A volunteer at SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity is asking people to help a 100-year-old veteran, former Second World War...
A home fit for a hero
As the leading provider of supported housing for Veterans, Stoll supports the most vulnerable Service leavers by providing them with an affordable home to rent and the support they need to lead independent lives. People come to Stoll at various stages in their lives, from those who have just started their transition to civilian life to others who require assistance much later, such as George Brown, who – with his wife Anne – moved into the Sir Oswald Stoll Mansions in 2014 …
George and Anne Brown met in the 1960s while working in a London factory manufacturing concertinas. At the time, George was still recovering from wounds he sustained in the Korean War.
George, born in London in 1934, had already experienced something of the horrors of war having lived through the Blitz during WWII. At the age of 18, he was called up for National Service with the Inniskilling Fusiliers and, after six months of training, was transferred to the King’s Liverpool Regiment and deployed to Korea.
Speaking of the five-week boat journey, George says, ‘I got to know a lot of very nice people on that journey on HMS Asturias, most of them I had trained with as well. On the troop decks, two-person cabins were fitted with bunks to sleep six men, so we became very close over five weeks!’ When George and his compatriots arrived, Britain has already been fighting the war in Korea for more than two years and almost 100,000 British troops had already been deployed.
George had been in Korea a while and had become used to going out on night patrols when he was sent out on the one that would change his life. That night he and three other men from his platoon left the base on a standing patrol. When they were around half a mile in front of their lines they became aware that something wasn’t right. They phoned back to base and, as they awaited further orders, they could hear the enemy closing in around them. They began to withdraw but, as they did so, an ambush began and they were met with heavy gunfire. George sustained serious injuries and was left with 14 bullet wounds in his leg as well as one in his hand. He managed to use him arms to crawl his way through the paddy fields away from the enemy and was eventually found by one of the men he had shared a cabin with on HMS Asturias, Peter Adlem, who came out after the patrol to try to find survivors. George recalls Peter as ‘one of the bravest men I knew’ and the man who saved his life. George was the only one of the men who left on that patrol to survive.
The community here means that you are protected against loneliness and looked after as you get older
The American military had just introduced its Major Frontline Hospital Program, better known as M.A.S.H., and George was first taken to one of these frontline hospitals, which was able to operate to save his leg there and then. He spent a few days there before being evacuated out to Seoul, followed by a Commonwealth hospital in Japan. He spent eight months in a hospital bed before he was deemed fit enough to make the journey back to England.
George returned home to his mum and dad aged 19,and it took him a long time to fully recover. ‘Thanks to friends and family I was OK,’ he notes. ‘I had a friend who worked at the local cinema and he used to make sure I got a good seat when I went in the afternoon. It was little things like that that made things better.’
George started learning to drive and went to the Labour Exchange to find work. He got a job in the concertina factory, which is where he met Anne. He later went on to work in the Foreign Office as a driver for ambassadors and senior civil service officials. This job involved a lot of travel and Anne would often go with him when he was working abroad, across Europe and America. On one occasion when there was political trouble brewing in Italy, George was tasked with delivering an armoured car to Rome, and he and Anne still recall the lovely drive back in the substituted Rolls-Royce.
Looking back on his experience in the Korean War, George notes how it took him a long time to physically recover and that he never completely got over the injuries. He is now having to use a walking stick and Anne helps him a lot. ‘He’s good with the walking stick though,’ she says, ‘so it’s not too bad.’ George is also now deaf in one ear, which he puts down to the heavy mortar raids in Korea.
George and Anne used to attend his regiment’s reunions every year in Liverpool, although they reflect that it’s been a few years since they last did so. At one of the previous reunions George met the man who first treated him in the field, who he remembers gave him his first injection for pain relief after he was found – ‘Not that it helped much!’ he recalls.
George and Anne came to Stoll four and a half years ago, having been worried that the building where they were currently living was going to be demolished. The area where they had been living had completely changed since they moved in and there was uncertainty as to what would happen next. Stoll was able to coordinate their move into a two-bedroom flat at the Sir Oswald Stoll Mansions in Fulham. They now have a nice flat, which they have redecorated themselves, overlooking the estate’s gardens, and are supported by the team at Stoll including a weekly visit from their dedicated support worker, Rachel.
Friends come to visit and love the gardens. The couple also have two children: a daughter, who lives just down the road, and a son living in Kingston.
With regards to Stoll, Anne notes: ‘The facilities here are the best, especially with the doctor’s surgery on site. The community here means that you are protected against loneliness and looked after as you get older.’
George and Anne attending a Buckingham Palace garden party in May 2019, in honour of The Not Forgotten Association
Find out more
Stoll has been providing support to the Veteran community for more than 100 years and is here to support the next generation of Veterans. For more information about finding a home with Stoll or accessing support, please visit www.stoll.org.uk or call the Outreach Team on 020 7385 2110.
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