all . . . There’s a test point, the way the British Army worked then, you had test points all over the place and wires in between them.
So you’d got the Signal Office test point and then the wires came into the Field and Fortress exchange. Well, I did learn to use that. I learned to use that.
Interviewer: This three tonner was connected, how was it connected? Sorry, I don’t understand it. What is . . . It’s on this three tonner, is it?
Frank Boyd: Individual wires connected to certain points in the, on a sort of
thing with a load of connectors on it. And these connecting points . . .
Interviewer: Are these power connectors, or are these points for different wires coming in from different places?
Frank Boyd: Yeah. I suppose the power comes from the, from some of the test points. I’m not sure how it works. But it managed to. Superior to the Americans, but then we were! [Laughs]
Interviewer: Yeah, yeah.
Frank Boyd: Anyway, we, we had to endure a cold winter and even colder.
And then we very nearly burned the signal office down again when they fetched a heater in that was supposed to run on paraffin but they put petrol in it. Cor, that went off as well. [Laughs]
Interviewer: Once you might get away with. Twice, I think you’d be in trouble, wouldn’t you?
John Boyd: Yeah. And then I went on the advance party because the Americans were going to swap places with us. And I was on the advance party and turned up with a
load of blokes, including this fellow Corporal Davies, Ken Davies, who was a bit of a lad, he was always getting into trouble. He’d been a sergeant and been busted because he was found where he shouldn’t have been, in a Korean village. [Laughs] Anyway, yeah, we went there and he said, “Oh, there’s a Master Sergeant there, you’ve got to go with him and find out
where we’re going to billet.” It’s all, it’s all squad tents and theirs had nice wooden floors and space heaters in. And I went in there, and we marched in to see the Colonel, and I walked in and stood to attention, and the Master Sergeant just went over to the heaters, took his gloves off and started warming his hands on the fire, talking to the Colonel who was over there, sitting on his chair with his feet on the table. I said
“This is a funny old army, isn’t it?” [Laughs] Anyway, they designated, I think it was about six or eight of us, into this, er, particular tent and we were all sorting out our bedding and that and this, I think it was a technical sergeant came in, a little chubby bloke, blond hair, glasses, and he said, “Oh, you’re the British Army, huh? British . . .” He said, “Jesus, if I’d have known you were coming, I’d have
brought you’s all a crate of beer.” “What? Don’t just stand there, go and get it!” And he did! [Laughs] And he came back with beer. It was strange. The Americans have a dish with a handle on it, and their knife, fork and spoon also have handles on and they hook on this other handle. When they get up in the morning, they’re all shaking it.
So you can hear when they’re all getting up in the morning. Then you go and have breakfast with them and their food was better than ours. I got a load of porridge in my mess tin and the next bloke put bacon in it. And then you get eggs and bread. They don’t do sliced bread, they do lumps. And then you’ve got a choice of coffee or cocoa, they don’t do tea. And you sit down at their benches and this little
bloke, Yank, says to me “British or Canadian?” And I thought ‘Why doesn’t he know?’ [Laughs] Well, we got on all right with the Americans.
Interviewer: Yeah, it was a good posting.
Frank Boyd: Eh?
Interviewer: That was a good posting for you.
Frank Boyd: Well, it only lasted about a week or two. Then they went where we were and we got all ours back again. We had to do, er . . . guards and things like that.
Interviewer: When is this? ’52? Late ’52?
John Boyd: Yeah, late ’52 when I got there. And of course they’d been, er, talking at Panmunjom for . . . I think all the talks took about two years. I remember it was in the papers from before I went, how many, how long the talking was going on, because at first they were arguing about silly things, about . . . They put a flag on the table and
the Chinese put a bigger one on it. Put a bigger one up and it got so big it had to stand on the floor. [Laughs]
Interviewer: Do you remember the barrage balloon? Did you ever see the barrage balloon?
John Boyd: No. I didn’t see any of them.
Interviewer: There was one over the, where the peace talks were taking place.
John Boyd: Oh, there is . . . Oh, I know what you mean. They had a barrage balloon there and a searchlight that shone up, in, at night, vertically, so everybody knew where it was, where the talks were taking place.
Interviewer: You remember that?
John Boyd: Yeah.
I mean, every time we’d go out, we’d have a look over there, “Oh, yeah, they’re still talking”. And, er, you know, it started to get warmer. The only trouble with it getting warmer is that all the vegetation dries out, and it starts to catch fire. And we started to call ourselves ‘28th Fire Brigade’ because they was always calling us up to put the fires out. At one time it came up the other hill
Er . . . We were on a sort of bend, and we were up in that little valley, and over there was the main camp, and beyond that was another high hill with a searchlight on. Searchlight hill. And, er . . . all the vegetation caught fire and it went up this hill, one sheet of flame, right up the hill, I’ve never seen anything like it. But of course, when it runs out of stuff to burn, it goes out.
And a couple of times we ran out and tried to douse fires and beat it out but, um, oh dear. It’s all that sort of . . . This was in another location, when the central one . . . And, er – – When I first got out there, they told me, “Oh, Australians get paid more than you do” and I said, “Well, I’ve just had some messages in
I said, “This three star Australian private’s getting paid 35 shillings. He’s getting paid 35 shillings a day.” And we were getting 35 . . . as a National Serviceman, 35 shillings a week. And that was the difference. They didn’t even make our money up to regular pay until the last six months of the two years. So, er . . .
Interviewer: Do you ever remember
bugle calls being sounded?
John Boyd: No. I missed getting up in the morning a couple of times because I didn’t hear the bugle.
Interviewer: But a bugle was used?
John Boyd: There wasn’t, no. I don’t remember it were. It might have been used with the, the infantry battalions but we didn’t have one.
Interviewer: Do you remember swimming in the Imjin?
John Boyd: Yeah. Yeah, we went down and had a swim in the Imjin now and again. [Laughs]
Interviewer: Was there barrels
lined up? What was it like? Do you remember?
John Boyd: What, the Imjin?
Interviewer: Yeah, where you were swimming.
John Boyd: No, it was just in the river. That’s it. We just went there and dived in the river and had a swim round. I don’t think it was all that deep. But in the winter it froze over and you could drive a tank over it. And they had a bridge there, it was some sort of memorial bridge. It was called Pintail.
But it was very high over the water, and that was . . . Some other bridges got flooded, you couldn’t use them, but that was always in use because it was so high up. Another one was called Teal, another one was called Whitefront. They were named after ducks. Pintails and . . . I think there was another one. Can’t think what that was. All named after ducks.
Interviewer: Did you cross the Imjin much?
John Boyd: Oh, we were, we were north of the Imjin. The Imjin comes down from the north and then turns west, and we were, we were above that.
Interviewer: OK. What about illness? Did you ever get ill over there? Malaria? Did you remember taking . . .?
John Boyd: Well, we all had, we was taking Paludrine tablets every day, which some of them couldn’t be bothered. They’re only tiny little tablets.
The Americans had one, Chlorodine I think, they only had to take one every week, but we were supposed to take one of these every day. And some of them, I’ve seen them on parade, they’d go, flick it away, and loads of them ended up with malaria. One of our . . . Cooky ended up with malaria. He didn’t know he’d got it. He went . . . on the way back, he started playing up, and in the morning he was all right. “Nothing wrong with me, I’m all right.”
And it took him three months in hospital to find out what was wrong with him.
Interviewer: You talked about the village, you know, the Major going into the village, and you know, fraternising, I suppose, for want of a nicer expression. What do you remember of the other . . . You know, you said you had Korean helpers, but do you remember seeing many of the Korean population, like in the villages?
Frank Boyd: Not where we were, we had all men. I think there was a boy there, about 12 years old, at one time, and he probably had to go back
to school. I told you I saw all the Seoul schoolchildren. He stayed with us. Some of them . . . I’ve got some photographs of them, three of the ones I knew, there amongst that lot. But we always got on well with them, for some reason. Later on, they trained Korean soldiers and they were attached to the infantry battalions. And because there were Koreans attached to the Commonwealth Division
they were called KatComs. And we went back on a revisit once. There was one fellow, their sort of President, Wan Chu Pak, he was with the Australians, apparently, and they called him Charlie. And we stopped somewhere and he fetched this fellow over, he was Lee Yong Hoon.
And he’d got brown paper back there, and he said he’d got a certificate saying he was in the Essex Regiment. He got another certificate out and that said he was in the Royal Fusiliers. A signed, proper, illustrated certificate, signed by the officers. And he’d got another one, saying he was in the Dorsetshire Regiment. And as it happens, we had a couple of Dorsets with us on that revisit and one of them was in the same bed as him. [Laughs]
Interviewer: What about . . .? Were you there in May ’53?
John Boyd: Was I what?
Interviewer: Were you still out there in May ’53?
John Boyd: When I come home . . . Yeah, May ’53, when, battle of The Hook and all that sort of thing.
Interviewer: Yes. Do you remember that?
John Boyd: Yeah. Well, they . . . it was mainly 29 Brigade that got hammered. We’ve got a fellow in our Branch called John Kelly who was wounded in the battle of The Hook and
they take you over to Kure. There’s a Kure Hospital there where they were nursed by Q.A.s,
Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps. They were over there and they had a lot of medics as well and doctors, and the Royal Army Pay Corps were over there as well.
Interviewer: Do you remember the battle of The Hook? Do you remember The Hook, the battle?
John Boyd: Yeah. We were always getting messages in, er . . .
saying who’d been wounded and that sort of thing and what happened to them. And the, the funny thing is, we always knew when the Australians were in the line, because a battalion didn’t stay in there, they’d get rotated. The Australians were always getting more wounded than the British. I don’t know whether that was just carelessness or what, but they always got more wounds.
Interviewer: And you could hear all this during . . .
John Boyd: I could hear some firing and all the, the bullets, the shells used to fly over us.
Interviewer: Did you ever have any near misses?
John Boyd: Any what?
Interviewer: Near misses, yourself?
John Boyd: Well, there was, right at the very end. Er, they announced the ceasefire and five of us went up the ridge above the camp looking to the north, and said “Well, is that it? Is that really it?” A few of them didn’t really believe it. I think we had a clue because
they started putting white tape round the edge of camouflage nets. [Laughs] And then a twin engined American . . . they said it was a Harvard bomber, went up, heading north, and “Where the hell’s he going? Is he lost or what?” And then the Chinese anti-aircraft fire started opening up on him. Little bursts going up. Well, I remember that sort of thing when I was in,
during the war. I knew what airbursts were. And I thought ‘Why is he doing that?’ And he turned round and came back, and then two American fighters came diving down on positions, and they did that twice, and then the Chinese artillery opened up and you could hear the shells whizzing over then. And why they did that, I don’t know. It almost looked as though the Americans wanted to give them a little spanking. But the message came through,
we all got it through the Signal Office, ‘There will be no increase in hostile activity before the ceasefire.” I think the ceasefire was at ten o’clock or eight o’clock, I’ve forgotten what time it was. And we thought, ‘The yanks don’t want, they want to keep it going’. But they moved out pretty quick and then we moved back in the reserve position, we had a bit more comfort. But I was on a listening
station then, in our troop, and they used to discharge them 25 at a time, so you’d get . . . They sent the names in over the radio, and I was just listening in, taking them down, and there was once the fellow receiving it didn’t get the name. He got the name but he didn’t get the regiment. R.N.V.R. One lieutenant in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve.
He didn’t, he didn’t get that. Anyway, where we were then, we had a little river pass us, and we dammed it up so we could have swims and all that sort of thing. But before, when we were on . . . I was on the Fullerphones, we were allowed to sleep but somebody on the switchboard had to stay awake. But it’s just as well, because I was, I think it was with a fellow called
James Higgins, from the same place that the snooker player comes from. And we were on every other day and every other night. You work . . . get up there in the morning, work until the evening, and then the other one takes over for the evening and you come back and do overnight, then he’s back and doing all day. So that was a bit . . . Even though you know you could sleep, you didn’t get much sleep. Because you were usually working late on it, anyway.
Interviewer: Did the weather or the terrain affect the signals at all?
John Boyd: Well, it did in the evening, when the atmosphere, the heat of the atmosphere alters, and then for a while, two or three hours, you can’t get a signal through on those old radios, it just distorted the signal. And then, all of a sudden, it would clear up. It’s a bit like the frogs in the
paddy fields. You could hear the frogs in the paddy fields going ‘Oik, oik, oik’ and all of a sudden, they’d all stop, when the temperature lowered, I was told.
Interviewer: You remember that?
John Boyd: Yeah. I didn’t . . .
Interviewer: OK. What about coming home? What do you remember of it?
John Boyd: Oh, yeah. We left, we left there on 1st of October, I think, that’s a couple of months after the ceasefire
and, er, before that, you know, I told you that Bill Hepworth, he wanted to go with the Black Watch, and next time I saw him, he told me “Oh, I’ve got a good job, I’m in the stores, I’m going to be in the stores”. And another Scotsman who was with us, John Gilhoolie, was he’d been a steward on a ship but he missed his ship and he got called up
in the Royal Signals. He was a lousy soldier. He was.in Oboe 2, the Signal Office troop at Main div., and he, he got a trip out with the despatch riders. Well, these despatch riders were mostly New Zealanders. He got a trip out there with his rifle as a sort of bodyguard and he went to 28th, 29 Brigade headquarters and he found Bill laying on his bed. And he said
“What’s the matter with you?” “I feel terrible” “Well, go and see the M.O.” He said “I’ve been to see him.” “What did he say?” He said “He gave me a couple of aspirins”. And he said, “Oh, if you feel bad, you won’t need this” and he grabbed his tin of 50. And he said “Take them” He said “Oh, I can’t take them” and he said “I just took three”. And when he got to Main Div., the message was coming through that he’d died.
And he . . . The cause of death was haemorrhagic fever. He’d got some . . . You get ticks off rats and they get inside and they develop and cause internal bleeding, which aspirins don’t do a lot for.
John Boyd: And he’s still out there, he’s in a . . . Pusan.
Interviewer: OK. And my last question, just in terms of . . . How do you feel about it now as,
as a veteran of Korea?
John Boyd: Well, I’ve been back a few times now, last time was 2014. The state of the place is everybody’s educated, everybody wants to be educated, and they spend hours at school, the children do.
Interviewer: Are you glad you’re a veteran?
John Boyd: Yeah, I didn’t realise it would be affecting me, in my retirement years, all this time. Because I joined, in 1991 I think, I joined the North East London Branch, and I think
it was the first lot that started up in London, and they negotiated with a couple of other branches and made it a national British Korean Veterans Association.
Interviewer: Well, look, thank you very much, it’s been a very, very nice interview.
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