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THE GLORIOUS GLOSTERS - KOREA 1950-51

In 1950 the 1st Battalion went to Korea as part of the United Nations Forces defending South Korea. The Battalion sailed on the Empire Windrush and called at Port Said, Aden, Singapore, and Colombo before arriving at Pusan, Korea on 10th November 1950. On the 11th Nov. they went by train to Suwon, arriving on 13th Nov. At Suwon they were based in the Agricultural College. Moved by road and train, north to Kaesong for anti-guerilla duties. "D" Coy. relieved a Turkish unit guarding the bridges over the Imjin river at Munsan'ni. "A" and "C" Coys. established a redoubt at Sibyon'ni, guarding the eastern approaches to the Main Supply Route of I Corps. "B" Coy. and Battalion HQ remained in the Kaesong area.

24th Nov. the whole Battalion concentrated at Sibyon'ni and mounted sweeps and raids on villages. In one patrol (commanded by Lieut. Weaver), "C" Coy. engaged a North Korean battalion on the road to Tosan, losing 2 men killed and several wounded.

Battalion entrained and embussed to move north. 30th Nov. they arrived just south of Pyongyang, the North Korean capital. Then they travelled in a convoy of US trucks into Pyongyang and on northwards. They made a defensive position and sent out a patrol under Major Richard Butler to locate the Chinese hordes. 1st and 2nd Dec. spent improving defences, but then orders arrived to withdraw. Heavy snowstorms started.

Battalion reached a defensive position at 2 bridges over the river Taedong and held this while the whole of I (United States) Corps crossed back south of the river. Then the Glosters crossed the bridges and they were blown up. They then embussed on US lorries and left Pyongyang, which was in flames.

The Battalion arrived at Sinmak, a small town 30 miles north of the 38th Parallel. Then they moved to a positions on the bare hills above the village of Chongsoktu'ri, where they dug new defensive positions. Again the order came to withdraw before they had seen any of the enemy. During a patrol, Capt. F.H. Worlock advanced 8 miles beyond the UN front line. At 1540 hrs on 11th December 1950, the last Battalion vehicle crossed the 38th Parallel. The Battalion went into I Corps reserve, just north of Seoul, where they celebrated Christmas.

1st Jan. 1951 the Chinese Army attacked the 1st Republic of Korea Infantry Division, on the Imjin river. At 0545 hrs the Battalion was alerted and moved forward in case they were required. The Royal Ulster Rifles and Northumberland Fusiliers were already in action. By mid-afternoon the enemy was routed, leaving a vast heap of dead on the field. That night the Brigade was ordered to withdraw through Seoul and south of the frozen river Han, where most of I Corps was now positioned. The Glosters moved to the village of Pyongtaek and dug-in in the icy frozen paddy fields. Large numbers of desperate refugees flooded past. Then the UN Forces began to advance again and 31st Jan. the Glosters moved north again, to Osan'ni, in reserve. They then moved to Hill 156, on which lay over 200 dead Chinese who had come against a Turkish unit and been repulsed. On the 11th February they moved to Suwon, then moved on to Kumnyangjang'ni and then to Pabalmak.

12th Feb. they relieved a battalion of US cavalry. From the positions on a hill they watched the American attack on Hill 350. That night a heavy frost fell and shortly after midnight the Chinese attacked Lieut. J.M. Maycock's platoon but were repulsed. The Chinese then attacked Lieut. A.C.N. Preston's platoon ("A" Coy.), wounding him and 2 other men; but the enemy were repulsed again. The next day "C" Coy. patrolled 3000 yards ahead of the Battalion position and dug-in. The rest of the Battalion then moved forward to join them. They were now 400 yards from Hill 327 on which a stong, well concealed and deeply entrenched Chinese force was positioned. On that night, 13th Feb., the Chinese attacked the American 5th Cavalry Regiment on the right flank. The next day, the American airforce attacked the hill with rockets. The Glosters were ordered to take Hill 327.

At 1030 hrs, 16th February the Assault Coys. ("D" Coy. left and "C" Coy. right) moved forward. The slopes were very steep and the 2 columns made their way up to a 200-metre contour from which the final assault was to be delivered. On the right flank the Americans were attacking a hill named "Cheltenham" but were meeting stiff opposition. As the Glosters neared their objective a shower of grenades and heavy rifle and machine-gun fire came down upon them; Major Charles Walwyn was wounded. "D" Coy. were ordered to work left and attack up another spur. Lieutenant D.A. Simcox was killed while assaulting an enemy bunker. A couple of Chinese mortar bombs hit "B" Coy.s HQ, wounding Sergt. Claxton, L/Cpl. Cameron, Ptes. Quinton, Wiseman, and Goldsmith. Slowly the enemy bunkers were located and cleared. As the Glosters advanced across the hill, the Chinese began to flee from their remaining positions and soon the Hill was secured. The Battalion dug-in. On 17th Feb. "A" Coy., with a squadron of Centurion tanks, patrolled forward to the river Han without any contact. On the 18th, the Battalion advanced to the river. There they rested while the Royal Ulster Rifles cleared the banks of the river. On 23rd Feb. the Glosters were relieved and moved back to Anyang'ni on the main Seoul road. 3rd March they moved to Ichon for several weeks.

In April 1951 British 29th Infantry Brigade was holding the defensive line along the Imjin River. The main invasion route across the Imjin was held by the Gloucestershire Regiment (750 strong) and the men of C Troop Light (Mortar) Battery, R.A. The U.N. command needed time to reorganise and asked the Glosters to hold for as long as possible. Against them were three Chinese Divisions (approx. 27,000 men).

On Sunday April 22nd the Battle of Imjin River began. The first attempts to cross the River were stopped by No.7 Platoon of 'C' Company under Lieutenant Guy Temple. Four times they stopped the Chinese and only withdrew when ammunition ran low. Temple received the Military Cross. Unknown to the Glosters, the Chinese had used another crossing point (not marked on maps) and over 1000 Chinese crossed to attack from all sides.

"The first frenzied assault fell on A Company. The Battalion's Vickers guns pumped belt after belt of ammunition into the screaming hordes until the cooling jackets of the guns boiled over and they seized up. Bren guns were fired until the barrels became red hot and rifles until they were too hot to hold."

Repeated attacks by over-whelming numbers of Chinese continued through the night. B Company were now also in action. By the morning of the 23rd A Company were still fighting. 2nd Lieut. John Maycock had been killed and his platoon reduced to only 6 unwounded men. Lieutenant Terence Waters was severly wounded in the head. Half of A Company were dead or wounded by now. The Chinese had occupied a height known as Castle Site and were setting up machine guns to spray fire on the Company. Lieutenant Philip Curtis led a counter-attack on Castle Site across open ground. Within the first minute 3 Glosters were dead and 4 more wounded. Curtis ordered the remaining men to cover him and he charged alone. Severely wounded in the arm and side, his men tried to crawl out to drag him in, but shaking them off he charged again - alone. Throwing grenades as he ran he knocked out a machine-gun position but was killed by a burst of fire from another. He was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross.

Lieutenant Philip K. Curtis, V.C.

Major Pat Angier reported his Company's desperate position, low on ammunition and mounting losses. He needed reinforcements if his Company was to hold its position. But the only order that Colonel Carne could give was "You will stay where you are at all costs until further notice." Major Angier replied "Don't worry about us, we'll be alright." Within 15 minutes Angier was dead.

Major Pat A. Angier

"D" Company were now being pressed also. There were no other UN troops for 2 miles and the Glosters flanks were unprotected. But the Glosters orders were to hold the road to Solma-ri and "as long as there was a Gloster still on his feet Fred Carne was determined to do just that."

During the night of the 23rd and dawn of the 24th "B" Company fought off 7 Chinese attacks and the forward sections were overwhelmed by sheer numbers. By the morning ammuntition was almost exhausted and grenades gone. Bayonets fixed, men fought with entrenching tools and even fists against the onrushing Chinese. To stop them being overwhelmed Colonel Carne concentrated the surviving men into one area. "B" Company now consisted of Major Harding, CSM Morton and 15 men. The Battalion front line had been 4 miles and was now down to 600 yards, but nowhere had the Chinese broken that line. By the evening of the 24th the survivors were concentrated on Hill 235 (since renamed 'Gloster Hill'). By now 29th Brigade had been forced to withdraw and the Glosters were totally alone, their orders "Hold on where you are."

In the last report back to Brodie, Colonel Carne replied "I understand the position quite clearly. But I must make it cear to you that my command is no longer an effective fighting force. If it is required we shall stay here, in spite of this, we shall continue to hold."

The path up Gloster Hill

By now the Glosters were surrounded, low on food, water, and ammuntion. The radio batteries were almost dead. American helicopters tried to evacuate the wounded but could not close because of the intense Chinese fire enveloping Gloster Hill. The 8th Hussars (Tank Regiment), the Belgians, Filipinos, Puerto Rican and American infantry battalions tried desperately to break through to the Glosters, but could not.

On Gloster Hill, the Battalion HQ had virtually ceased to exist. Captain Richard Reeve-Tucker (signals officer) was dead, Assistant-Adjutant Lieutenant Donald Allman (wounded in the shoulder) was commanding the remnants of one platoon, the Intelligence Officer Lieutenant Henry Cabral was commanding another.

Colonel Carne, with rifle and bayonet in hand, led the Regimental Police in an attack on a party of Chinese, reporting to his Adjutant, "Just been shooing away some Chinese."

Adjutant Tony Farrar-Hockley, decided that his appointment as Adjutant was now redundant as the radio was almost dead, his last message was to Lieutenant Temple: "Guy, you will stay where you are until further notice. If your ammunition runs out hurl bloody rocks at 'em." He then joined what was left of A Company.

The last of the ammuntion was handed out on the 25th. Each man had 5 rounds, each bren gun one and half magazines, each sten gun half a magazine. The Chinese were blowing bugles and on that morning, sensing the end was near they reached a crescendo of noise. Farrar-Hockley ordered Drum-Major Buss to fetch a bugle and play every call he knew "Except Retreat !" As he played the Glosters cheered him on.

"I could see his tall, lean figure, topped by a cap comforter" wrote Farrar-Hockley; "he always played a bugle well and that day he was not below form. The sweet notes of our own bugle, which now echoed through the valley below him, died away. For a moment there was silence - the last note had coincided with a lull in the action. Then the noise of battle began again - but with a difference; there was no sound of a Chinese bugle. There are not many Drum-Majors in the British Army who can claim to have silenced the enemy's battle calls with a short bugle recital."

At 0600 on the 25th Brigadier Brodie gave the Glosters the order to attempt to break out. They had held the line for 4 days. In his Log, Brodie wrote the Battalion's epitaph:

"NOBODY BUT THE GLOSTERS COULD HAVE DONE IT."

Colonel Carne gave his last orders. The wounded could not attempt escape. Captain Robert Hickey, the Medical Officer, Chaplin Sam Davies, and Medical Sergeant Brisland, immediately volunteered to stay with the wounded. The remnants of "A", "B", "C" and Support Companies headed south under heavy machine-gun fire. Soon "A" Company led by Farrar-Hockley were surrounded and captured. Captain Pike and his men ran into a force 10 times his own, after firing off 2 of his last 4 bullets he ordered his men to surrender. Major Harding, Lieutenant Temple and CSM Ridlington had covered 10 miles before being captured. Lieutenant Cabral was captured and was to die in a prison camp "after faithfully adopting an 'incorrect attitude' - as the Chinese phrased it - and being a constant thorn in their sides for 12 months." Colonel Carne, RSM Hobbs and CSMI Strong evaded capture for 48 hours.

Glosters captured at the Imjin

Captain Mike Harvey, with "D" Company and some machine-gunners (92 men in all) headed north and then west before turning south. After 3 hours they ran into enemy machine guns and lost half the party. Finally the group ran into UN forces. Unfortunatley the American tanks mistook them for Chinese and opened fire, wounding Lieutenant Thomas Conneely and 6 men. Realizing their mistake the Americans covered the group and 5 officers and 41 men reached the UN lines. Captain Harvey was awarded the Military Cross for his leadership.

PRIVATE ESSEX

Private Essex of "B" Company was wounded in the head and both legs, his right leg being broken. When he could no longer walk he had crawled until he collapsed from pain and exhaustion. He was found by the Chinese and interrogated, which involved kicking his legs and hitting him in the face. He gave his name, rank and number. The Chinese walked away and tossed a grenade back at him, fortunately only wounding him in the eye. After they had gone he crawled to a village and was tended by the villagers. Finally he made it back to UN lines and in December 1951 he was chosen to broadcast to the Commonwealth before king George VI gave his Christmas Speech.

"In April I was wounded when the Glosters fought the battle on the Imjin River. I was captured and then escaped. For a few weeks I lived with some Korean villagers and they taught me how to keep alive on grass. Then I was picked up by one of our patrols and afterwards the RAF flew me home. Ever since I have been in Cambridge Hospital at Aldershot and today am going home to my father's farm in Gloucestershire. The chaps still out in Korea won't get much of a Christmas, and first of all I want to say cheerio to them, especially those who are prisoners. All the best mates, and I hope that it soon packs up and you all get home alright..."

The following officers had made it back: Majors Digby Gist, Watkin-Williams, and Mitchell; Captains Harvey, Bartlett, Taylor and Worlock; Lieutenants Martin, and Barker, 2nd Lieuts. Holdsworth and Whatmore. Returning from leave in Japan, Major Wood, Captain Mardell and Lieut. Bergin rejoined the Battalion. The surviving men of the Battalion were now under command of Major Digby Grist, who sent the famous signal:

"We are operational again."

The survivors


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