Veteran Stories:
Thomas Eric Williams

  • Photograph of Thomas Eric Williams in uniform.

    Thomas Eric Williams, The Memory Project/Le Projet Mémoire, Historica Canada
  • "Us three signallers". Photo taken at the Durham Reunion in 2010.

    From left to right, Fred Workman (d. 2007), Eric Williams, and Bill Collingson (d. 2001)

    Thomas Eric Williams
  • "Bridge of No Return" between North and South Korea, where prisoners were exchanged.

    Thomas Eric Williams
  • "A view of Hill 355 which we occupied for a while. This is as close as we could get as it is now in North Korea."

    Photo taken in April 2011.

    Thomas Eric Williams
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"They knew exactly what had happened and they came over the loudspeakers next morning and said, “Welcome so and so American infantry, welcome to so and so Hill.” "

Transcript

I was a battalion signaler and there was three of us with each, with each rifle company. So we kept up the communications, and when we were in the line the shelling and mortar bombardments that we got, which is what most of the action was, and with patrols at night time and we were to repair phone lines and keep up radio communications at all times, between each of the rifle companies with battalion headquarters. We had to take our turn now and again, going on patrol. One of the worst experiences I had was when we were relieved by the Americans, the US infantry relieved us in one position, and two of us stayed on at each company position to keep our voices on the radio, that was the idea to fool them over on the other side, but, of course, it didn’t fool ‘em at all.

They knew exactly what had happened and they came over the loudspeakers next morning and said, “Welcome so and so American infantry, welcome to so and so Hill.” I thought, “Oh dear.” What happened most of the time was they really used to pick on the Americans all the time. And oh, here’s two of us stuck here, and they’re gonna pound hell out of us.

Not too many fighting patrols and I never went on one of those, that is when you go and raid the other side, now our, our company and one of the other companies had to do some of those, because they wanted to get a prisoner. And the first fighting patrol that went over there to the other side to get a prisoner, which was done by our company, not, I was not on that, we were at the company, company position, of course, we stayed. And, while the first - they got a prisoner, but, unfortunately, they hit him too hard on the head and by the time he got back he was dead, so that required another one, but I guess that must have been the objective for our regiment, was to get a prisoner as soon as they could, which they did eventually, the other company did go and get one.

And, other than that, they were mostly recce patrols*, go and find out what was going on over there and what they were up to, the other side. And, one patrol that I went on, was to determine if a certain little spur over the other side on the bottom of the hill was occupied. That was the time I broke my ankle. I was carrying a - well, what was called a 31 Set**, it was quite heavy, which you carried on a, on a frame on your back at that time. Other than, other than patrols like that, the little 88 Sets,*** which you carried in a pouch on your belt, your small radios were what was generally used on patrol, but this time I had the big radio and it was about eight of us on that patrol that went out and, of course, when we got close to the position, this is just a recce patrol, a reconnaissance patrol, that was just to get information, and when we got close to the position, obviously they weren’t paying attention or weren’t as alert as they should be because all of a sudden we heard them talking. We had our answer, so we turned around and ran out of there as fast as we could.

And this was winter time and across the [rice] paddy field - the paddy fields were frozen over, and that was while I suppose the extra weight and the running, that was when my, my foot went through the ice and I fell and that’s when I broke my ankle, on the way back. But they didn’t fire a shot after us or anything, so they were probably as scared and surprised as we were.

We did lose our company commander, Major Tresawna^, apparently I didn’t know at the time until… He took out two patrols and he had two other men with him and two patrols that he was sort of commanding out ahead of him, but somehow an enemy patrol got in behind or come around behind the two patrols and got him, and he was killed. Of course, Major Tresawna, we though he was a real old man, of course us kids, mostly 19, 20, 21 [years old], thought he was a real old man and that’s when we found out how old he was – he was 39.

 

*Reconnaissance patrol

**Wireless Set No. 31 portable radio

***Wireless Set No. 88 portable radio

^Major John H. A. Tresawna, DSO, The Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, attached to 1st Battalion, Durham Light Infantry, killed in action in Korea, 10 June 1953

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