A portrait of Colin Clay in uniform.Colin Clay
Colin Clay in front of a dugout at 28th Brigade, 1952.Colin Clay
Colin Clay (left) and Reg Briggs in Korea, 1951.Colin Clay
Colin Clay (left) and Reg Briggs in the United Kingdom in 2010.Colin Clay
Colin Clay resting while smoking a cigarette.Colin Clay
A dugout on the south bank of the Imjin River in late 1951.Colin Clay
Colin Clay at a Memory Project event in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. October 2012.Colin Clay
"So that meant that we were really playing cricket between five and seven miles from the half a million Chinese or something."
On our eastern flank were the Canadian engineers. Now as I told you, I was in the British Army but they did not have a radio technician and so one day a week, I would go down to the Canadians and spend the day there. They called me the boy with the accent. I said I don't have an accent, you guys do you know, but I didn't realize that within—I came to Canada in 1959, so that's not an awful lot later that I became a Canadian. I enjoyed it down there because they're a little more relaxed than the Brits, quite a bit more relaxed actually. And so I enjoyed that because I was a signalman and I could chat with the major. You wouldn't get that at the British camp, you know, the officers lived quite a way away and sort of dug in to the hills. And so I enjoyed that.
The radios were very much the same. Most of our basic radio equipment was World War II. My favorite radio was a [Wireless Set No.] 19 and there's a Canadian 19 and a British 19, which were exactly the same except for the power unit. There was a separate power unit for when you went to transmit in the British one and in the Canadian one it was all the same. Otherwise the set was exactly the same. So I was perfectly happy working with the Canadian equipment. We had 19, the 62, which is a little bit smaller and then the 52 and 53. So actually, you know, no problem at all working with the equipment down at the Canadian base.
Being in the British Army—as you know, Brits love cricket and I was surprised the Australians didn't do something about that, too. But in 28 Brigade, we challenged 29 Brigade, another British outfit, to a game of cricket. Well, cricket requires a flat field and so they found one but it was still a little bumpy so they put coconut matting down between what in cricket are called the wickets, you know, from 22 yards apart. So we went out there and I was on the 28 Brigade team. It didn't do very well. When we got there, there were four 25-pounder artillery guns on the boundary firing over the heads of the cricket [game]. So I remember I went and spoke to the bombardier and I said, “Do you guys ever drop any short?” and he says, “No, not often, mate.” And I said, “Well, don't drop any short today 'cause we're playing right in front of you.” But when you think of it, the 25-pounder has a range somewhere between five, it might go 10 miles but probably not so you're probably looking at something like a seven-mile range from where you fire it to where you want it to explode. So that meant that we were really playing cricket between five and seven miles from the half a million Chinese or something. But we lost and I was out first ball. Our CO [commanding officer] was the only one that scored any decent runs.
There was no success for the Chinese and North Koreans when it came to actually bombing us because whenever they built an airstrip in North Korea, the American air force would go and bomb it out of existence. But they could, the only thing they could do, they could shell and that did happen but they couldn't bomb us. But they did have a little single-seater plane that we called Bed Check Charlie and he would come over and this—actually the particular thing that I can remember was when I was still down with the engineers and my friend Reg Briggs, who was an operator, he was sitting in the signal truck on the radio and I was on guard and I was walking down between the paddy fields and I remember Reg called out. I've forgotten which way round it goes, but it was either sort of flash white or flash blue, flash red, something like that. And he said Bed Check Charlie’s coming. I was still looking up and you hear this thing coming over and all the Bofors [40mm anti-aircraft autocannon] and everything around the unit would open up on this thing and the sky would be full like a fireworks night. And he would come through and he would throw a few bombs and hand grenades over the side while he flew over. Now, I never heard of anybody being hurt on the ground and they never, as far as I know, ever got Bed Check Charlie. No use sending a fighter up, a jet fighter couldn't—it'd be at night anyway, but he'd never see him, he'd be here and gone by the time. But I would say, you know, we used to laugh at Bed Check Charlie. You'd sort of stand there and you'd sort of look up in the sky and said ha-ha-ha. I always say if one of those bombs or hand grenades happened to land beside you, that was curtains. But we thought of it as a joke but it didn't have to be.