24th June 2020
“I came out a nervous wreck”
Gerry Farmer, 1951 Royal Fusiliers, lost his friend Cpl Derby in the conflict. He was left with shrapnel in his spine and lifelong claustrophobia, after being trapped in a Jeep at the bottom of a river while trying to escape Chinese mortars.
“When I was 18 there were seven wars to fight in, including Aden, Cyprus, Kenya, Korea, Malaya. All my friends I was at school with joined the army; a couple got killed in Malaya.
We trained on the .303. It was a really good rifle but we couldn’t use them in Korea. It was more closer kind of warfare, so we used the Sten gun. It was always jamming. Some had the magazine on the top but we liked the side ones. We’d hold the magazine and if it moved slightly the next round wouldn’t come out.
We were told we were going to Kingston, Jamaica, but instead we went to Brentwood and waited for a ship to Korea. We went on the Orwell, a German liner. It had big eagles stamped into where the funnels were. When we got to Port Said, we weren’t allowed off because King Farouk was being deposed at the time. The first time I looked out the porthole I saw a camel with a guy wearing a red fez.
We got to Pusan: I was the second one down the gangplank. It was the whole regiment; on the quayside there was a black American band doing the St Louis blues. It was great.
I got wounded. June 12th, 1953, in the CO’s Jeep. We got mortared on the hook. The Chinese were mortaring all the time. It landed about a yard from the Jeep and blew me out about 40 yards. I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t feel me legs, then all of a sudden a MASH (Mobile Army Surgical Hospital) helicopter came down. “The Chinese were just like us; they were young kids and national service.” Korea was an infantry war.
"The Chinese were just like us; they were young kids and national service."
Everything was so close-call, we used to have American stuff, like flak jackets. I’ve still an inch and a half of shrapnel in my spine. They said it was better to leave it or I wouldn’t walk again, as it’s between the knuckles of my spine.”