Gerry Tait in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, October 2012.The Memory Project
"I went to Korea in October 1950, one of the early birds. I didn't get out of there till May 1952. I wasn't a volunteer, I was regular army. Had to do as I was told."
She had four boys, lost one in ’36. She lost her daughter in ’42. So there was three boys that she had to bring up during the war. They almost put her in the army. My first brother was in Egypt, my second brother got called up and had to get discharged because the war was finished. I joined in February of ’49 and that was when my life of traveling started then. I was in the British Army, I did 12 years, I was all over the world at the expense of the British government.
I went to Korea in October 1950, one of the early birds. I didn't get out of there till May 1952. I wasn't a volunteer, I was regular army. Had to do as I was told, I didn't volunteer. I was told not to volunteer but I did volunteer for the British Army.
Other than that, my adventurous life started when I got on the troop ship in Southampton [England] in the beginning of October 1950. It was nearly six weeks at sea. We dumped in Korea in November 1950, November 27th I think, 1950. That was it. I was there till March I think, 1952. I was shipped to Japan for three weeks and then got a troop ship and went another six weeks at sea, back to Liverpool [England]. By the way, I embarked from Southampton and come back to Liverpool. So that was a roundtrip.
I went out there with the 29th Brigade. Transferred to the 27th Brigade as soon as I got to Korea and then when the 28th Brigade come in, I got transferred to them. But I always was a 29th Brigade man. I went out there with the Glosters [Gloucestershire Regiment] and [Royal] Northumberland Fusiliers and the [Royal] Ulster Rifles. That was the three infantry.
When I got to Korea, I get transferred to the brigade which was made up of the Middlesex [Middlesex Regiment (Duke of Cambridge's Own)] and the Argyles [Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders (Princess Louise's)]. The 28th Brigade come in and that was the Norfolks [Royal Norfolk Regiment] KSLIs – the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry – and one of the Anglian brigades, I think it was Sussex [Royal Sussex Regiment] or something. Naturally I came back with the 28th because the KOSBs [King’s Own Scottish Borders] come in and joined the 27th I guess. It changed. I think altogether the time that I was there, it was nine different British infantry brigades – nine different British regiments and all three brigades. But then the brigades all amalgamated and became the [1st] Commonwealth Division.
Actually the first day I landed in Korea, it was in November or December, I went to an overnight stay in an old house, some marshland area. There was marshland and I was the only guy there going for troop training from Pusan up to I think it was Taegue, actually. And put me in this, sleeping on the floor and the place was rotten with mould. The next day they took me to a camp, 11 Infantry Workshop. Put me in a six-man tent with five guys and that was the same again. They said, “That’s where you’re sleeping, there.” I think they did it for madness. There’s a root underneath my bum all night long. They had twigged it. But uncomfortable. But I got through the night.
It was cold. It was cold because winter was just setting in then. You see your sleeping bags, keep your boots on. I could keep my boots on, you know. And come the spring you had to empty your sleeping bag full of bloody sand. It was quite an occasion emptying your sleeping bag. You didn't know if things were moving or what.
There was a time in the conscription in Britain that time, that kids were called up for 18 months and when the Korean War started, it was extended to two years. So […] to stand later. And they pulled conscription guys, it must have been terrible for them. But my cousin was learning to be a priest, getting taught to be a priest in England in a college and had been there for umpteen years. He got deferred till he was 21 and then they had called up the British Army, went to officer school, came to Korea and got killed November ’51. He wasn’t six weeks in Korea. Get killed.