Robert PARKER MID

PARKER, Robert

Service Number: 2400030
Enlisted: Not yet discovered
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 3rd Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (3RAR)
Born: Bundarra, New South Wales, 11 October 1926
Home Town: Maroubra, Randwick, New South Wales
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Not yet discovered
Memorials:
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Korean War Service

28 Sep 1950: Involvement Private, SN 2400030, 3rd Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (3RAR)
24 Apr 1951: Imprisoned

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Biography contributed by Robert Kearney

"...2/400030 Private Robert (Bob) Parker, Third Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (3RAR)... Pte Parker, Lieutenant Colonel Ferguson's personal dispatch rider, was captured by the Chinese on 24 April 1951. The attack by Chinese forces around the Kapyong valley forced the withdrawal of the battalion. Ordered to withdraw from the Signal Platoon position, near Cheryong-Ni, Parker was riding his motor cycle down a road to the south, very shortly after leaving he was fired on by a Chinese .5 inch machine gun. In the ensuing action, as he attempted to gain the shelter of a small mud hut, he was struck in the left hip by the Chinese machine gun fire and crashed his motor cycle. Although not obviously wounded he found his leg was paralysed, but with some difficulty he managed to crawl to the mud hut from where he engaged the advancing Chinese with his Owen gun. As the Chinese advanced on the hut, he fired, and when they went to ground tried to get reach the nearby river where some of the battalion had now taken up positions. Nearly at the river his left leg collapsed. Completely isolated and unable to walk and with his Owen gun full of dirt he considered further resistance pointless and surrendered. Now a prisoner of war (POW) he hobbled north to the Chinese rear area, and to the surprise of both men was reunited with 2/400186 Private (Pte) Horace William (Slim) Madden, who had been captured before Parker and from the hills above the fighting had witnessed his motor cycle crash and thought he was killed. The next day they were taken to a Chinese position on top of a large mountain and put into separate foxholes, only to be bombed by US Corsairs. They spent the next day with a large group of Chinese avoiding US aircraft and at dusk taken to a village where they were given their first food. The next day, probably 27 April 1951, they were taken back toward the front line and forced to carry a wounded Chinese on a stretcher, Parker and Madden in front and two South Korean POWs at the rear. They were in a column climbing over a mountain to the north for about 20 km until they joined with other parties of Chinese walking wounded. The wounded Chinese soldier they were carrying died overnight. They moved on to another village were they were feed again, this time on ground millet and water. At this camp they were interrogated again and on the way back from one of these sessions found another 3RAR soldier, 3/40002 Pte Keith Roy (Mo) Gwyther, who had been captured on Hill 304. Gwyther was in a party of 24 Americans POWs who had marched 150 kilometres to this camp to join Parker and Madden. The POWs, about 200 South Koreans and 30 United Nations soldiers, now fell into a daily routine of marching about 40kms at night and resting up during the day to avoid American aircraft. The conditions were severe, little or no food, no medical treatment and POWs who fell behind were shot. The remnants of the .5 inch bullet in Parker's hip started to affect his ability to walk, he teamed up with a wounded Africian American soldier, Sid Cain, and they helped each other to make it to the next camp. The conditions at this staging camp were terrible, fortunately the Australians only stayed a few days before they were on the march again to another larger staging camp, the Bean Camp, named after the only food served at the camp, soy beans. They arrived at the Bean Camp on the night of the 16/17 May 1951 and meet another 3RAR soldier, 2/400000 Corporal (Cpl) Donald Pattison Buck. Cpl Buck had been captured in the Inchon sector on 21 January 1951. Cpl Buck, Cpl Buckland Pte Light and Pte Hollis were in a reconnaissance patrol led by Lieutenant (Lt) A McDonald. After they were all captured Lt McDonald, Cpl Buckland and Pte Light were separated from Cpl Buck and Pte Hollis. McDonald's party was marched away for further interrogation and eventually to a POW "education school" where they joined a group of thirty American POWs. On 7 February 1951 this group of POWs was set free near their own lines and after some anxious moments managed to make their way safely across no-man's land to an American position. Buck and Hollis were not so fortunate; they were not released until August 1953.

On the night of 5 June Parker, Buck, Gwyther left the Bean camp to march to Camp 5, the Chinese POW camp on the Yalu River near the North Korean border with Manchuria. The next night Parker and Buck escaped, dropping out of the column and made for the coast. On the loose for eleven days, they were eventually re-captured by a North Korean patrol and handed back to the Chinese who sent them first to Camp 9 (The Caves) and then along with two Americans who had also been re-captured, to an indoctrination school (Camp 12). They eventually reached Camp 5, their original destination, in mid December 1951. Pte Gwyther also escaped from the march to Camp 5 with an American, but like Parker and Buck was also re-captured, eventually finding his way to Camp 5 to re-join Parker and Buck and a fourth 3RAR soldier, Pte T H J Hollis. The four Australians were slated as "reactionaries" and were subjected to various periods of "corrective discipline". Conditions in the camp were brutal; random beatings were common as were many forms of torture. On 25 June 1952 Parker joined an escape bid by 24 POWs, which also included Gwyther, Hollis and was led by Cpl Buck. All the escapees were re-captured, as the Chinese had been informed by a treacherous American POW. Parker and all the escapees were subjected to a month in the "sweet box". Parker was eventually released during Operation Big Switch on 6 August 1953. Pte Parker was twice mentioned in despatches during the Korean War, in 1951, and in 1953 for his outstanding conduct as a POW. - Australian War Memorial

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