Lest we forget the nightmare of war

Sixty years on, memories of the Korean War are excruciatingly painful for former tank driver Peter Archer.

Peter, now approaching his 81st birthday, still can’t bring himself to talk about some of the terrible things he witnessed.

Those haunting experiences are never far from the surface though and they regularly penetrate
the subconscious in the nightmares he suffers to this day.

Nowadays, the fallen are repatriated to the UK but too many of the soldiers with whom Peter fought never made it home.

More than a 1,000 British soldiers were killed in action during the Cold War conflict between North and South Korea.

The bodies of some of those who died were consumed by the thick, glutenous mud where they perished and there is nothing at all to mark their last resting place.

So, Peter, a retired mechanic and plant hire operator, wears his poppy with great and heartfelt pride to honour the comrades who made the ultimate sacrifice.

He and his mate, Arthur Jones, a 78 year old ex-Royal Navy veteran of the Korean War, who lives in Wrexham, are still doing their bit.

They are stalwarts of the Royal British Legion who are again raising money to provide help and support for those who survived, the ex-servicemen and ex-servicewomen who were injured or suffered other trauma.

Peter and Arthur are helping to raise the profile of the Poppy Appeal in North Wales.

Collectors are out in force throughout the region and they will be at the Eagles Meadow shopping centre in Wrexham on November 4, 5, 11 and 12.

Eagles Meadow Manager Kevin Critchley is “proud and honoured” to be able to help and is urging shoppers to give generously.

He said: ” There are still a lot of soldiers getting killed and injured today and families distressed and I think the Poppy Appeal resonates to this day.”

Peter Archer was despatched to Korea 18 weeks after he joined REME (Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers) in 1952.

He drove the then new Centurian tanks and later served alongside the Americans at the helm of a Sherman tank.

Peter was involved in major month-long battle of Heartbreak Ride just north of the 38th Parallel

Peter said: I’d never been away from home before and within 18 weeks I was heading for Korea, so it was all new to me.

“Eighteen months was the most you could serve. You could stand two summers, which got up to a 100 degrees., bBut you could only stand one winter because it would drop down to 50 below.

“It’s cold I tell you, when a dozen of you are lying on the ground and sleeping under the sheet like penguins trying to all get together to keep warm, and then very so often half way through the night you’d have to change over so that those in the middle got some warmth.

“On the first day at Heartbreak Ridge the Americans lost 500 men in an hour and a half trying to take it because the Koreans were already up there.

“We need to remember the men who sacrificed their lives. In those days people were not repatriated, there was no Wooton Bassett.

“A lot of them were lost in the mud. I know we went to rescue some fellas on the hill, and they clambered  on the tank to get out.

“There were four tanks  and as we were bringing them back from the hill they were getting shot at and mortars were dropped at them and all sorts of things so you can’t stop.

“Some awful things were done, war is no good. I still have nightmares.”

Arthur Jones joined the Navy when he was 17 in 1953 and served for 121/2 years until
he returned to Civvy Street in 1963.

During the Korean War he was a Stoker in the engine room of the aircraft carrier, HMS Unicorn, which was part of the Far East Fleet.

Anchored a few miles from shore, the Unicorn regularly came under fire from the North Korean batteries but luckily Arthur came through it unscathed.

He said: “The Poppy Appeal is really important, especially now with Afghanistan. People are very generous I must say and the council and Eagles Meadow have been very good.”

Kevin Forbes, the Royal British Legion’s North Wales Community Fund-raiser, said: “The Poppy Appeal 2011 stands shoulder to shoulder with all who serve  our brave Armed Forces serving in Afghanistan today, veterans of past conflict, and their families.”

“The Poppy Appeal makes it possible for The Royal British Legion to help our Armed Forces families with £1.2million every week in direct welfare support.

“That’s £72million each year, answering more than 160,000 calls for help.”

“On top of that, we need to raise £50million towards the recovery of our Armed Forces injured in Afghanistan and Iraq.”

“The Legion is going to create the nation’s first Battle Back Centre in Lilleshall, which will use sports and adventure training to help our injured heroes recover confidence and ability.”

“We help in so many other ways — from providing free legal advice to bereaved Armed Forces families to helping Service leavers start their own business.”

“We are the voice of the Armed Forces. This year, we secured a commitment to have the Military Covenant enshrined in law — an historic first.

“Our campaigns have also placed an extra £40million directly in the pockets of our wounded heroes.”

“We are the custodian of Remembrance, ensuring that sacrifices on behalf of the nation are honoured and remembered.

“We reach 2.5million school children each year with learning resources on Remembrance.

“We also provide a home for the Armed Forces Memorial in Staffordshire where the names of our fallen since 1945 — including Afghanistan — are recorded in stone.”

“You can stand shoulder to shoulder with our Armed Forces as well. Simply give generously — and wear your poppy with pride.”



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