George was just 19 when he experienced first-hand brutality of the Korean War. Injured in an enemy ambush, he was medically discharged and now lives independently with his wife Anne in Sir Oswald Mansions, operated by our partner Stoll.
Born in London in 1934, George lived through the Blitz during World War Two. Aged 18, he was called up for National Service with the Inniskilling Fusiliers. After six months of training, George was transferred to The King’s Liverpool Regiment and deployed to fight in Korea.
The five-week journey by ship to Korea made a deep impression of the teenaged George: “I got to know a lot of very nice people on that journey on HMS Asturias, most of them I had trained with as well. On the troop decks, two-person cabins were fitted with bunks to sleep six men, so we became very close over five weeks!”
When George and his compatriots arrived, Britain has already been fighting the war in Korea for more than two years and almost 100,000 British troops had been deployed. George’s role involved conducting night patrols, but one shift would change his life forever.
George and three other soldiers from his platoon left the base on a standing patrol. When they were half a mile in front of their lines, they felt that something was not right. They phoned back to base and, as they awaited further orders, heard the enemy closing in around them. They began to withdraw, but as they did the ambush began and they were met with heavy gunfire.
George sustained serious injuries; 14 bullet wounds in his leg as well as one in his hand. He managed to use his arms to crawl his way across the paddy fields to evade the enemy and was eventually found by Peter, a fellow soldier he had shared a cabin with on HMS Asturias. George remembers Peter as “one of the bravest men I knew” and the man who saved his life. George was the only one of the men who left on that patrol to survive.
The United States military had just introduced its Major Frontline Hospital Programme, better known as M.A.S.H., and George was first taken to one of these frontline hospitals, where medics were able to operate and save his leg. He spent a few days there before being evacuated to Seoul, followed by a Commonwealth hospital in Japan. He spent eight months in a hospital bed before he was deemed fit enough to make the journey back to England.
Aged only 19, George returned home to his parents to begin his long recovery. In London, he began working at factory that manufactured concertinas. It was there that he met a young woman called Anne, who would become his wife.
Reflecting on his experiences during the Korean War, George notes how long it took for him to physically recover from his injuries. Almost 70 years later, he still relies on a walking stick and the support of Anne. George is also now deaf in one ear, which he puts down to the heavy mortar raids in Korea.
In 2014, George and Anne moved into the Sir Oswald Mansions run by our partner charity Stoll. The couple have a flat overlooking the estate’s gardens and are supported by the Stoll team, including their dedicated support worker Rachel who visits once a week.
Anne says: “The facilities here are the best, especially with the doctor’s surgery on site. The community here means that you are protected against loneliness and looked after as you get older.”