THE FORGOTTEN HEROES; SCOTS SOLDIERS JOINED MILLIONS FIGHTING AND DYING IN BLOODY COLD WAR BATTLE: 60 Years after Conflict, Veteran Alexander Tells of Courage and Terrifying Carnage of Korean War

Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland), June 26, 2010 | Go to article overview

THE FORGOTTEN HEROES; SCOTS SOLDIERS JOINED MILLIONS FIGHTING AND DYING IN BLOODY COLD WAR BATTLE: 60 Years after Conflict, Veteran Alexander Tells of Courage and Terrifying Carnage of Korean War


Byline: Craig McQueen

IIT claimed the lives of four million people and created a political stalemate that remains to this day.

And yet the Korean War of 1950 to 1953 is known as the Forgotten War, largely absent from the pages of history.

This weekend marks the 60th anniversary of the beginning of hostilities, when the communist north invaded the democratic south.

The Korean peninsula had been split in two following the end of World War II, with the US-backed south holding its own elections early, while the Soviets installed dictator Kim Il-Sung in the north.

The invasion saw 231,000 North Korean troops pouring over the border, with South Korea illprepared.

The attack was condemned by the United Nations and, with the US and the Commonwealth having significant forces in the region, they were drawn into the conflict.

Alexander Easton, from Denny, Stirlingshire, was an apprentice joiner about to turn 18.

Like all young men of his age, he faced a stint of national service.

He said: "I had no idea what lay ahead when I started my national service. When I turned 18, I went to Edinburgh for my medical.

"That was in 1950 but I got a year's extension to finish my five-year apprenticeship, so it wasn't until 1951 that my call-up papers arrived.

"Most of my pals went to Stirling Castle to join The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders but I was sent to Perth to join The Black Watch."

He did 16 weeks training in Scotland before travelling to Korea.

Now aged 78, Alexander was one of 63,000 British troops sent to fight a war they knew little about.

As part of a UN force, they would fight alongside nearly 600,000 South Koreans, 480,000 Americans and troops from countries such as Australia and Canada.

Lined up against them were a million troops from the Chinese People's Liberation Army, 260,000 North Koreans and 26,000 Soviets.

It was to be the first conflict of the Cold War, characterised by infantry attacks, bombing raids and prolonged trench warfare.

It was this sort of fighting which Alexander and his comrades faced when they arrived in Korea.

He said: "You never fought during the day. You would go out on patrol all night in the minefields and you had to give a password when you came back to base as the Chinese would try to follow you in.

"I was a wireless operator, so I was always close to the commanding officer. But the worst place for us was at Hook Hill, where the 7th US Marines had taken a tanking. We were to take over.

"On the night of the battle, we fired a shell which exploded in mid-air to light up the area and we could see thousands of Chinese coming at us. They just ran right over the top and fell in the trench beside you, so it was you or them.

"You didn't know if they were Koreans or Chinese and, to be quite honest, it was a shambles. You didn't know where you were, you'd run out of ammunition. It was horrendous."

During the battle, Alexander was shot in the leg and captured.

He said: "There were 11 of us killed and a lot wounded and I think about 11 of us were taken by the Chinese.

"I was dragged into the Sami Chong Valley and because they got me, they got my wireless, my dog tags and my gear. But when first light came, they left us in one of the tunnels and I was picked up by the Canadians, who were supporting us.

"I had been left for dead but a Canadian turned me over and said 'this one's still alive'. They brought in a helicopter and I ended up in an American Mobile Army Surgical Hospital - it was just like M*A*S*H. "The operating theatre was just a tent and they pumped you full of penicillin to stop infection."

Back in Scotland, Alexander's mum only found out when she saw his name in a report in the Daily Record. He said: "In my original army records, I lived in Dunipace but during the time I was doing my national service, my family moved. …

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