UK Scotland (5)

>> I am Alvin Cameron, and I served in Korea with the King's Own Scottish Borderers in 1951 and '52, and we arrived in Korea from Hong Kong where we'd been stationed before, and it was a bit of a shock because we had expected to have a leisurely disembarkation, but it was the start of the big Chinese drive down through Kapyong, and so we were suddenly told we had to be up at Kapyong the next morning. We arrived as I say and were driven to a rendezvous point and just bellied down on the ground that night. We all had a blanket with us and a greatcoat, and we just put that over us, and we woke up next morning with frost all over the greatcoat, which was a bit of a shock having just come from Hong Kong. And then the Argylls who we were taking over from came through and left, and we went up to Kapyong front and spent the next 3 days digging in and withdrawing, digging, withdraw, marching back about 7 or 8 miles each day. So it was a bit of a abrupt entry into the war, but we didn't actually have any contact at that time with the Chinese or the North Koreans. From there, we went into our reserve position and then moved to another position just north of Seoul where we did have contact to the battalion, but I ... At that time, we were a bit of a spare file in the battalion because I'd been second in command of A Company when we arrived, but when the Argylls left, they left someone who took over that position, and I had nothing special to do. So when our intelligence officer was injured in a traffic accident, I took over as intelligence officer for about 6 or 8 weeks. The battalion then moved from that position over to the Kansas Line just south of the Han River, and I then took over a platoon. We were in a defensive position there, and there were minefields all around, and I remember, on one occasion, a Korean man was coming down the road towards our position and walking along the embankment on the side, which I knew was mined, and all the jocks were shouting at him and waving, saying, "Get off onto the road," and he didn't, so he just kept on walking until he hit a mine, so I then had to go into the minefield to get him out, and our regimental aid post came up took him away in a stretcher jeep. Shortly after that, I was given a different job where I was training potential NCOs at the battle school about 15 miles behind the front line, and I did that, again, for about 8 weeks, during which the battalion had a very stiff battle when they crossed the Han and advanced up [INAUDIBLE] commando. I was then ... went back to battalion as second in command again of A Company, and in November, we had a big battle where a Chinese division attacked the battalion position, and it overran two of our companies, but my company was in reserve, and we were expected to do a counterattack, but that was canceled, so nothing really happened. And after that, I became a platoon commander again in A Company, and we pulled back to a shoulder on Hill 355, which was the big hill in center of the division's line, front line [INAUDIBLE]. And one night we were on there, I was going around my sentries at about 10 o'clock at night, and 14th Field Regiment Royal Artillery had been firing over us all day in support of the [INAUDIBLE] who were just on our right front. I suddenly realized, this latest salvo was sounding very close, and in fact, it came in and hit our position while I was walking along, and I received a wound in my chest and in my left arm, and the platoon sergeant and medical orderly who we had trained in the platoon gave me first aid, and then some volunteers carried me down the hill up the back about 1,000 yards, and I was taken off by a stretcher jeep and ended up in an American MASH, Mobile Advanced Surgical Hospital, 8055 MASH. I woke up just before I was operated on, and it was ... And I was amused later when the television series "M*A*S*H" was brought in to remember my experience, and it was exactly like it had been on the film. And I was evacuated from there. I went to [INAUDIBLE] where I spent ... That was on the 21st of November I was wounded and evacuated, and the snow and winter arrived on the 23rd because I remember a chap coming into the tent in the MASH, and he was covered in snow and stamping his feet, and I said, "Yeah, I timed that rather well," and I didn't manage to get back until early March when I rejoined the battalion, and again, I was a little bit surplus to the establishment. I was given a job digging a defensive position along the Kansas Line again as a reserve position for the division if it was needed, and again, two Korean peasant women were cutting the brush for firewood, and of course they did it in the minefield, so both of them got blown up, and again, myself and the sergeant who was with me, we had to crawl into this minefield very carefully and eventually drag these two women out and get them evacuated. After that, I became second in command of D Company, and I just used to go up ... I used to enjoy very much driving up. We'd go up late at night, at about 4 o'clock in the morning, to do our resupply of the front line, and we'd go to a [INAUDIBLE], and then a man packed with [INAUDIBLE] always took front line, about 1,000 yards. And on the way back, the dawn would be breaking, and I remember it was such a lovely sort of feeling driving back to the camp in the dawn in Korea, and I really did enjoy that immensely. And eventually in July of '52, I moved upward on to the advanced party of the battalion which was now due to return to Hong Kong, and I left Korea in July 1952. As you can see, I had ... Although I did spend a reasonable bit of time actually in the front line with platoons, I never had any contact with the enemy when I was doing it, so I enjoyed my time in Korea basically, had a couple of frights, but that was about it. >> Have you been back to Korea? >> Yes, I've been back twice since then. >> What do you think? >> The first time I went back was privately. I went with my wife when I retired from work, and I was really surprised to see how big Seoul had got and how well developed and everything else because my memory of Korea was that everybody was wearing white. All peasants were wearing white, and there were no trees virtually on any of the hills. They;d all been either burnt off or shelled off with napalm and stuff, and all the peasants collected the brush wood underneath it for firewood. So I was really surprised when we drove up to my old platoon position in Kansas Line to see trees all over the hills and everybody dressed in what I would now call normal Western dress. It was the thing that really impressed me. The next time I went back was on an official visit when I took one of my grandsons with me. That was in November 2013. I was really quite humbled by the reception we were given and the way we were treated as such honored guests and how everywhere we went, talking to the ordinary people, as soon as they knew we were veterans returning, they all shook our hands and said, "Thank you. Thank you," and it was a very humbling experience, but I could understand why because, as stated, Seoul is only 30 miles from the border, and Koreans know what life is like on the other side of that border. I think that's about all I have to say really. Any interest to you? >> That's wonderful. I too am very grateful, and that's why I'm here. Thank you so much for your service. You're very correct. On the other side, north of the 30th parallel, they can't enjoy the freedom and prosperity that we enjoy. >> No, I mean, they live a terrible life in the north, on the whole, don't they? Ordinary people at least do, yeah. >> So hopefully in your lifetime there will be one Korea. >> One does hope so, yeah. There were two little incidents which I'd like to mention. First of all, shortly after we arrived, we were given a company of Korean porters whose job it was to carry all the resupplies and ammunition and stuff up the hills so that the soldiers just did the fighting, shall we say. And at the presentation when they were brought to us, one of our majors, Alan Smythe, was in charge, but he turned to this little sergeant who was actually going to be the person physically in charge of the porters' platoons and said to him, "Okay. They're yours now," and this little sergeant walked forward about five paces and started screaming at the porters in a foreign language which we didn't understand, and all the Koreans shot to attention. And then he shouted something else, and all the section leaders came out and formed a line in front of him, and he then went down the line slapping each one on the face left and right. Of course, Major Smythe went absolutely berserk, saying, "What on earth are you doing?" He said, "I have just told them, sir, in Japanese that, during the Second World War, I was a prisoner of the Koreans up here, having been captured in Hong Kong, and that they were beastly to me then, and now I would be beastly to them if they didn't behave and do what I said." And we all thought, "What a chap." He had been 2 years in Korea with just a jersey and trousers even through the winter, so he was, shall we say, a bit bitter about Koreans. But the [INAUDIBLE] I was saying, when we were at the Kansas Line where I rescued the two women from the minefield, one of the porters there, although they were civilians, they were subject to military law, and this chap had been absent or something like that and had been sentenced to two strokes of the cane every 2 hours, and every 2 hours, an officer or NCO would come along with a whipping cane. He would bend over, take his trousers down and get two strokes with a cane on his backside, and we all thought, "God, how uncivilized can they be?" It was really weird. That's it. >> Do you know why he was whipped? >> No, he ... I think he'd been absent without leave, and literally every 2 hours, they'd come up, give him ... with a cane on his backside. >> A Korean person? >> Yep. >> Interesting. >> Yep.