Eric Cresswell Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers
Service history is available for viewing on Eric's Page
All rights reserved copyright Eric Cresswell 2008
Cyprus 1969 B Sqn TheQueens Own Hussars Ziggy Camp
Germany 1963 ARV Commander 11th Hussars
Canal Zone 1953 Shandore Camp
5th Royal Inniskilling Dragoon Guards
Korea the forgotten war. I was posted to the 5th Royal Inniskilling Dragoon Guards in July 1951 whilst
serving in Germany and, attached to 'C' Squadron fitters troop. At the time I was a Cfn in REME trained as a
tank fitter, the regiment was preparing for action in Korea.

After leave and assembling at the RAC Depot we left from Liverpool on the troopship 'Empire Pride'. We
called at Port Suez, Aden, Ceylon, Singapore, and Hong- Kong arriving in Kure Japan some five weeks later.
After a short time in a transit camp we again shipped to Pusan in South Korea. Then a thirty-six hour train
journey to the rail head at Ui-jong-bu. The Divisional area was some fifteen miles wide by twenty miles deep.

The divisional area is divided neatly in half north to south by the River Imjin, and the country on both side
of the river consists of mountain heights, valleys and streams draining down into the river Imjin. The
valleys are flat with small fields divided by mud banks for the growing of the staple crop rice. There are a
few scattered villages of crude construction joined by tracks.

The lack of roads is most striking to one unaccustomed to the Far East. Prior to the United Nations arriving
in Korea there was only one road in the Commonwealth area that ran north to south and was crossed by
minor roads. The American Engineer Corps bulldozed some 100 miles of roads in the Commonwealth
division area connecting rear echelons to the front line as a means of supplying the front line troops with
food and ammunition.

When one is forced by the circumstances to lives in bivouacs and tents the most important factor is the
weather. The rains that occur in the monsoon season and the extreme cold of the winter. The months of
December and January are dry and extremely cold, with a fair wind blowing from the north (Siberia). The
temperature runs in cycles of three to four days- three days sunny and thawing by day, followed by three
days of hard frost. Snow fell heavily on several days, but disappeared from all but the hill tops either by
thawing or being blown away by the bitter cold wind. Nightly frost readings fell to -10 to -12 degrees F. (-24
C). February being the coldest month, this contrasts with highest temperature in Easter week of 30 C.

The Commonwealth Division consisted of troops from England, Canada, Australia, New Zealand India, and
Turkey. Since its formation the division won a high place in the praise of the United States Army
Commander, and has shown a fitness for battle unsurpassed by any division in Korea. The Canadians
provided an infantry Brigade and one squadron of tanks (Sherman's'), Australia an infantry Battalion, New
Zealand artillery support, and India a field hospital. The British contingent was two infantry brigade's and an
armoured regiment.

The Division operated with two brigades in the line and one in reserve. The Canadian Brigade is supported
by "C" Squadron Lord Strathcona's Horse. This left the regiment, the 5th Royal Inniskilling Dragoon Guards
equipped with Mk 111 Centurion tanks, to support the 28th British Commonwealth Brigade and the 29th
British Brigade. With two squadrons up and one in reserve, each squadron did two months in support of
the infantry and one month in reserve.

By October 1951 the war had reached its static phase with both side drawn up holding positions on the hill
tops in a series of trenches, bunkers and tank pits with approximately 1000 yards between the lines. Little
movement was experienced during the day time with both side keeping below the skyline. This enabled the
tank crews to relax and carry out any routine tasks that were necessary, carrying up supplies such as
petrol, ammunition and food. During the night both sides sent out routine patrols and every one did their
share of wireless and sentry duties. The tank crews stood by in case the infantry required fire support. Also
during the day a close watch was kept on the enemy lines for signs of activity. i.e. Building of observation
points, these were then destroyed by direct fire from the tanks 20 pdr. Gun. Harassing day time fire being
provided by indirect fire from the 25 pdrs or 4.2 ins mortars situated in  the division rear area.

My role as a tank fitter was to carry out any minor repairs that may be necessary to keep the tanks in a good
state of repair. To this end I was attached to fourth troop "C" Squadron and accompanied them into the
front line living with the tank crews.

12th March to 12th May I served in the position on the ridge in front of point 227 which was exposed to the
heights of 227 occupied by the Chinese, so one had to keep a low profile during day light hours.

27th June to 11th August  on the ridge to the right of point 355 (see map).  

12th August to 10th September on point 159 from which I was withdrawn due to a lack of suitable
accommodation.

It was during the 4th troops stay on point 159 that the troop suffered the loss of four members when by a
freak chance a shell entered the turret of a tank and all four crew member were killed. This was despite the
fact that the tank was in a specially constructed bunker with overhead protection, hence the freak one in a
million chance of any projectile entering the tank which in normal circumstances would have been closed
down with all its hatches closed.

The four crew member's were Sgt Wykes N.E.; L/Cpl Metcalf D; Tpr McFadyen P; Tpr Cahill J.P; KIA 4th
September 1952. They are all interned in the military cemetery in Pusan South Korea.

Life in the front line was punctuated by harnessing fire from the Chinese 122mm shells, motor fire and the
routine tasks of maintenance. As the tanks were static all the time in the front line the main work was
composed of keeping the tanks auxiliary generator going which provided the electrical power to run the
radio and keep the tanks batteries fully charged, it also provided the lighting for the tank crews bunkers.
The auxiliary Generator was a four cylinder Morris 8 engine coupled to a 4 kilowatt generator, this required
the ignition system to be regularly serviced due to its extended usage. It also has a nasty habit of leaking
coolant from its water pump and breaking its fan mounted on the end of the generator, the fan enable the
fumes to be blown out of the turret when firing the main armament. I had one instance of a clutch seizure
with the tank hard up against the front of the tank pit, took a bit of crow bar work and pyreene to free it off.
The gun fitters changed damaged gun barrels at night with the aid of the hand crane on the Schammel
recovery vehicle.

Winter was the most trying period in Korea living in such crude shelter meant we had to improvise our own
means of heating. Whilst the American army were supplied with petrol burning space heaters we had no
such luxury
. Home made heaters were the order of the day, an ammunition box was the stove and a round
cigarette tin was the burner into which one would drip fed petrol down a rubber tube and copper nozzle
from a petrol jerry can. The chimney was old shell containers. If one was very careful the flow of petrol into
the burner could be regulated to prevent flooding and the consequence of a run away situation when the
stove ran out of control and invariably set fire to the roof as the chimney glowed red.

During the rainy season it was hot and humid, sleeping under a mosquito net did not help one to sleep any
better. Clothing and the inside of the bunkers became very damp, bedding and clothing had to be dried out
during the sunny periods.

Acknowledgment is made to the Regiment Journal of the 5th Royal Inniskilling Dragoon Guards from which I
have been able to refresh and recall memories from the past.
Korea Oct 1951 to January 1953
Sharja 1968 B Sqn The Queens Own Hussars