Brigadier Raymond Burnard was born and educated in in the UK and in 1947, on leaving school was planning a military career. His father accepted an offer to work in Sydney and to emigrate to Australia. Raymond decided to apply to join the Royal Military College, Duntroon instead of Sandhurst in England and, after two interviews was accepted.
The family flew from London on New Year’s Eve and arrived in Sydney seven days later, and Raymond became a staff cadet a month later.
The outbreak of the Korean War added to the intensity of the training at Duntroon, as the graduating class knew that if they were not destined to complete a university degree, they would be in Korea within 18 months.
On graduation, two-thirds of the 1951 class were posted to training units, waiting to be posted to Korea.
Raymond’s time came in January 1953 when he was posted to A Company of 3 Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (3RAR) to replace Lieutenant Geoffrey Smith who was killed in action ten days earlier while trying to protect the withdrawal of the remnants of his patrol.
Fortunately, 3RAR was moved to a rear position to rest, recuperate, and retrain for the next two months. In April, 3RAR returned to the frontline to replace the Durham Light Infantry and Raymond spent four days and nights with them. He did one night patrol with them and commented:
“Most of the soldiers were Nasho’s [National Servicemen] and had little interest in the war and mostly spoke about home and football. I did one patrol with them, and that was quite enough of that.”
When 3RAR returned to the frontline, Raymond led two patrols which had no contact with the enemy, but on 16 May he was given the task of checking the minefield in front of 3RAR.
“It was myself, my Signaller, and a Sapper Engineer. We went out fairly late at night, just after midnight, to check the minefield directly in front of us.”
They had almost completed the check when the Sapper mumbled, “Stop, we are in the minefield.”
It took about half an hour to work their way out through the mist and fog. As they made it through the fence, they found that the mist had risen, and it was daylight.
“We got moving as quickly as possible, under cover of what little scrub there was. Suddenly there was a burst of machine gun fire. Only one bullet hit anyone. It hit me just at the base of the throat. I had a flak jacket on, which is an armoured vest, and it was just above the top of the zipper.”
When the battalion found out that he was badly wounded, they sent out a volunteer stretcher party, led by Warrant Officer Jack Morrison, the Company Sergeant-Major (CSM).
“I remember Jack telling me later that he realized there were probably 2000 eyes from the Chinese side watching him and his half a dozen men coming down with the white flag. I deeply appreciated the respect the Chinese military gave to the stretcher party.”
Raymond was taken safely to the flying-fox that would take him down the mountain to a helicopter.
“We were on a mountain 355 metres high, so they had a flying-fox running down to where the helicopter pad was.”
A helicopter came and took him to the Norwegian MASH (Mobile Army Surgical Hospital).
“The helicopter was just like you see on the MASH TV series, with the two pods on the side to transport casualties.”
Raymond had an operation when he arrived and was transferred two days later. Australians typically went to the British Hospital in Kure but his injuries were complex so he was evacuated to the Tokyo Army Hospital.
“They looked after me extremely well. I had a number of operations there, and between operations, they would let me out to the R&R centre in Tokyo for a week at a time.”
After a few months recuperating, Raymond was asked if he wanted to return to Korea.
“I said, ‘Yes, very much so.’ I was a young graduate of Duntroon, there was a war on, so I volunteered to go back.”
He arrived to Korea in August 1953, just after the Armistice and became the Intelligence Officer of 3RAR.
“It was still active service and I wanted to get back to that, which I did. I finished my tour at Christmas time.”
After he returned from Korea, he continued his career in the Army for 34 years, first with the Citizens Military Forces (CMF), which is now known as the Army Reserves, before becoming the second in command for the Special Air Service (SAS) when it was first formed in 1957.
His later service in Vietnam included as Commander of the Australian Army Training Team Vietnam (AATTV), and as the Defence Attaché, Saigon. As a Brigadier, he commanded 3 Brigade in Townsville and the Command and Staff College at Fort Queenscliff in Victoria.
Raymond is now enjoying retirement at a delightful retirement village in Bowral, NSW. He is a Member of the Order of Australia.
Discover more stories of Korean War veterans at the Armistice in Korea: 1953-2023 photography exhibition open at the Anzac Memorial until 7 August