A few weeks ago, my colleague Chris Owen wrote about the Korean War which reminded me of a story about a late friend of mine, Dennis Copus.
He was a former train driver called up for National Service in 1949 into the Queen’s Regiment and served in Germany.
At the time the Korean War was starting to hot up and the battalion was paraded one day to ask for volunteers who would like to go to the Far East.
Dennis takes up the story. ‘According to the history books the army wanted 150 men.
‘When asked for volunteers every man on the parade ground was supposed to take one step forward.
‘In fact only 27 did so. The rest of the volunteers were you, you, you and you.’
Dennis happened to be ‘you’.
A few weeks later Dennis was in the thick of it. His squad was ordered to take a hill which was a stronghold of the Korean soldiers.
It was a successful charge and the hill was taken, but later the Koreans regrouped to take the hill back.
Dug in a trench, Dennis and his pals were fighting a furious gun fight when he felt a sudden stinging, searing pain across his shoulders.
Dennis had been shot, but such was his luck that the bullet that struck him passed though him, twice.
It entered through the back of his left shoulder passed through the flesh and emerged to pass across the top of his spine.
It then re-entered, passed across the top of his right shoulder blade and exited out of his right shoulder.
He was still alive. An unbelievable piece of luck.
With the attack repelled, Dennis was taken to a field hospital run by MASH. An officer there told him it was a million-dollar wound.
In the sick bay for four weeks, Dennis eventually boarded the ex-German liner re-named Empire Fowey.
Later demobbed, he returned to the relatively safe occupation of firing on steam locomotives.