The Chinese seem to have started out by prying out small admissions/concessions, then using these to work up to bigger ones? But the British didn’t fall for it?
Yes, I think you’re right there. For several months in my camp we had to write our impression of what the lecture had been about today and how we agreed with it and so on and we wrote that in some sort of mixed-up language: it would have taken a miracle to read it! But there we are. The British record, with the exception of just one or two other ranks people, one of whom remained with the Chinese
This would be Marine Condron?
That’s the chap. He was rather carefully watched all the time, and there was one other chap, I forget his name, who was a friend of Condron’s but those were the only two.
Do you think there was a difference between British military training and US training that enabled Brits to stand up better to the Chinese treatment?
That’s something one can ponder. I mean, some Americans were extremely brave and resolute, absolutely. When I was in prison in solitary next to Tony Farrar-Hockley the prisoner on the other side was an American airman who had absolutely refused to say that they had dropped disease-carrying bombs in North Korea. He was a very brave young man. So some Americans were just as resolute as the British.
At the time did you have any concern that perhaps the Americans HAD used biological weapons?
There was a feeling – my camp was a mixed camp of American and mixed officers. There was some increasing feeling, some doubt, among the Americans whether it had happened at all. And the Chinese propaganda was very strong. But the majority of us never believed it for a moment in spite of propaganda.
Ever hear about Cyril Cunningham and the War Office’s investigations into brainwashing in Korea?
I heard about the book
Cunningham says that American morale collapsed almost straight away and that there was anger at their troops’ behaviour…
That may be so. In my camp it was a mixture of American and British officers. But I do remember being for a short time (in my long march north) being held in an American camp and conditions there were appalling because they somehow hadn’t got themselves organised. Now, just next door to that camp was another one, occupied by British sergeants and NCOs, people I’d known. And in the few days I was there I was able to sneak through the wire into their side, and there they took my underclothes and things and gave them a thorough wash, which they needed after many months of wearing. Their morale was terrific. And of course not only was their morale better, their latrines were cleaner. Their general morale and looking after their miserable camp, was infinitely superior, if I may say this, to what I’d seen on the American side.
Do you think a sense of humour played a role in resistance to Chinese techniques?
Oh yes, very much so. The British are blessed with that sense of humour, I think: there was that sense of humour which in spite of everything came out. Yes.
Were you aware at the time of what the press were saying about your conditions?
Not really, no. We realised that one or two journalists from England who had strong communist sympathies had been out to Korea but we never saw them in our camp. Never.
The Dean of Canterbury had come out at one point…
Our prison camp was a long single-storey building which when the Japanese had been in charge of Korea had been a schoolhouse in that village. The biggest room in that camp was a lecture room and around the wall were enormous pictures of communist leaders, you know, Stalin, Ho Chi Minh, the Red Dean of Canterbury looking down on us. Staggering to realise that. We had heard about the Dean of Canterbury – he was very well know, The Red Dean, who had strong sympathies with the Soviet Union. A very well known man. However, when I was being interrogated by the Chinese about this germ warfare business, the interpreter said to me ‘One of your great Christian leaders knows that it’s happened’. And I knew that he was talking about the Red Dean of Canterbury. He had, I gathered held some great service in Canterbury cathedral, and he had raised this point. And I gather that there were many American soldiers there, they were based nearby and at their commanding officer’s request, they all rose and walked out of the cathedral while he was in the pulpit.
So this wasn’t a visit by the Church of England? It was unofficial?
Absolutely. There was no official visit to Korea by the Church of England. A number of well known male and female journalists – communists – came out and visited at the invitation of the Chinese. They visited the other camps. They never came near our camp. The Red Dean never came out of course but he was quoted by the Chinese, and there was this big picture of him in our lecture room, alongside the pictures of the Communist leaders.