Everyone will agree that in Korea we were outnumbered by two enemies. One to our immediate front, the other, smaller and furry, decided that the holes we lived in were bigger and better than theirs, so they moved in.

My mortar Troop had moved to the right of the line, with US 1st Cavalry Div to our right, where we deployed into a defile occupied by the 3-inch mortar platoon of a non-US infantry battalion. On arrival, we found our very tough looking comrades-in-arms ready to depart, however, they would first eat lunch.

Their meal arrived in a 2 1/2 tonne GMC (the old Deuce and a Half), onto which two men climbed. As men came down from the ridgeline the meal was served by the simple act of ripping bread into chunks and hurling it at the assembling hungry warriors. Large chicken parts, oranges, and canned goodies followed. While rough, it looked very rough, red wine was decanted from jerricans into mess tin ands mugs. Food that missed outstretched hands just fell on the ground, where it remained.

Lunch complete, trucks arrived to enable the mortar platoon to rejoin 1st Cav. Apart from shouts of 'O.K. Tommy, we go', little English passed between us. When the dust settled, we set about moving in. Immediately evident was the result of allowing much of their lunch to hit the ground. A rapid survey indicated that several such al fresco meals had been dispensed, all unwanted food rotting and fermenting on the hillside. We were expected to occupy what looked like a rat infested garbage tip; interested rodents had popped heads out of bunkers to sniff the air. Great bloated, scabby, fur-covered football bladders on legs, some, so gorged on military rations, they could barely waddle.

Not one solitary bunker or mortar pit was considered fit for occupation by the British Army, as a consequence of which, we were ordered to start digging into the rocky shale. At the same time we were advised to kill those rats that we were capable of out-manoeuvring. Both jobs became slow processes, and the rat community did not appear to noticeably reduce.

Now, as a sharp-eyed target spotter I had not failed to observe several cases of American hand grenades abandoned by our UN colleagues. Acquiring a couple of boxes for my personal benefit, checking them over, I decided they would be ideal for our planned reduction of much of the rat population of North Korea, although I did feel that loud bangs close at hand might not be tolerated. So I set about fabricating my secret weapon, of which the War Office was unaware. Now that I have voluntarily disclosed my furtive activity, I trust that I will not shortly see my name on an Army Form 252.

Given a British hand grenade of the period, the popular 36 Mills Bomb, the detonator was exposed, but not the explosive material therein, simply by unscrewing the base. An American grenade, of simpler construction, having one assembly comprising safety handle, spring mechanism and detonator all within a single component, screwed onto the familiar 'pineapple' case of the grenade. The high explosive contents could be shaken out, or poked out with a spike bayonet, leaving a clean, empty case. The grenade would then be filled with petrol, the top assembly replaced, and there you have it - a rat exterminator par excellence. In Army parlance, Bomb, Petrol, OR's for the use of.

For a week or so I discreetly used my invention, successfully napalming every known rat residence in the vicinity, albeit away from prying eyes. Resultant underground explosions were muffled affairs, and as the petrol was instantly vaporised, were virtually smoke free. I had a great time until one grenade rebounded from a bunker entrance, rolling into dry foliage, where it set fire to a large area, causing much concern, and no little panic, among men and rats alike. From that day, my covert anti-rat warfare was voluntarily curtailed. Like my colleagues, 1 reverted to the most common method of rat extermination. That consisted of smashing them flat with the back of a spade, fast, effective but inevitably rather gory.


     Service Record:

  • Time in Korea
    • 1st tour March '51 - July '52
    • 2nd tour March '53 - March '54
  • Units
    • 1st 170 Mortar Battery
    • 2nd 120 Light Battery
  • Major skirmishes
    • Imjin River April ' 51
    • Op Commando October '51
    • Guy Fawkes Battle Nov '51
    • 2nd Hook Battle May '53
    • 3rd Hook Battle July '53
  • Rank - Gunner RA , initially (Op Signaller) later Bombardier
  • Nasho 1st tour, regular 2nd tour

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