OFF TO WAR
James "Jim" PASHEN joined the Australian Army in August 1950 and served for over 20 years, being discharged in March 1971 with the rank of Warrant Officer 1 and appointed Honorary Lieutenant. His records show service with 3 Battalion RAR (Korea and Enoggera), 1 RAR (Ingleburn and Holsworthy), the Pacific Islands Regiment and the 35 Cadet Battalion in the then Territory of Papua-New Guinea (PNG). He had distinguished service with the Australian Army Training Team Vietnam (AATTV) plus numerous other postings. After leaving the ARMY he held senior managerial appointments with the Irrigation and Water Supply Commission, the Main Roads Department and the Forestry Commission. He retired in 1985 (ill health) but continues to lead a busy life as an active member of the AATTV Association and the RSL as well as writing short stories and articles for a number of journals. He lives at Peregian Beach, Queensland.
Prior to joining "Old Faithful", 3 Battalion Royal Australian Regiment (3 RAR) in 1952 my training at Ingleburn allowed me to come into contact with some very interesting people, "Bob" O'Brien, "Mick Dent" and "Geoff" Hart, to name a few. I was to meet up with them again in Korea. Just taking time off to sit down and ponder on memorable events which affected me in some way during my tour has been the hard task. However, having done so, I'll now offer a brief resume on each, as I recall them from the past. If the intervening period of 42 years has dimmed my memory it also may allow for any possible distortions and embellishments and I apologize for that.
My first Platoon Commander, in Korea, was a young baby faced Lieutenant "Maurie" Pears. I'll never forget my arrival in 7 Platoon C Company. They were located on an almost suicidal position named "George Outpost". Feature 227 looked down on us and was occupied by the Chinese. Hill Feature 355 overshadowed us from the rear. We shared our location with 8 Platoon C Company. Our position had recently been taken over from the "Van Doos", Vingt Deux, Royal Canadian 22nd Regiment (R22R), a French Canadian Regiment. Their personal hygiene left much to be desired requiring a massive clean up by us when moving in..
Maurie and I shared a hoochi (dugout). We got on very well though he did provide me with my first real scare. This occurred one night when I was dozing between picquet checks. I was rudely wakened by the sound of a few bursts from an Owen gun sounding off in my bunker. I thought the Chinese had arrived but it was only Maurie on a rat killing episode. Rats were in a abundance in the rafters of the bunkers. That is a true story. Maurie left us soon after for re-posting to the mortars.
The toilet pit was located right on top of the platoon position, in full view of the enemy, as it was the only place it could be sited. When the need arose to use it, you exited out of your bunker waving a newspaper over your head. This indicated to the Chinese your intentions. They allowed you to sit in peace for a reasonable time. If you were too long they would fire a few rounds to let you know that they had you under surveillance. Constipation was never a problem for most of us, believe me.
Every Platoon has its characters. One was Infantryman "Karl". He caused me a deal of concern before I was able to get him shifted. One night his turn on piquet involved a complete "stand to" for the whole platoon. He arrived at his post and promptly threw three grenades down the hill. The sound of the explosions instantly alerted everyone. "That'll keep the bastards quiet for awhile" was his only comment. Other eccentric behaviour was having an adverse effect platoon morale. He had to go, and eventually did.
Between our location and Hill 227 (the enemy outpost called "John") we used to man a Listening Post by night, "Dog" Outpost ( our base position was "George"). The Chinese used to snipe at us from there during the day.
A Section of 8 men used to move up to it at last light. They also were equipped with an old L Type telephone which tied into cable previously laid up to the area. On one occasion, the section commander, in error, left the telephone behind in the bunker when he left to come back to his platoon. The party line was connected to the Company Commander back on Hill 210. Answering his phone on this particular morning he was greeted by a Chinese caller nattering on at a rapid rate. I later heard that this was the only time that Major John "Blanc" White was at a loss for words. Shortly afterwards it was decided to vacate Dog Outpost permanently. Acting as an escort, 8 Platoon (our neighbours) provided protection and security for a troop of engineers who 'booby' trapped the whole outpost area. They came off their task about an hour before first light. They had only been back in their own lines for about 15 minutes when incoming small arms fire was detected coming from the area they had just booby trapped. Charlie must have been coming up behind the engineers and disconnected the explosives just after they had been laid. During the time on George/Dog outpost my platoon never took part in any patrolling mainly because of our firm base duties.
Shortly afterwards both 7 and 8 Platoons were moved to the reverse slopes of Hill 355. Our area was a new one and pits and bunkers had to be dug. In summer a fair enough ask but in winter almost an impossible job. The engineers came into help us as the ground was solid ice. After the siting of the Platoon Headquarters was determined they used a beehive charge. Most will remember the conical shaped charge containing approximately 10lbs of TNT and the three spindly legs it stood on. The indented recession on the underside was shaped like the bottom of a champagne bottle after the beehive was fired. I believe we could have dug a bunker to house the whole platoon, it was just that big. On arrival on Hill 355, a horrifying view was the sight of 7 dead Chinese soldiers. They were in the kneeling position and crouched over as they came under the barbed wire perimeter fence. They had been frozen solid and had remained that way until they thawed out when they were recovered and given a decent burial.
Just after we finished our 'digging in' the Company was moved across to Hill 220. Hills 227 and 355 were now off to our right front about 300 yards distant. I had an additional task while there. It was to keep the beam of a strong searchlight focused onto Hill 227. The light was situated about 5 miles to our rear. It was said to have been 1 million candlepower and to everyone, a very strong light indeed. It shone for 55 minutes when it was turned off to replace the carbon burning rod. This usually took 5 minutes. Its purpose was to light up the forward slopes of 227 to stop Charlie from digging in and highlight any troop movements. The 5 minute interval between switch off and switch on was used by Charlie to send out large numbers of troops who would dig like crazy (as only they could). The powers that be informed me that I was to switch off after 40 minutes, wait 5 minutes and then switch back on. At that time, the whole of the Brigade artillery targeted onto Hill 227 and would fire 3 rounds per gun. I have forgotten how many artillery pieces this involved or how many rounds were fired but I can say, it was a hell of a show. As a spectator, viewing this display of might, I can say it was awesome. It took about 20 minutes for the smoke and haze to disperse. Charlie had really been caught out.
Sergeant 'Rough' Barker and I arrived in the Company on the same day. He went to 9 Platoon while I was sent to 7. My first outing was on an Ambush patrol. To gain experience I went out with Sergeant "Slim" Cotton from 8 Platoon. It was an experience that I'm never likely to forget. The patrol went out through B Company, Lieutenant "Bob" O'Brien's area, and onto the floor of the valley. Slim had placed a cut-off group at our rear as we went to our position. On the way back we came up on our cut-off group from a different direction. The ensuing fire-fight must have been great to listen to with Bren, Owen and rifle fire plus 4 High Explosive (HE) grenades and 2 White Phosphorous (WP) smoke. Fortunately the kill tally amounted to a big fat zero. At our debriefing, the Company Commander, wanted to know who were the bloody cowboys playing cops and robbers out on the floor of the valley. Embarrassing to say the least, and for me, certainly a learning experience.
"Rough" Barker went out with "Nipper" Neyland, a Corporal acting Platoon Sergeant of 9 Platoon until Rough took over from him. One of my digger mates, "Froggy" Seddon was on the patrol. Apparently the patrol had walked over a "Jumping Jack" mine. As the ground was frozen solid, the initial charge blew it out of its position and up onto its side before exploding. It would normally project well into the air giving greater kill coverage. "Rough" went down and had to be stretchered back to base. "Froggy" limped home with shrapnel wounds to his right heel.
I went down with one of my sections to help and assist in carrying Rough back up the snow covered hill. By the time he had been transported to the Battalion Regimental Aid Post (RAP) he had left us. A piece of shrapnel the size of half a 1 cent piece had pierced his chest, lungs and spleen. Severe internal bleeding had resulted in his death. He was a great mate. I still miss him.
Late April 1952 I was medically evacuated to Japan and spent the next 11 weeks in the British Commonwealth Division Hospital Kure. On discharge, I spent some time at Miyajima in convalescence. After 10 days I was sent to the Convalescence Depot at Kure. This was a "Pommy" Unit. Finishing a medical check, I was placed in "O" squad. Each week you were medically examined the result of which determined which squad you were allotted to for the following week. Advancement depended upon your improving physical fitness. Squad 4 was the tops. "0" squad's physical activities involved walking around the sports oval once in the morning and the same in the afternoon. It was at that time the "Nips" (Japanese) went on strike on the wharves. I found the idea of a strike by the vanquished highly unpalatable and mistakenly thought the Allies won the war. The Brits in charge ran a tough and unhappy camp. The staff were tyrants and the Company Sergeant Major a pain. The food was worse than combat rations. The CSM ordered me to work on a wharf. I informed him that I was only fit for a leisurely stroll around the sports oval twice a day and that manual labour was just not on. He told me that I would be charged and that I was to report to his office later. I went back to my cell, packed my gear, walked out of the Depot and caught a taxi back to 1 Reinforcement Unit at Hiro.
Reporting into the Regimental Sergeant Major, Colin "Chickensticks" Henwood I was paraded before the Officer Commanding, Major Jack Gerke. After a verbal tongue lashing, he arranged for me to go back to "Old Faithful", 3 Battalion in Korea. I had first to go through the 1 Commonwealth Division Battle School at Haramura, not far from Hiroshima.
Back at the Battalion there had been many changes. I went back to my old platoon for a short while before being sent to the Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM), "Bill" McCombe to assist in running Non Commissioned Officers (NCO) Courses as the Battalion had just gone into reserve. This was also the first time that the Officers and Sergeants Mess had operated in a semi formal manner.. "Bill" McCombe really made our Mess one of the best and it was a pleasure to be in it. He had to control some pretty hard and tough characters. "Jack" Morrison, "Leo" Walsh, "Lofty" Maher, "Horse" Goggin and "Fred" Williams to name but a few. I'll never forget Jack's attempts at eating electric light globes and the bloodied result. Who would ever forget his solo performance of "Dancing the Prize Waltz with You" as he acted out the one-armed fiddler with the crabs. I still can manage a laugh as I recall that. My mates "Jack" Jamieson, "Snow" Aspinall and "Jack" Gay and I spent many a pleasant evening in our Mess.
If you had been hospitalized for any period, the time spent out of the line had to be made up so that everyone had to serve 12 months in action in Korea before Rotation.. Eventually such an anomaly was abolished. As I had been making up time when word came through I departed the Battalion. Three weeks Recreation and Rest after serving 8 months was allowed for all who served in Korea. I hadn't taken mine and had to take it before shipping home to Australia. Arriving at Shinjuku, Tokyo and the R & R Centre I found that my CSM from Ingleburn. Mike Dent was the RSM. He really treated me well, a nice room, full mess facilities in the staff Mess and Dining Room etc. I really enjoyed my stay and I was profuse in my thanks.
I had a series of Platoon Commanders in the Battalion, Lieutenants Maurie Pears, Peter Stanton, Clarrie Green and Alan Limburg. They came, stayed awhile and then moved on. I certainly hope I wasn't the reason for their onward movement. There are many names from my platoon I recall. All names I remember with pleasure. "Jock" Roy, "Reg" Neal, "Rex" English, "Jack" Allan, "Snow" Kiernan, "Bill" Mundy, "Ted" Manego, "Jack" Curley, "Alan" Saunderson and "Tubby" Millard are just some who cross my thoughts. I dare say I could write many more personal anecdotes but these few will, I hope, assist in painting a picture of how one Platoon Sergeant proudly viewed his period of service with 'Old Faithful', the 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment.
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