Colin Hood

ANOTHER WORLD is based on a story written by David Schoeffel from the Deniliquin Creative Writers Group. It was narrated by Chris Bodey and produced by The Shack Studios, Deniliquin.

The story was inspired by the experiences of Colin Hood from Deniliquin during the Korean War.

The Passing Out Parade was supported by the Australian Government’s Anzac Centenary Arts and Culture Fund and was coordinated by South West Arts in partnership with South West Music Regional Conservatorium and Outback Theatre for Young People.

By David Schoeffel

“I suppose everyone’s seen ‘Mash’ and knows all about the fun and games in an evacuation hospital near the front in the Korean War. Oh, they’re a funny lot, those Yanks, and it’s all about them. Of course, it wasn’t exactly like that.

For a start, the whole thing was a United Nations effort to establish a just peace in a civil war between two halves of Korea: the northern, more industrialised half, ‘liberated’ from Japan by Russia, and the southern, more agrarian end of the peninsula, liberated by the US. The dividing border was the 38th parallel, but the communist North, aided first by Stalin’s USSR and then more fully, by Mao’s China, had crossed the 38th parallel, to invade the South. The intention of the United Nations police action was to force the North to return to and remain behind, the border. Their mandate was to impose peace.

The biggest part of the UN force was, indeed, US military, and it was led by General Douglas McArthur. He was constrained by the legal and diplomatic fact that this was a United Nations mission. His instinct, arguably proven right by future history, was to drive the Communist forces right back, out of Korea altogether, across the Yalu River into Manchuria. But United Nations agreements are always, at best, compromises. On the basis of such a compromise, the US military was joined by other UN member forces – principally those of the British Commonwealth.

So it was, when three of my friends and I decided in 1952, that joining the Army would be preferable to unemployment in Deniliquin. When the day came – March 24th, 1952, two of my three friends decided they had better things to do, so it was with just one friend that I was sent for ten weeks basic training at Kapooka. While there, I decided to join the Special Force which was going to Korea. Accordingly, I was sent up to Ingleburn in Sydney, for more advanced training. After this, we were flown to Japan, in November 1952, to undertake specialist mountain training.

I liked Japan. Whilst there, I bought a camera and took a lot of photos, but alas, during training, I had an accident which broke my wrist and put me out of action for six weeks. When I came out of plaster, I was sent to Korea to join up with the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment, as a reinforcement. I was put into special despatches, in the Headquarters Company, based up by the 38th parallel.

The war was at something of a stalemate: both sides were in entrenched positions on either side of the Parallel, where previously fighting had raged back and forth, both to the north and to the south, with towns and villages and even the capital, changing hands. We were in bomb shelters, heavily reinforced with sandbags, as dogfights between MIG15s and Sabre jets screamed overhead and huge naval bombardments crashed onto targets to our north. All the while, the communist artillery maintained a clockwork barrage, shelling us, always at different positions, at regular, short intervals.

As a special despatch and communications courier, my job involved racing down roads like the one we called ‘The Bowling Alley’, between shell bursts which happened every thirty seconds. This took place in very rough terrain, where temperatures regularly fell below minus 25 degrees. By good fortune, I survived this for six months before the truce brought about a ceasefire. At this point, I got 5 days R&R in Japan, then returned for the balance of my time there, helping in the maintenance of the ceasefire. After nine months there, I got another R&R in Japan, this time, for three weeks.

I came home on the liner ‘Australia’ and was discharged on April 24th, 1954. I brought a musical photo album home with me from Japan, containing all my photographs, and it remains my favourite souvenir of the War. Coming home to Deni, I got what became a career with the Water Resources Commission.”