Private Bob Parker
Private Robert Parker, 3 Battalion Royal Australian Regiment, was captured at the Battle of Kapyong...
Parker served with the British Commonwealth Occupation Force in Japan. Before joining the army he was a motorbike racer in NSW and when 3RAR went to Korea he became a despatch rider riding a Harley Davidson.
During the Battle of Kapyong in April 1951 Parker found himself alone, urging his bike along a muddy track, when a sudden burst of small arms fire struck him and he crashed. He claims to be 'the only person who was shot off a Harley'. After an exchange of fire with the Chinese infantry who had shot him he buried his weapon and surrendered.
I was terrified, but I put up my hands and smiled at them. They came up and patted me on the back and told me I was a brave soldier.
Though wounded Parker was able to walk. He recalls falling to the ground on the march, and thinking that the guards would shoot him. Another Australian urged him on and he was able to keep walking. He was taken to Camp 5 beside the Yalu River in far northern Korea. Food was sporadic, the weather freezing and the treatment inhumane. Parker escaped several times but was always recaptured. In June 1952, 20 prisoners including Parker escaped from the camp. They were soon caught and placed in a punishment cell. Parker had a pistol placed against his head by a Chinese officer who wanted to know who had led the escape attempt.
In another camp Parker was subject to indoctrination classes.
They wanted to convert the prisoners to communism. They hoped we would go on the radio and tell the Australian soldiers that they should not be in Korea.
In a third camp food was so scarce that when a prisoner died in the barracks during the night the others would try to conceal the fact so as to obtain the dead man's ration.
'The thing that kept me going was thinking about getting home one day.' Parker was listed as missing in action after Kapyong and it was seven months before his family learned that he was alive and a prisoner of war.
Parker was released in Operation Big Switch, the exchange of over 100,000 prisoners at the end of the Korean War.