Korea and Japan

1954 - 1955


My arrival in Korea was a bit of an anti climax, after a 6 week journey from the UK aboard the Troopship Devonshire we finally reached Pusan in Korea via a requisitioned fish boat named the E Sang, needless to say it took us about a week to get the smell of dead fish out of our kit, sometimes I can still smell it.  A short truck ride found us at the transit camp and within a couple of days we were heading North to Seoul.  The train journey was an unforgettable experience, the carriages were still showing signs of being "shot up", no windows, holes in the roof where snow drifted in and covered us in a blanket of white.  After a journey of roughly 18 hours through what one of my pal's called a "bloody barrack store for mountains" we finally arrived in Seoul.  Our camp was located in the old Seoul Catholic High School and named British Forward Maintenance Area (North).  Our official unit designation was British Commonwealth Forces Communication Zone Signal Squadron (BRITCOM), and was a mix of British, Kiwi with a couple of Aussies thrown into the pot.  The armistice having been signed there was not a lot to do, so Len being a little wiser than some of the boys wangled a job as Cryptographic Courier and flew regularly between Seoul and Kure, Japan.  I was then seconded to the Australian Base Signal Regt in Kure where apart from regular cipher work I was appointed Drill Instructor theAussies.    Returning to Korea I invented a job as Corporals Club Manager, the fact that there was no club to manage did not deter me, I started one, and it soon became the most favoured watering hole in Seoul, in fact it became a real United Nations hangout. But all good things must come to an end and in March 1955 I found myself on another trooper this time heading the right way....Blighty..



The voyage home was uneventful apart for being shanghaied onto the Ship's Police, but at least it kept me from guard and piquet duties and the thousand and one things the Ship's RSM could think up to make our lives miserable.  We stopped at the usual ports of call along the way, Hong Kong, Singapore, Columbo, Aden and finally Port Said where I took great delight in giving my old pals the 'one fingered salute' as they disembarked to continue another overseas posting.  It was then I heard my name being called over the ship's speaker system,  Corporal Payne, Royal Signals report to ship's orderly room.  "Get your kit together corporal, you are getting off."  "Not me Sir, I'm on my way home"........later that day as I languished my fate in sunny Port Tewfik Transit Camp to the delight of all my old pal's who had disembarked earlier, I reconciled myself to another tour of duty in the Sand's of the Desert.  Two or three weeks later, anyway just not long enough to qualify for the Canal Zone Medal and in a perpetual haze from imbibing Stella Beer, I'm on Eagle Airway's winging my way to Sunny Cyprus and the joy's of 3 GHQ MELF and RSM Sutherland.

The above picture possibly tells all, RSM Sutherland and Corporal Payne, L., did not hit it off and for the life of me I don't know why, perhaps it was the decor of our accommodation's or the fact that I was another "bloody cipher wallah", suffice to say I found myself packing my kit again for the long trek from Kykko Camp West to Kykko Camp East, about a hundred yards apart and light years in in my quest for a cushy billet, which I found at HQ Cyprus District.

Chief Signal Officer at the time was Maj. Gen. Morrison (Mungy to all and sundry), he was a great guy and had built a terrific staff around him, Lt Col Thompson, Major's Lamb (ex 6 Div), and Wheeler, there were three captains, forget their names now, WO1 Collie, Sgt Maj Moore (WRAC), a couple of corporals Cheetam and Hunter, half a dozen signalmen, and CSO (Ciphers) Maj Jack Knowles and myself.  What a posting, apart from the Camp SSM, a bit of a prat by the name of Douglas, 16 Lancers, who made my life a little interesting for a while, for apart from my day to day job at at the CSO's Branch, there was of course the camp side of life to deal with and the "old boy" network of the Sergeant's Mess had let him know about me in advance. To prove who was boss he put me in charge of Camp Main, a troop of bloody misfits who led me a dance from reveille to lights out, they couldn't even tie their own bootlaces, if it could go wrong they would find the way.

The daily office work was great, I was directly responsible to Maj Knowles, a Lancastria survivor from Dunkirk, just he and myself in separate offices comprised the CSO(Ciphers) staff with responsibility for monitoring all incoming and outgoing signal traffic for the Middle East  Command for security breaches, we were kept busy as this was April 1955, the start of the EOKA campaign against the British.  As the campaign against us developed, on top of our other duties we had to provide armed escort duties for vehicles travelling to and from the two Kykko Camps to GHQ MELF as well as foot patrols in and around Nicosia, at this time there were very few infantry on the Island.  I was appointed personal guard to WO1 Collie who lived with his wife and children in a private house in Nicosia, I travelled as his escort to and from work and lived at his house enjoying his wife's great cooking.  I also had the detail of guarding Major Wheeler's two children when he and his wife were away from home, so I guess my weapon's skills finally paid off.

After spending almost four and a half years overseas I was finally told to pack my kit as demob was just around the corner, shipping out of Limmasol I arrived back in the UK for demob and was released into the Royal Army Reserve on the 20 May, 1956. 

I had barely settled back into civilian life when Gen Nasser decided to grab the Suez Canal. I had been out with the boy's on Saturday night and on the way home piled up my motor bike and took a trip to the emergency ward of Southampton Hospital.  Early the next morning there was a ring of the doorbell and there stood the village bobby.

 "22560928 Cpl Payne .L." he asked, I nodded, "you're back in Len" he said with a grin.


That afternoon with my arm in a sling, a bandage around my head and stitches in my fingers,  I'm on my way to Colchester to join 3 Infantry Division, I arrive there to be met by a whole group of my pal's who also had got the invitation, they were delighted at my beat up we all went down the boozer to drink to my health. Two days later I'm on my way to Newport Barracks in Newport to join the 2nd Battalion Scot's Guards, 1st Guard's Brigade, right back where I started as a Brigade Cipher NCO, another six weeks pass and we are on our way on a requisitioned meat packer, the Paraguay to Suez.  While the real soldiers went ashore at Suez, we sat in Valetta Harbour, Malta until the show was over at Suez, we were supposed to have gone ashore at Alexandria but politics being what they are we never did.

We arrived back in the UK on Dec 19, 1956 and I was finally demobbed in time for Christmas.


Territorial Army

The Ever Readies




For the next five years I was in the doldrums, out of the Army I was a fish out of water, but being married did not want to rejoin as a Regular. I tried several times to join the T.A. but was always rejected as I was too high on the mobilization chart.

One night in 1963 I attended the Southampton Branch of the Signals Association and found myself sitting next to an interesting guy, he asked me if I was a member of the T.A., I  told him no and gave the reason.  He took my name and within a week I had clearance from War Office to join the Royal Signals T.A.



I spent three years with a great bunch of guy's, steering them to their first  Regimental Drill Cup, and after retraining as a Lineman, I rose rapidly in rank to Line Troop Sergeant, and finished as Troop Sergeant, Acting SQMS.





copyright©Len Payne 2006