My father, grandfather and great-grandfather all served in the Royal Artillery before me. I was commissioned into the regiment in 1949, and if it hadn’t been for the Korean War, I suppose I would have been the first not to see active service.
"Geordie was killed behind our lines by a premature explosion."
I don’t think the general public have ever appreciated the losses suffered during the Korean War. The Royal Artillery suffered more casualties than any other cap-badge unit: 13 officers and 70 NCOs and Gunners lost their lives. The first man we lost from Baker Troop was our commander, Bill Miller, from Northern Ireland, who had been through Normandy into Nazi Germany.
Captain Bill Maher RA, who died during the Korean War in March 1953.
The second personal loss in our small troop was Lance Bombardier Geordie Alder, from Durham, a cheerful and charismatic NCO. He had the dangerous job of repairing broken communication lines from the observation post to the guns: crawling through minefields, always being picked out by enemy fire and shelled.
Geordie Alderman (left), who fell victim to a premature shell explosion during the Korean War.
But Geordie was killed behind our lines by a premature explosion in the gun barrel beside which he was standing: a great loss. He liked to do his dangerous job because it got him out of the control of the Sergeant Major, but of course it was also a terribly important job. On this occasion, he’d come back for a beer, he’d got away from the deadly work he was doing, but had the great misfortune to then be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The regiment say goodbye to fallen comrades.
I remember a night attack on caves fortified by the Chinese, a successful assault, conducted by Charlie Company of the King’s Regiment. As they advanced in the darkness, someone trod on one of those mines that explodes when the foot comes off it, and it scatters deadly fragments. Two of those young King’s men were killed; I was knocked over, but carried safely back. That night didn’t make much of an impression on me for many years, because you get on with your life, and I continued with another 30 or so years in the Army.
"I somehow see, in those individual poppies, the memory of Bill Miller, Geordie Alder, and those two men from the King’s."
The most poignant thing now is that, of course, one appreciates the Remembrance ceremony in Whitehall, but it is very diverse – there are so many battles and wars being remembered, and so many organisations being represented. For me, what is particularly moving is the Albert Hall ceremony, where the poppies float down in front of Her Majesty.
I somehow see, in those individual poppies, the memory of Bill Miller, Geordie Alder, and those two men from the King’s.
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