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Carrier Universal No 3323
by Greg F. McGee 2949, 3RAR
28 September 1950 - 27 May 1951
No.3323, allotted to No5 Gun, No.3 Section, MMG Platoon before the battalion left for Korea.
It was made at thc NSW Railway Workshops at Chullora in 1940, according to the manufacturers plate,
and no doubt had been used in training all through World War 2. Also, probably, by CMF units after the
No.5 Gun consisted of Corporal Greg McGee as No.1, Private Charley "Snow" Dicker as No.2, Ian "Jock" Reckord as No. 3 and Len Ogilvie as driver. Snow and I had both served in the 2nd AIF, myself in the 2/13 Battalion, and Snow in the 2/3 Pioneers. Jock had done National Service in the British Army in the Manchester Regiment. and Len was a post-war enlistment in the ARA.
After aniving in Korea, the Battalion assembled in Taegu, about 107 miles northwest of Pusan. There we joined the 27th Brigade, which then became the 27th British Commonwealth Brigade. The other two Battalions were the 1st Battalion, the Middlesex Regiment and the 1st Battalion, the Argyll and Southern Highianders, both old regiments in the British Army.
After a few weeks of settling down, mopping up and destroying dumps of ammunition, the brigade moved north to Kimpo to join in the invasion of North Korea. The rifle companies went by air, thirty to forty minutes flight, but the transports plus the carriers went by road, 420 miles in 5 days, good going on those roads. For operations, the brigade was under the command of 1st Cavalry Division at Kaesang. The 1st Cavalry was an infantry division, despite its name.
We moved north from Kaesang to Kumchon, then to Sariwon. There the battalion rounded up about 2000 North Korean stragglers wandering aimlessly about. From there we went to Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, with very little opposition.
Back in the lead again, the brigade moved to Yongpu to the aid of the 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team. This led us into an action known as the Apple Orchard. We didn't use the guns here, it was just rifle and bayonet work.
As cartoonist Jeff Hook saw 3323 in her younger days.
From there we continued north to Sinanju and Pakchon. At Pakchon, or perhaps a little south, was
the broken bridge, a high level concrete bridge partially demolished. There was quite a battle here with infantry versus tanks, but we were successful.
From Pakchon we moved to Chongju. This was the limit as far as we were concerned. From then on it was back the way we came. It was here that we learnt the Chinese had joined in.
We were driving back to Pakchon through a patch of loose sand and threw a track. That must have been the fastest track repair on record. We took up positions by the main road to support B Coy in an attack on a hill feature. Whilst there we shared a mortar bomb amongst us. Snow was hit in the hip, a nasty wound, and the rest of us got flesh wounds. Snow, Len and I went back for treatment. Jock stayed to carry on.
When I returned a couple of days later, it was a different crew. Jock was still there, but the two others were strangers, and to this day I cannot remember their names. But at least the carrier was still 3323.
So we wound our way back the way we came up. By now, 3323 was feeling her age. Perhaps the driver didn't help. The only thing I remember about him was that he wore a wharf labourers union badge on his puggaree. After some time we started to have trouble with the differential and took an awful long time to turn right or left, and even longer to turn around.
The end came one night when we were slowly climbing a big hill. We had dropped behind the column and were labouring along on our own. Half way up the hill, 3323 stopped dead and would go no further. While we were having a rather agitated discussion on what to do next, a squadron of American tanks came up the hill behind us. They stopped, as we were blocking the road.
On learning of our plight, they offered to tow us; this we accepted gratefully. They took us to the top of the hill, a matter of a half a mile or so. The road went to the right, while on the left there was a wide-open space on the edge of the hill. Our tank took us to the centre of this space where they unhooked the tow rope, wished us good-night...and left us.
We resumed our previous discussion and then we heard more engine noises coming up the hill. This time it was a scout car with the brigade REME officer in it. His job was to follow the column and pick up stragglers like us. When he was satisfied that 3323 was a non-runner, he told us to get all our gear out, pour petrol all over the carrier and set it on fire.
As we were doing this, two American 2 1/2 ton GMC's arrived. Their job also was to pick up stragglers. So for the next three days we had a rather pleasant trip back to the battalion.
There were several Middlesex and Argylls on the trucks, so we didn't lack for company. In fact, we established a very good relationship with the Middlesex. They had lots of tea, sugar and tinned milk, and we had a very big billycan. So we had a cup of tea at almost every stop. The drivers pulled in at almost every American transport unit we passed where we could always get a meal, almost any hour of the day.
When we arrived at the Battalion, our reception was a bit on the cool side. As a Corporal it seemed that everything was my fault, and there was some talk of taking the cost of the carrier out of my paybook. Fortu- nately, this didn't happen.
Shortly afterwards, we were equipped with a jeep and trailer for each gun, and a jeep and trailer for the section commander. This was a bit better in one way, as they were newer and more mechanically reliable. I sometimes wonder what eventually happened to 3323. Did the Chinese leave her in the middle of the road when they came up the hill? Perhaps they used her as a traffic control post. More probably they pushed her over the side of the hill into the valley. A sad end to an old friend.
First Published in The Voice, April 2004