John Graham, ex 3RAR
The following conversation could have taken place: "Hey, this is not bad, where are we anyway?"
"Aw, I heard it's a joint called Uijongbu, about 15 miles north of Seoul."
"Someone said we're in a rest area, cum reserve, for 15 days or more. It can't last , can it?"
"Yeah, sure it can."
It didn't, did it!
Early New Year's Day, ordered to pack up, mount up, American G.M.C.s. North went 27th Brigade, 6 miles to an area called Chokchong, with 3RAR furthest forward. (The move forward was to help cover the main escape routes from the north, after yet another U.N. forces collapse.)
Thinking back, I suppose we were lucky in spending Christmas Day in peace at Uijongbu feasting on turkey and a lot of other good fare, courtesy of the U.S. Army.
On reaching our destination we observed hundreds of, as we thought, South Koreans -- found later they were Chinese -- running towards and past us, all heading south. Allocated our defensive positions, we began digging in. A short time later we were ordered to pack up and mount the same trucks we had arrived in.
Heading back south we rounded a bend to find the road blocked by quite a few vehicles facing north, obviously abandoned in great haste. We were then placed in temporary defensive positions.
A call went out for anyone who could drive. I pretended not to hear. No pretence on the next call, my corporal, Ted Lisk, yelled out: "Graham, I know you can drive, so get your ass down here and into a vehicle." In no time at all I was behind the wheel of a stretcher jeep, the stretcher occupied by a badly wounded bloke.
I had never driven a jeep before and did not know the four wheel drive/Low ratio setup. To make matters worse the road, if that's what you could call Korean dirt tracks, was covered with ice. To this day I believe I turned the jeep around on a sixpence.
Somehow I turned the jeep around and headed south, only to find, 1500 yards along the way, the road was again blocked, this time by an American Patton tank, blasting away with everything at their disposal -- main cannon, 50 calibre and 30 calibre machine guns, across the nearby paddy fields. An American soldier standing close by noticed the chap on the stretcher. In no time he had the driver move the tank enough for me to drive on.
My turn again, into first gear, whoops, slip, slide, skid went the back wheels. I called the American again. "Could you put this bloody thing into 4 wheel drive for me please." I can still remember the look of disbelief o his face. A quick explanation on my part, a quick thanks, and into 4 wheel drive we went. From then it made for easier handling and a much better ride.
Prior to that, I'm sure that if the poor fellow could have got off the stretcher he would have walked to hospital -- it was a slippery, bumpy damned trek.
Further along I picked up a wounded South Korean soldier and made him as comfortable as possible on the front seat.
A few miles down the track an Australian captain flagged me down. The captain, accompanied by a few diggers, thanked me most profusely for bringing their jeep out. He turned out to be our battalion R.M.O.
With the two wounded men in mind I let them take the jeep, although my orders from Reg. Saunders were to hang on to it until I got back to A Company.
One of the diggers, apparently the jeep driver, got very excited: "Look at all the bullet holes in it!" I still wonder if he was the one who ran away leaving his vehicle. Actually, at the time, I was fostering very strong thoughts, not good ones, about that particular digger.
From that point on I was left with two diggers, food for thought again, these two stretcher bearers should have been up with the battalion helping the wounded, not this far back. One had an Owen, minus the mag and ammunition, the other had a .303 but no ammunition. I gave him one of my bandoliers, having two, and we three continued south looking for A echelon. We arrived back at Uijongbu to find many displaced troops and lots of fires around which the many bods stood warming themselves. We joined a group, sharing their fire. My two companions went off looking for the Indian field ambulance they said was in the vicinity.
I was talking to a couple of G.I.s and a master sergeant standing nearby overheard my conversation, how I'd lost all my gear except my rifle and basic pouches. He took me over to a bloody big truck and I soon had a new pile cap, pile jacket, wind jacket, warm underwear and two pairs of beautiful (to me) padded socks.
Back at the fire I was approached by an Indian, turban and all. Touching me on the shoulder, he said "You Australee?" I nodded "Yes" and he beckoned me to follow him. I did, to an old broken down building. Inside were my two diggers sitting around a good fire, warm and tucking into a bowl of curry each. I was given a big bowl of Indian curry and japatties, which was very, very good indeed, making me warm inside and out.
We took leave of our turban-topped Indian and headed south towards Seoul in total darkness, being challenged now and then by the odd Korean check-point. One of the diggers always answered "G.I. boys", and it always worked. (I later wondered if that was the good word.)
We came across a tram depot, jam packed with trams. Bad luck, there was no power.
A car came towards us from the right. We hailed it. They pulled up some distance from we stood and immediately started shooting at us. Guess what? You're right first time, we whizzed off very smartly.
Some time later an Australian army truck came along and drove us to A Echelon for a good meal, some sleep, finally a clean up, and a good breakfast.
We then drove back to A company who were camped in a school house in Seoul. It was O.K. with Reg Saunders when I explained to him about the lost jeep.
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