Our Chairman, Catherine Emberson, introduced our speaker Alan Stuttard to tell of his experiences as a young national service-man.
The service-man made his first trip abroad to Korea for what is described as the ‘forgotten war’ which claimed so many British and American lives.
Alan entertained us about his travels as a private in the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment. In 1952 all 18 year old males were conscripted. Alan, a former pupil at Todmorden Grammar School, was eager to leave his Hebden Bridge factory work and see something of the world! But his first 10 weeks was square-bashing and learning to be a number (not a name) in barracks in Halifax, just 8 miles from home! It was hard work, but safe, only that feeling didn’t last long.
The young soldiers were shipped out to the Far East where the American and British Army were greatly outnumbered by opposing Chinese forces. His 5-week warship cruise to Korea was adventurous for a lad who had not previously ventured beyond Blackpool or Scarborough for family holidays!
After beginning with guarding borders in Hong Kong, their ultimate destination was Korea. Luckily for Alan, still being under 19 years old, he was kept away from the front-line initially, but life was still tough and dangerous.
With laughs throughout his talk, Alan recounted the 3 mistakes made during his National Service years. First was when he volunteered to train for managing stores, but ended up in the mine-demolition team! Secondly, he offered to stay behind re-building the camp during Korean winter’s wickedly cold months. Thirdly, was if nobody volunteers, those in the back row are automatically selected! But he did play cricket in Korea, one of Alan’s lifelong passions!
With the amusing title ‘Did he see Marilyn?’ Alan had brought along a life-sized glamorous photograph of the star. He concluded by revealing that he had glimpsed someone at a crowded concert with 1000+ servicemen, but only a photograph later proved it was she who really had been there!
Alan’s humorous reflections on National Service with camaraderie along the borders preventing Chinese invasions masked the hostilities, privations and deaths they encountered. Alan added that 300+ years of the local Duke of Wellington’s Regimental history can be seen at Bankfield Museum in Halifax.
The last speaker meeting of Todmorden Antiquarian Society’s season will be on Tuesday 25 April at 7.30 pm when Cathy Fishwick will present ‘Weaver’s Cottages of East Lancashire’. Visitors are welcome, £3 at the door.