A HEROIC Navy fire rescuer awarded his Korean War medals almost 70 years on has revealed he only signed up for the death-defying job because his girlfriend disliked the uniform of the brass band he wanted to join.
Trumpeter Colin Glossop (88, pictured) recalled with a smile how his beloved Joyce dissuaded him from joining the Royal Marines Brass Band on fashion grounds and he enlisted in the Fleet Air Arm instead in 1947.
His career as an aircraft handler and “fire suit man” saw him battling to rescue pilots from burning Spitfire aircraft on the deck of HMS Triumph and HMS Theseus in the waters off Korea three years later.
“I wouldn’t have minded but there wasn’t much to dislike about the Royal Marines uniform — it was quite plain,” smiled the former Leading Airman, of Moorgate Road.
“I regretted it even more when I found the aircraft carrier I was on had a Royal Marines band on board and they had no other ship duties than playing in the band.”
Helped by training with a 20-stone dummy, Colin rescued an estimated 20 pilots from the cockpits of Spitfires landing on the busy flight deck of his aircraft carrier, sometimes in flames or badly damaged in dogfights.
He admits it was “scary” to tackle flight deck infernos: “I had to get up onto the wing, unfasten the harness and haul the pilot over the side so he could get clear.
“I had a fire suit and a helmet on and aimed to get the pilot out within three minutes.
“If it got to two minutes the suit would start to smoulder.”
But he adds: “You were doing it day in, day out so it really became like another day at the office.
“I spent the day on a submarine once just to see what it was like and I couldn’t wait to get out of there.
“The thought of all that water on top of you...I’d much rather be up on top than down there. Those are the real heroes.”
Colin, whose brother Frank also served in the Korean War, was just 17 when he volunteered.
“I trained at HMS Royal Arthur, where the Duke of Edinburgh was a sub-lieutenant,” he recalled.
“I later got to chat to his uncle, Lord Mountbatten, who was the commander in chief, when he would go for a walk around where I was stationed and I mentioned how Philip used to drive around HMS Arthur, ignoring the speed limit, in a sports car with two or three girls in the back.
“I said there was just the one pub in the town and I’d never seen Philip buy a drink.” He just said: ‘That’s Philip for you!’”
Colin was coming toward the end of his expected spell at sea when the Korean War began in 1950, and he and his fellow flight deck crew had the job of sending Spitfires safely out into battle and receiving them back on deck, sometimes in a sorry state.
Pictures in Colin’s perfectly-preserved photo album show aircraft upside on the deck or broken in half, while one records the moment a fighter smashed into the stern of the ship and broke in half, only the central section of the Spitfire and its wings remaining.
“Sometimes the aircraft would land with rockets still attached and you had to hope they wouldn’t go off and blow you to bits,” said Colin.
Besides the risk of fire, Colin and his crewmates also faced the daily hazard of approaching planes where the propellers were turning, their blades threatening a grisly and bloody end.
“There’s none of that these days,” said Colin. “With the jump jets, they just take off vertically and they’re away.”
After being demobbed, Colin became a turner in the steelworks, working for Habershons and Shardlow’s during a career of more than 30 years, before retiring at 55.
He rekindled his love of music, playing trumpet for the Holmes Mill Prize Band, and went on to have two daughters with his late wife Joyce, whom he had married at 22.
Once a teenage member of the sea cadets’ band who had the honour of playing the Last Post at a remembrance service at Rawmarsh as a 14-year-old, Colin still plays his trumpet to this day and enjoys a game of bowls with friends.
The grandfather-of-eight was presented with his Queen’s Korean Medal and United Nations Service Medal by Mike Sedgley of Rotherham Military Community Veterans Centre at Rotherham Town Hall last month.
In its citation, the MCVC described Colin as a “sprightly and dapper” man who had come to value the companionship and support the veterans centre provided.
His brother Frank received his Korean Peace Medal last December, while a third brother, Harold, also served in the armed forces.
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