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Kerry Smith recalls visiting the grave of his friend in Korea when the war ended and again 40 years later.

“I looked at his grave, it had a cross, that they had there, it was just a sort of a wooden cross with his name on it and that sort of thing, serial number. And I couldn’t, I didn’t have the guts to talk to him then.

When we went back in ’93 we walked around the graves, lot of the fellows that we knew who had been killed, I mean a lot of blokes lost a lot of mates. And I went and had a look at his grave, the headstone. I placed a card there... on which I had written to him asking his forgiveness for not going to his funeral...I’ll have to have a drink of water I think...

I knew he could read it but I printed it so he could read it because my writing is shocking, but I told him too. So we had a bit of a talk. He said, ‘How are you going Smithy?’ He said, ‘Don’t worry about it mate’.”

Find out more about casualties in the Korean War.

Richard Arundel was a midshipman in the Australian aircraft carrier HMAS Sydney.

“One day, just after we went on patrol I happened to be sitting at breakfast with a young man with a slightly burnt face from bailing out of a Spitfire in the Battle of Britain, afterwards he had joined the RAN. Should be sitting beside me and in a very relaxed style he conversed with me which I found rather interesting because I was a Midshipman, you were the dirt of the earth of course. And we had a little conversation, he had his breakfast and he went off.

And I was in the operations room a little while later to hear him being shot down, and that was the end of him. He was our first casualty, Lieutenant Clarkson.”

Find out about the operations of the HMAS Sydney in the Korean War.

Stanley Connolly served with 3rd Battalion Royal Australian Regiment at the Battle of Kapyong.

“We charged and we began to get shot down. I remember my good friend Gene Tunny on my right falling in the advance and then my big mate Rod Grey on my left, went down shot through the chest and the bullets were cracking, cracking, you can, as they go past you can hear them cracking, you know, because they sort of break the sound barrier. It’s louder than the crack of the weapon firing them. And it seemed to me that there were so many bullets coming that it was like walking or running into a very stiff breeze.

And I knew that most of the section had been knocked down and by this time I’m within ten foot of the Chinese trench when bang, something hit me and I didn’t know what it was you know. It absolutely blew the legs out from underneath me and I crashed to the ground carrying this bloody great Bren gun and all the ammunition in basic pouches and so on— I’m carrying about 80 pound of gear and equipment.

And I’m sprawled out on the ground and I know I’ve been hit and I don’t know where. And I can hear the Chinese talking to each other in the trench because the attack then had subsided. It was over as far as we were concerned and they were concerned. And I’m thinking what they are saying to each other is ‘will we shoot these guys in the head and make sure they are dead,’ because we’d be thinking the same thing. So the thought occurred to me that it might be a good move to try and get out of there. But I wasn’t sure if I could get up and I certainly wasn’t sure if I could walk or run. Anyhow when you’ve got battle gear on you’ve got a clip on your belt and everything is attached to the belt and you can just unsnap the belt and just shuck all the gear, everything will come off and fall away from you except the Bren gun which is on a sling across my neck, so with a great deal of speed and agility I slipped the Bren gun sling off my neck and unclipped the belt and jumped to my feet. Then I realised that where I had been shot was through the right thigh. So I sort of hopped and skipped and jumped and well, made my, retreated rapidly in that manner and fortunately after about 20 or 30 yards I was able to drive down behind a low mound. Meantime the inaccurate Chinese are having pot shots at me trying to stop me.

So here we are, most of the section blown away and we’ve had a close look at this trench and we can see that there’s about 70 or 80 Chinese in it, not the eight or ten that we expected. And we are pinned down because they’ve got covering fire from the hill we vacated the night before so nobody is moving. Everybody is pinned down and we are back to square one where we started from.

Anyhow after a short interval a whole platoon, Four Platoon, got organised and they put in a proper, systematic, well planned attack and they wiped out, they killed the 80 odd Chinese in the trenches. They lost a couple of lives in the action, but they wiped them out you know. And then the medics were able to come in and help our wounded. Rod had been shot through the chest, Gene Tunny had been also shot through the thigh. They were shooting low, I don’t know why. But nobody died in our attack, in our section attack, even though the whole section were wounded one way and another, they all got away with their lives.”

Find out more about the Battle of Kapyong.

Grace Halstead was a nurse who took care of the sick and wounded on RAAF flights from Korea to a hospital in Japan.

“And the sister, in this case me and this other sister, would receive them into the plane in their litters. And that was highly organised because they had to go according to their injuries. In fact the fractures were on the upper litters so the fractured limb would be out of the way. And they came right down four litters either side so that’s eight, plus walkers and psychos and so on. And the ones most seriously ill would be right on the bottom litter and right up near the bulkhead so that the sister would be, on take-off and landing, sitting between the two seriously ill patients.

And then once we took off we then started to, on each pannier, which was the litter, was a little message about each patient so we knew exactly what was wrong with them and what they needed on the journey, which was three and a half hours. And if it was calm it was wonderful and if it wasn’t calm it wasn’t so wonderful particularly when we had to hop over the mountains. Of course we didn’t have, it wasn’t, we needed oxygen in the plane if we went above 10,000 feet and quite often we gave oxygen during the trip.

However when I actually graduated I did a couple [of trips] on my own, we were the only medical people on board of course. The pilot and the navigator and the whole crew were marvellous because they would ask what sort of patients we had on, and how we wanted them to fly and if they were colostomies, which would of course have a colostomy bag that needed attention and they needed to fly as low as they possibly could. If they had to go up really high we had to have oxygen cylinders ready, well I did because I was the only one there this particular flight.”

Find out more about the role of Australian nurses in the Korean War.

A newsreel showing Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett (right) outside the Sydney Town Hall at the beginning of his lecture tour.

The opening title of the video states: ‘SYDNEY – Mr E. Ashmead Bartlett, who has come to tell us of the Anzacs’ immortal deeds at Gallipoli – Australian Gazette’. The short 19 second clip that follows shows Ashmead-Bartlett and an unknown man standing outside the Sydney Town Hall. Ashmead-Bartlett adjusts his suit and walking stick for the camera, and takes a puff of his cigarette. They shake hands and walk off to the right.

...commanded 2/1st Infantry Battalion during the Australian advance. He recalls witnessing hand-to-hand combat at Oivi-Gorari.

PAUL CULLEN: And again we encircled the Japanese position. And with another battalion from 7th Division...we killed over 300. And one of the extraordinary sights I've ever seen, when we encircled these Japs so we could capture the position and kill them all, and vast stores of rice and things...a Japanese officer raced out with his sword - drawn sword, samurai sword - and...Lieutenant St George Ryder - great name - one of our lieutenants...grappled with him, and his weapon had jammed. Just luck of the game, you know. It happens in every battle, I suppose. And they grappled together. And any rate, someone else came up, one of our chaps, and shot this Japanese who had so gallantly and bravely raced towards us waving his sword. You know, extraordinary sight. You wouldn't think you'd see it in this 1942 war, would you?

...flew with 75 Squadron at Milne Bay. He tells of the capture of a Japanese pilot.

ARTHUR GOULD: We shot down a Jap Val, a dive bomber thing. And he crash-landed on the beach, well away from us and quite a long way away. And the natives got him and brought him in for interrogation. We found out he was a Jap officer, we were going to have to get stuff out of him. And I was at the strip at the opposite end. And they walked this bloke in. They had him like a pig - they had a pole on the shoulder of this fellow and another fellow - another kanaka - up in front, and they had this bloke strung like a stuck pig with his wrists and his ankles on this thing. His wrists were nearly cut through from the vines. Anyhow, they dumped him in front of the army and they took the thing off him. And he was on the ground there and they were going to talk to him. And an air force cook came up and said, "My first bloody Jap," pulled out his gun and shot him there and then, so we never did get him and interrogate. I don't know what happened to the cook, I bet he was in serious trouble after that. But that was it, he was going to kill a Jap before he finished the war.

...of 2/16th Infantry Battalion, was subject to a bombardment of Japanese artillery on Ioribaiwa Ridge.

[A veteran faces the camera.]

ERIC WILLIAMS: And Bill Grayden and myself, I was the sergeant, he was the officer behind them. And unfortunately, these blokes had their head against this tree and I suppose the Japs must have seen us from over there. The next thing we knew was this mountain gun was fired and exploded in the tree just above our head. And it killed the three blokes with their head on the tree because the percussion goes straight...split their skulls open. And knocked out Bill Grayden, who was right alongside me. I was alright. I thought, "Christ!"

I could see they were dead. And I thought Bill was dead. I made a bit of a boo-boo - I should have made sure he was dead. So I grabbed all the grenades, 'cause I reckoned it was no good giving them to the Japs. So I just chucked them down the side, including Bill's. Took the bolts out of their rifles so the Japs couldn't use them, tossed those off and pissed off.

And when I got back to battalion, which wasn't far - here to the gate and back or something - no sign of the Japs. I didn't wait. I'm not a hero. Went back and reported that these three blokes were killed and Bill Grayden. And I suppose about a quarter of an hour later, who should come lurching up the track? It was Bill Grayden. Silly as a weirdo, he'd been only knocked out. Of course, I felt dreadful, you know. I'd left him. I thought he was dead, same as the other blokes.

...describes the reaction of the Australians in Port Moresby to the shooting down of a Japanese aircraft.

[A veteran faces the camera.]

GORDON BAILEY: That afternoon, a lone recce [reconnaissance plane] came over. The recce planes from the Japanese would just come over, you know, having a day afternoon out, go over and have a look at what the troops are doing at Moresby. And they'd cruise around like they owned the place, you know. And they did this and the two [Australian] Kittyhawks were just waiting up in the sky somewhere. And they got over Bootless Bay and they shot the what's-the-name [plane] down over Bootless Bay, this observation plane. You could hear the roar of the troops, you know. Everybody roared when it went down. It sounded like you were at the Melbourne MCG at the grand final or something. Fantastic. Really beaut.

...tells of conditions at 2/9th Australian General Hospital in Port Moresby during the Kokoda track fighting.

[A female veteran faces the camera.]

HELEN McCALLUM: And our convalescent patients used to help us with the care of the wards as far as the sweeping and the watering. And we used to rely on them to help us with a number of things because our staff was fairly short. And if they had a friend who was not very well, they would sit beside him and give him his drinks and hold his cigarette for him and things like that.

They were very courageous, they were very bright and humorous, they were very supportive of each other, they were very supportive of us and we all got on very well. And there was a lot of fun and games and, you know, sort of casual talk up and down the wards.

It was a wonderful atmosphere and I had a great admiration for those men. They were so brave, they put up with the discomforts. And they actually put on weight while they were in hospital. Our meals mightn't be very good, but away from the tensions of fighting conditions and getting regular meals, they would actually put on weight. We had one patient who was very, very thin and the men called him the 'greyhound pup'. And they were going to win all sorts of races with the greyhound pup. And they said after a while, "Sis, you'll have to cut down on his food, he's putting on too much weight."

Read more about Casualties.

...a platoon commander of 3rd Infantry Battalion, gives an account of being wounded at the Battle of Buna-Gona.

[A veteran faces the camera.]

COLIN RICHARDSON: His reaction - he said he thought I was dead but in any case he'd patch me up. He got out what catgut he had and sewed me up this entry hole here.

[Colin Richardson touches the left side of his chest.]

COLIN RICHARDSON: And then rolled me over and to his horror... I don't know whether you want me to read his words, but he saw this bloody great hole in the back and, horror of horrors, no more catgut. He said, "I did have half a dozen rusty safety pins in the bottom of my pouch. So I did what I could to patch you up with the pins and then the priest gave you the last rites and we had to leave you." He got a couple of boongs to carry me back to our company headquarters and I was put with a couple of other boys who were dead - truly dead. Next morning, they came - the doc came - and his sergeant said, "Hey, sir, this fellow's just opened an eye."

...of 39 Infantry Battalion, reflects on the fate of his friends during and after the Papuan campaign.

"...The rest of them are gone. Those that didn't get killed there [at Kokoda] got killed up at Gona..."

[A veteran faces the camera.]

LAWRENCE DOWNES: I had a couple of good leaders. There's a couple of them still alive. But their memories are gone. One of them was decorated. But at Kokoda, in my original section, three were given Military Medals. And there was only five of the originals there. So someone did some good.

They're all, bar one, gone. Ron Dryden died in Ballarat. Vic Smythe died... He had a block up at Robinvale. He got it after he'd been battling around Melbourne skinning rabbits and that. He put in for a block and he got a block up there. Well, he's dead. Alec - he's still alive but he's had a stroke. He don't go anywhere, do nothing. The rest of them are gone. Those that didn't get killed there [at Kokoda] got killed up at Gona. They just kept pushing them back in.

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