Ted was born on 7 August 1920 and died in his sleep on 27 October 1998 from natural causes.
Ted enlisted on 16 February 1939 at Newport Monmouthshire, aged 18 on a 17 6-6 engagement. Initial training was at RTR Depot Bovington.
On 12 October 1939, Ted was posted to the Fife and Forfar Yeomanry, joining the BEF in France attached to the Worcester Regiment.
They saw action by the canals in Belgium. After spending a few days on the beaches at Dunkirk he was evacuated in May 1940. Fife and Forfar returned to NW Europe until March 1946. Ted was in ‘B’ Squadron ATT US 9th Army.
Discharged in June 1946, he returned to his civil occupation as an electrician in Northamptonshire.
The Korean War started on 25 June 1950. ‘EG’ was recalled to the Colours. He returned home from holiday to find his call-up papers waiting. It was 7 August, his birthday! Ted joined the 8th KRI Hussars at Tidworth, as part of the 29th IND INF Brigade.
As an experienced Cromwell driver, he was in Recce Troop, where I first met him. EG was one of the ‘Old Men’ recalled to make up Regimental strength. Little did we boys, know then, what these World War Two veterans could do to help us in a few months. The Regiment sailed for Korea in mid-October 1950 arriving at Pusan in mid-November.
‘Cooper Force’ was formed from 6 Cromwells 8th Hussar Recce Troop, 6 Cromwells 45th Field Regimen. Royal Artillery of Tanks, under Capt DL Astley Cooper 8H. This was just prior to New Year 1951. We were at the ‘sharp end’ on 2/3 January 1951.
Ted, I, and those survivors of Cooper Force were to spend the next two and a half years as guests of the Chinese. After 60-75 days of forced march, we arrived at Camp No 5. Ted really came into his own here, during the march he kept encouraging us to think positively, it was the same in Camp 5. Conditions were appalling – short on food, no medical facilities or washing, dysentery was rife…we all suffered. Ted said his body weight was down to seven stone.
As conditions began to improve, he organised maths and English lessons, and if I remember correctly, a few Americans joined the school! This was typical of him, forever trying to take our minds off the situation.
When things began to improve EG looked to his grammar school education. He wrote plays, which he did not make up, and his own versions of Dickens ‘Christmas Carol’ appeared…murders and mysteries were Ted’s speciality.
Despair was still a problem, he told me he suffered, but he never showed it, always ready to give advice and encouragement, help and assurance to us young ones. Forever ready for a chat (it’s called counselling now) it was a privilege to have served with Ted Beckerley, a stalwart of the British company in Camp 5. He
persevered in everything he did, assuring all that there would be an end one day, to the bottomless pit.
I recall stories (factual) he told me about the early days of captivity while on the march north to Camp 5. As we were allocated different houses usually 20-30 to a room, en route, the tales varied. The Koreans, some of who had never seen Westerners, were fascinated by our fair hair, long noses, and pale eyes let alone the language.
They, NK would give us ‘kimchi sauce’ to put on our rice. On one occasion Ted met a scientist who, though he could speak a little English, could not understand when Ted asked for some salt, he gave Ted a bit of paper, and Ted promptly wrote, NaCl (sodium chloride) the formula for salt, the scientist was absolutely chuffed, there’s something to be said for education.
On another note about the cold, Ted’s turn came to go to the well, in the middle of the night, to get water for the Chinese cooks, he (Ted) clasped the very large pitcher full of water, and quite a lot spilled out, onto his boots, and froze, back to his bed space went Ted, his hands too cold, he just could not undo his laces to remove his boots.
He said, (and I quote) ‘I was in the depths of despair, filled with self-pity, I just sat there and wept’. Another 8th Hussar came and took off EG’s boots and removed the ice from Ted’s tank suit. Reports of temperatures of -35C. The wind came from Manchuria. The windchill factor was not quoted in those days.
Ted was released on his birthday, 7 August 1953. He had a few days in Japan, and a war office telegram told him his father was dying, he was flown home, and Ted arrived in time, his father lasting another two weeks. EG suffered in recent years from a heart problem, also glaucoma. He had successfully recovered from one operation and was looking forward to the next.
EG was a ‘good bloke’ and a loyal member of Dunkirk, Korean Vets, he never failed to attend our Camp 5 reunions. He will be sadly missed by all who served with him. Ken Marriott, who was with Ted in Fife and Forfar, mates for over 50 years, ex-RSM Bill Holberton, who though never having met Ted, corresponded regularly (Bill another guest of the Chinese).
Our sympathy is with EG’s family, his wife Francis, two daughters, and four grandchildren, all surviving.