Mates, Mortars and Minefields-Korea by Ernie R Holden
In 1952, Ernie Holden answered the call for men to join the army to fight in the Korean War. Before he left Australia, his sister gave him a diary and said it would be a good idea to write down the events of each day. He took her advice and recorded everything from the weather, camp locations, movies, battles and life living in a foreign country. At the end of the year his sister gave him another diary and he continued to record his day to day life in the Korean War until he returned to Australia. What was unusual was that Ernie could draw and had taken a box camera with him. As keeping records was not allowed during the early days of the Korean War, this detailed, illustrated and personal account of a young Australian soldier in Korea is unique.
Ernie’s autobiography traces is life growing up in the outer northern suburbs of Sydney. What a different life children lead in the 1930’s and 1940’s. There were few luxuries but lots of freedom. It was a time when children roamed in packs only to return home when it was dark or dinner time. ‘Mates, Mortars and Minefields-Korea’ traces Ernie’s childhood and adolescence – his first love, first job and running away from home. This care free existence is contrasted with the discipline of army life and the horror of war.
Ernie is a delightful and rather eccentric man who enjoys each day for what it is. His memoirs, mainly from his time spent in the Korean War, reflect his attitudes and prove to be an uplifting, sometimes funny, sometimes incredulous and sometimes sad experience. It is written from his heart and gives great insight into the thoughts and times of the 30’s through to the 60’s from his naive and almost comic perspective. The book reminisces about day to day things such as movies, music, childish pranks and attitudes as well as technical information on the aircraft & weapons that were part of the Korean War. The book is filled with delightful photographs, drawings and maps mostly from the author’s collection. Considering Ernie grew up in a boy’s home, was adopted by an older couple and fought on the front line, he maintains his happy-go-lucky attitude throughout.
Ernie Holden was just nineteen years old when he enlisted in the Australian Army. He was twenty-one when he returned, injured and riddled with shrapnel. Today, age eighty years, he still carries enough shrapnel to set off airport metal detectors and he still suffers from post traumatic stress syndrome. Ernie married and had six children. He spent his life working as a compositor in the printing trade. He wrote this book in honour of his mates who died fighting in Korea.