In the year of 2003, I went on a day trip to France with my mother and a few friends from the Southend-on-Sea Conservative Club. It was a beer, wine and tobacco trip for most and a 'jolly boys' outing too. Among my mum's friends was a man called Len. I had seen him before and on this occasion we were sitting in a bar aboard a Calais to Dover ferry - making our way back to Britain. Len was about mid to late seventies at the time, but was fit and still agile for a man of his age. He was always smartly dressed in a suit and tie - fairly tall - upright and sure.
As we sat drinking, he came out with a snippit of information that took me by surprise. I do not remember how we got onto the subject but Len Frampton suddenly said he was in the Korean War. He was laughing as he told us over a beer. He said he was in the famous Gloucester regiment and had been at a major battle. He also said that he had been captured by Chinese soldiers while trying to retreat down a hill that they had been defending for a long time during the hectic battle.
I have no pictures of Len Frampton and he has since passed away in about 2008 or 2009. But this clip from a British battles documentary must be the fighting, of which, my friend Len described - of this, I'm certain.
He spoke of the events in slightly comical terms as Len was a jovial sort of character who liked a drink and a laugh. I get the impression that he did not always take life too seriously and sort of sailed through it, enjoying himself along the way. It was in this manner that he told the story of him and his fellow soldiers of the Gloucester's retreating down a hill while Chinese soldiers were occupying their abandoned positions. He was not making the dreadful battle of his story light hearted - in fact he did not dwell on the fighting - he was talking of their attempts to escape from a hill which was all but surrounded. Some of these enemy soldiers flanked them as they descended the hill and Lenny along with many other Brit soldiers found themselves captured by the Chinese troops.
From this point, he told a bizarre story of the Chinese soldiers putting all the British prisoners, including himself, on the back of several lorries. Then in a convoy, the lorries drove off with their British POWs. Len Frampton was on the very last truck of the convoy and he said there were no Chinese guards in the back of the vehicle with the British soldiers. He said there was just two Chinese soldiers - one a driver and the other, an armed guard who sat next to this driver at the front.
As the convoy went along the winding dirt tracks, Len and one of his mates decided to take a chance and jump off the back of the truck as it turned along a bend. They did so, and according to Len the convoy just moved on and did not stop. No one, among the enemy, had noticed them do it.
They went into the foliage and hid for some time but no one came back to search for them. After a while they started to make their way back to where they thought their lines might be. I did not ask any questions, though afterwards and now, I wished I had because I have learnt from the above documentary that the entire lines must have been swarming with Chinese soldiers. I just listened as he told the story of him and his mate feeling desperate and alone inside the North Korean and Chinese controlled land.
After a time they came upon a village and he said the Korean people of the village were rather scared of them. He suspected they were afraid of being associated with the enemy, but they did give some rice and urged them to move on after a day. Len and his friend, willingly complied because they also feared the villagers might betray them out of fear if they stayed.
He then said they came upon an American camp and were rescued. I did not ask how he got through the Chinese lines or exactly how many days he was at large, which I should have. He went on about how great the American soldiers were to them and how grateful he and his friend were to meet the 'good old Yanks,' who gave them food, drink and cigarettes before finding their regiment and handing them on.
We were all rather surprised by Len's story and I can't say for certain how true it was. I am sure he was in the Gloucester's regiment and believe he must have been at the battle for this famous hill. What he described matches much of what is said in the documentary. I have to say, I believe Len W. Frampton's remarkable story. Some people did ask certain questions when Len finished his tale, but the only other thing I remember him saying, was that he was stationed in Hong Kong and then without any warning they were flown to Korea and were caught up in this war.