“Here in North Korea tension is escalating because of the group of rebels based on the mountains on the coast of Tongjoson Bay, the body of water behind me. It is just outside the heavily populated Wonsan. ” “Cut! ” sighed the sound operator. “Those bushes were rustling and it’s mucking up the sound” The whole crew were starting to get tired because sounds in the bushes had disturbed the report several times now. I took it from the top but another failed take resulted in a lot of sighing and protestation.
As I was about to answer there was a noise like a gunshot and I turned round to see Phil the camera man dead on the ground. I was petrified. I tried to run but my legs were rigid with terror. Again, an ear bursting bang reverberated off the rocky hills surrounding us and John the sound operator fell to the ground. I felt I was next. Three hooded men slipped like snakes out the bushes all round me. I felt a crashing blow to the back of my head. I saw the men’s bare feet, then nothing. Eighteen months of my life had been wasted in that cell. That tiny cell.
It had a six foot square floor and the ceiling loomed above me like a storm cloud ready to burst. It smelled of sewage and rats crawled freely over me as I slept on my mattress of straw. None of the other prisoners knew English. I knew a bit of the local language but I did not let anyone know this because otherwise the guards would not have spoken in front of me. While listening to them I figured out that they had taken me prisoner because they thought me and my crew were spies because of our camera. I knew I couldn’t survive there much longer but I could see no path of escape.
Every day my head was dunked in iced water, the guards beat me and once, spikes were shoved up the back of my finger and toenails. The food was, without fail, rice and dirty water every day. The dirty water was giving me dysentery and I felt like I was slowly wasting away, dying extremely slowly. I wanted them to just hurry up and kill me. I was looking for a chink in the armour of the rebels. One night my meal was being brought in. The guard bent down to put it down. From somewhere along the corridor someone shouted his name. He twisted from the waist to shout back. This was my chance and I had to seize it.
I put my arms over his head and, with the chain of my handcuffs, I choked him to death. Using his set of keys I freed myself. My wrists were throbbing with pain. After propping him up in my place, I took his handgun and swapped our clothes. I peeked round the door to see who was there. A guard was at the end of the corridor with his back to me. Confidently, so I didn’t sound suspicious, I marched down the corridor towards him. Without stopping to think I just hammered the back of his head as hard as I could with the handle of my gun. He fell down against the wall, into a sitting position.
I spotted the hazy, orange light at the main door out of the corner of my eye. About ten half-naked, but heavily armed guards were standing in a crowd talking and laughing in Korean just a few metres inside the door. I put my hood up and walked towards the door. The only snippet of conversation I understood was “That spy is about to crack. ” followed by laughter and a quick comment which I didn’t catch. All left to do was a hundred yard creep to the gates. I ran from bush to bush using them to shield me from the guards view until I got to a tall wooden log fence.
At the top of each log was a ten inch spike that would go straight through a man. It was built like a castle wall, about a foot thick. That wooden fence was the last hurdle with escape being the finish line. There was a hut and two guards carrying rifles near it on top of the fence. I had to dig quickly and quietly. My nails and hands started bleeding profusely. After I had been digging for what seemed like an eternity a phone rang in the hut on top of the fence. I heard one side of the conversation and I realised they now knew about the security breach. This spurred me on.
My hands were agony but the hole was getting just about big enough now for me to squeeze through. Now I could hear activity on all sides so I went for it. At this point adrenalin took over and my legs took me shooting down the hole and out the other side where I had to sprint to the path and into the bushes a bit away from the gate. As I did this I aimed my gun back towards the gates in the general direction of the guards and emptied it spraying bullets everywhere. I ran and ran down this path. I was wheezing and coughing all the way. It took me to a pontoon jutting out into a sheltered, sandy bay.
Flying into one of the battered rubber dinghies, I pushed off instantly. I prayed into myself then tried to start the outboard. Thick black smoke was billowing into my face. Quickly, I jumped into the next dinghy and that outboard started with only a tiny puff of greyish smoke, allowing me to speed away out of the bay with a hail of bullets raining down into the water around me. I was miles away from the rebels when a small launch vessel picked me up. It was from HMS Splendid. That was my lucky day but as soon as I got home my passport went straight in the bin.