Battle memories still vivid for Bob

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As young corporal, Bob Cleland was running up a hill somewhere near Soeul in South Korea, the macabre scene unfolding before him was to stay with him for the rest of his life.

An incongruous landscape of Korean fir trees mingled with walking wounded in bloodstained uniforms, dismembered bodies being stretchered downhill and plain grey blankets covering the already dead soldiers from the regiments of Argyll and Middlesex.

Little did he know that, only a few months later, he would be joining them as a casualty of war himself.

Bob recalled: “The North Koreans had begun what they called their spring offensive and our men were taking a pounding.

‘‘We were defending a post on a hill and were coming under extremely heavy fire with heavy shelling and rocket batteries.

‘‘The enemy was raining down heavy fire on one company. They were just pinned down.

‘‘I can tell you that was the day I turned from a boy to a man. Nothing can really train you for that. Even before we got there, we were passing dead and half-dead men, seeing grey blankets strewn on the ground and knowing there were dead soldiers underneath.

“It was like you were running into an abattoir. It really brought it home to you why you were there and what you had to do.

“We had to attack at first light and take the higher hill which was under North Korean control.”

Fighting went on to late afternoon and Bob came down the hill relieved to have survived the day.

“We managed to take the hill. You can’t train for that. It’s a mental exercise. I just remember being filled with a great sense of relief.

‘‘You always wondered how you would perform in a real life battle.”