Korea 1952-1953

The Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea invaded the Republic of South Korea in June 1950. The United Nations responded by sending a multi national force to the aid of South Korea. This force consisted of military from the USA, Australia, Britain, Canada, Turkey, Greece, Colombia, New Zealand, the Philippines, France, Netherlands, South Africa and Luxembourg. Medical assistance came from Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Italy and India. Australia supported this action by sending 3 RAR on the 28th September 1950.

1 RAR, stationed at Ingleburn, was warned for service in Korea in November 1951. The battalion was under strength and ill equipped. Under direction of the new commanding officer, Lt Col Ian Hutchison within a month the officers were replaced and the unit brought up to strength.

On Monday 3rd March 1952, led by the CO and the unit Mascot “Septimus”, the battalion marched through Sydney to East Circular Quay to embark on the “Devonshire”. A detachment of 130 NZ troops accompanied 1 RAR.

Septimus

INGLEBURN, NSW. 1952-02. 1 BATTALION, THE ROYAL AUSTRALIAN REGIMENT (1RAR) PARADE AT INGLEBURN PRIOR TO DEPARTURE FOR SERVICE IN KOREA. (DONOR D. THOMSON)

The battalion left the “Devonshire” at Kure and moved to the Kaitaichi Barracks in Japan. The battalion had been here in 1946 (then the 65th battalion) as part of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force (BCOF) and some of the old soldiers knew the place well. The battalion left for Korea on the 2nd April and landed in Pusan on the 3rd April. On the 5th April 1952 the battalion moved into the line and began familiarization and tactical training.
A memorable ANZAC Day was observed with 3 RAR, 16 Field Battery RNZA and members of the Turkish Brigade.

Op “Blaze” on the 2nd July 1952 was a company attack by A Coy on Hill 227 to capture prisoners and keep the enemy off balance, led by Major D S Thomson and commenced at 0900hrs. Pte “Jock” Burgess who had previously served in Scottish regiments piped the company into and through the attack. Flame-throwers and grenades were used to good effect destroying bunkers but the company withdrew without prisoners.

OPERATION BLAZE

A Coy was based on a narrow ridge below Hill 227 separated by wire, a minefield and a narrow valley 300 metres wide. The top of Hill 227 was about 300 metres from the other side of the valley. The forward slopes were in full view of A Coy but the Chinese enemy were in deeply dug bunkers below the forward crest. Behind Hill 227 were three occupied enemy hills, codenamed Tom, Dick and Harry.

I RAR was ordered to mount another raid to try to capture an enemy prisoner and destroy their defences. A Coy with elements of Sp Coy was ordered to do the raid on 2nd July 1952.

Within about 30 minutes the forward troops had reached the top of Hill 227, unseen by the enemy. There was no enemy reaction to the assault until we reached the summit when we came under quite heavy 60mm mortar and small arms fire.

I Platoon – I Sec took up a fire position and engaged the enemy. (1 Sec was commanded by Cpl Charles Mene from the Tones Strait. He was one of the great characters of A Coy)

2 Sec (Cpl John McNulty) took up a position in front of A, B, and C Bunkers and engaged them.

3 Sec (Cpl Harry Patch) was detailed for bunker destruction.

1Pl suffered 5 casualties and claimed one enemy WIA. There were certainly enemy casualties in both B and C Bunkers- numbers unknown, and probably in A Bunker.

2 Platoon with 8 Sec of 3 Platoon – On reaching the top, 8 Section of 3 PI commanded by Cpl L E (Squizzy) Taylor went forward to the unoccupied Dog Outpost on a spur to the right front without opposition, with the aim of preventing any enemy forward movement. There were 5 unoccupied bunkers at Dog Outpost, some badly damaged. The section gave good fire support with LMG and 2 inch mortar fire, silencing some enemy on Plug and on the reverse slopes of Harry. They suffered casualties and were short of ammunition, but stayed until ordered to withdraw.

4 Sec moved under mortar fire to Bath, which was unoccupied but a large active bunker was about 80 metres NW of Bath, which they engaged. The section also engaged enemy on the Plug feature, and other enemy active with LMGs on Harry. The section suffered 4 casualties but did well in engaging the enemy.

5 Sec moved to Woody Spur and the bunker area was swept by flame. E Bunker was completely destroyed and D Bunker was dealt with by flame, and percussion grenades. The section knocked out one enemy LMG on Harry and silenced another. They suffered 3 casualties. The section commander was wounded by a shell on return to our lines.

6 Section moved with PI HQ to a defiladed position between Woody spur and Dog Outpost. The platoon sergeant moved with the reserve section LMG and assisted in neutralizing fire from Harry and Plug. 6 Sec was then moved to a position between Hill 227 and Bath where it gave covering fire until the Company withdrew. One man was killed by mortar fire. The platoon sergeant Alee Smith received fatal wounds when he went to the assistance of 1 Platoon at B Bunker.

The platoon casualties were 1 KIA,1 Died of Wounds, 7 WIA.

Known casualties inflicted on the enemy by the platoon totaled 2 KIA and 3 WIA. Other casualties were probably inflicted in Bunkers E and D, and by the high volume of fire maintained on Plug and Harry. Two-inch mortar fire on the reverse slopes may have accounted for further enemy.

3 Platoon Less One Sec – Lt Dennis Williams. They were sited in reserve on the forward slopes of Hill 227. The Platoon, under the direction of the Coy 21C, Capt Peter Cook, assisted with the evacuation of casualties from Hill 227. Additional riflemen from B Coy were allotted to act as stretcher-bearers. The evacuation of casualties was a major and important task. 3 PI did a great job. They were under constant mortar fire throughout the operation and sustained five casualties.

ACoy HQ – The HQ took up a position on the top of Hill 227 where it could observe the action and move as necessary to control operations. The two operator/orderlies were Ron Gordon and Pat Sullivan who were great friends. The Bn Sig was John Forkin. These three plus Capt Peter Abbott, the FOO and the MFC were with me at all times.

A special attachment to Coy HQ was Pte J L (Jock) Burgess with his bagpipes. Jock had served with the Royal Scots Fusiliers and was a good and enthusiastic piper. His music was often heard in the A Coy area, to the joy of some like the Company Commander and to the despair of others. I think that all the Diggers were quite proud of him. When I told him to take his pipes he said that he would much rather carry a rifle. When we came under fire he marched up and down playing his pipes the whole time we were on Hill 227. It is remarkable that he was not killed or wounded. Afterwards the troops said that as long as they could hear the pipes they felt that all was well. Jock and his pipes were a great morale builder.

After a short time on Hill 227 Coy HQ had problems. I was lying in a small hollow with Ron Gordon on my right and Pat Sullivan on his right. Ron had the 88 set radio, A Chinese 60mm mortar landed on the back of Ron Gordon, killing him instantly and destroying his 88 set. Pat Sullivan, beside him was wounded.

I got an 88 set from a stretcher-bearer and could talk to the platoons Then John Forkin was wounded and his 31 set was out of action. Next Gunner Bowers was wounded. The other Gunner sig then took over his 31 set and provided communications both to Bn HQ and the Guns. Then Capt Peter Abbott, the FOO was wounded and evacuated.

After about 70 minutes on the Hill I reported to the CO that we were running short of ammunition and requested re-supply. I told him that casualties were mounting. He ordered me to withdraw at about 1045 hrs. The withdrawal was orderly and according to plan. All the wounded were evacuated.

Casualties were first attended to by the stretcher-bearers attached to each platoon. They did a great job, often under heavy fire. The key man was the A Coy Medical Corporal, Cpl John (Doc) Thomas. He was everywhere with no concern for his own safety. His devoted and skilled work saved many lives.

The Mortar Platoon of IRAR fired 2,300 rounds at enemy positions, while the MG Platoon fired 15,000 rounds.

I RAR Casualties – A Coy – 2 Killed in Action (Ptes Ron Gordon and Jock Mulcahy), 1Died of Wounds (Sgt Alec Smith), 25 Wounded in Action (WIA), B Coy – 2 WIA, Sp Coy- 5 WIA, HQ Coy -1 WIA

Decorations

The following immediate decorations were awarded:

MM – Cpl J (Doe) Thomas, Cpl L E(Sqizzy) Taylor. MC – Maj David Thomson.

US Silver Star – Cpl Harry Patch (He was awarded a second Silver Star while serving in Vietnam -remarkable), MID – Pte T R Nelligan – Stretcher Bearer (he was wounded three times and carried on – it was his 21st birthday). Later a number of other members of A Coy received awards for this and other actions.

Conclusion

A Coy was given a very difficult task and carried it out bravely and well. All ranks- old soldiers and those in action for the first time carried on without hesitation under heavy fire. As the OC A Coy I was very proud of them all.

Brigadier, The Honourable, David Thomson, MC (Retd) – Amended First Post 43/3 2003

Capt P J Greville led a fighting patrol on the 23rd August but was ambushed by the Chinese with Capt Greville and Pte Condon being taken prisoner, 1 other KIA and 3 WIA.

The battalion continued to aggressively patrol by night and day and maintain their dominance of no man’s land. They were subject to heavy shelling and mortar attack but continued to control their immediate area. This incurred a cost of 11 KIA, 32 WIA and 1 MIA in the first month.

The climate was also the enemy, as the temperature would fall to minus 16 degrees Celsius with the howling north wind bringing an even lower reading. The ground was frozen which made patrolling up steep hills very dangerous and the digging of pits impossible.

Lt Col M Austin assumed command of the battalion on 20/21st October 1952 with Lt Col Hutchinson appointed Admin Commander of the 28th British Commonwealth Brigade.

Op “Fauna” 10/11th December was a company attack by B Coy led by Major A S Mann on Hill 355 (little Gibraltar) to capture a prisoner, identify the enemy units and to prevent the Chinese from advancing by destroying their bunker system. Artillery support from the 16th NZ Field Regiment assisted the advance but the Chinese defence was stronger than expected. The force was ordered to withdraw without any prisoners as the number of casualties from gunfire and grenades resulted in one third of the attacking force being wounded.

OPERATION FAUNA

At 2400 hrs 10th December 1952, 4 Platoon, “B” Company Headquarters, one section of the Assault Pioneers Platoon and 6 Platoon moved off in that order, single file, into the mine­field gap down the steep icy slope, slipping, sliding, inching our way, hand over hand on the barbed wire fencing. At last we reached the valley floor, passing the “Halifax” outpost manned by C Company 3 RAR. It took one hour to cover 700 mtr with 3,000 to go. 1 Section under Corporal Noel Beresi led in arrowhead, Private “Bill” Purcell forward scout, “Stan” Norminton 2nd Scout. They were three outstanding soldiers. Progress was slow, three inches of dry snow crunching noisily underfoot. The foot-long stalks of grass breaking with every stride with the crossing a part-frozen creek adding to our difficulties. The noise deadening snowfall we had hoped for had not arrived.

We pressed on, close to our firm base standing patrols dotting no-man’s land. A challenge from 6 Platoon behind us. “Halt”, the password with no response. We froze. A repeat muffled challenge and still no response. A burst from an Owen sub machine carbine, a squeal, an expletive, silence. We lay motionless. Ten minutes went past. Then a whispered command from “the Boss” (Major Mann) over my 88 wireless set, to proceed. We moved on slowly, deliberately. Later we were to learn that the challenge had come from Corporal “Dave” Young of 6 Platoon. The slightly wounded victim, one of our own supporting troops. We turned north between two Chinese-held hills, our objective, on FLORA, the right-hand one. We were well behind schedule with 1,000 yards to go. There was no turning back, but we remained undetected. My job was to choose the correct re-entrant onto the ridge – line of the objective. Go too far north and we’d strike the main Chinese defences. To turn prematurely would have meant a totally fruitless mission. There was no margin for error. We turned right, reached the ridge and deployed into extended line with two sections astride the north/south eight-feet deep communication trench, facing south. It was 0400 hours. We were two hours behind schedule, a factor, which whilst it caused initial concern, was subsequently of little consequence.

The dim outline of the enemy trenches, bunkers and weapon pits were silhouetted 60 meters ahead. 3 section and Platoon Sergeant John “Mac” McNulty positioned themselves with Company Headquarters following. 6 Platoon, behind them, moved northward to attack their objective. It was unoccupied enabling two of their sections to join the main assault force. 4 Platoon advanced to within forty meters of the enemy. There was still no reaction. Then it happened. A mixture of “Burps” (Chinese sub machine carbines), potato-mashers (Chinese anti personnel grenades on a stick) and percussion grenades greeted us. We propped, some dropping to one knee to return fire. The platoon commander’s job was to keep things moving so we pressed forward. We quickened pace firing from the hip, Private “Ralph” Townsend’s Bren gun on the left flank never sounded better- Still the grenades came, their white trailing tape being clearly visible. Corporal Ron Porto of 2 Section dropped two men, Privates Albert Charfield and Keith Payne, into the blackness of the communication trench. One of them, Keith Payne, was later to forge a place in Australian military history, being awarded the Victoria Cross whilst on service in South Vietnam. They reported deep tunnels dug along the trench walls, into which grenades were promptly dispatched.

It takes intestinal fortitude “guts”, of the highest order, to drop into the unknown, the “bottomless trench” (about 9 feet) of unknown enemy bunkers. There is no time to think about it. You jump, you hope, you move swiftly, do your job and get out. In this case on the end of a rifle dangled by a mate above. Behind us, shouts of “CHOH – CHOH CHOH” (Beware) could be heard as reinforcements poured from the tunnel network of the main enemy position. Withering fire from the two Bren guns of Corporal “Paddy” Crotty’s section, 6 Platoon, positioned for such an eventuality, quickly dampened this enthusiasm. They went underground. Up front 4 Platoon cleared the objective disposing of all inhabitants, moved through it, reorganising thirty yards beyond. Casualties, two missing, (one Private “Jim” Young was to return the following evening) and three wounded.

Back on the objective, Company Headquarters confronted the second wave. From the tunnel network came a further hail of grenades, Major “Joe” Mann, twice being blown off his feet. Captain John Salmon, our Artillery Forward Observation Officer (FOO), although peppered with fragments directed pre-planned fire tasks onto six areas located several hundred metres north, east and west of “Flora”, The Chinese retaliated, mortaring our position, there was little point in staying, in fact our clear instructions were not to remain on the objective. The order came to withdraw. 4 Platoon leading down a spur to the east in an orderly manner, section at a time with “Sam” Small and I bringing up the rear. It was 0420 hours. We had not taken a prisoner, our primary task. In hindsight, an almost impossible mission. The Chinese didn’t make a habit of being captured or leaving their wounded. The confusion of a close contact can tend to take precedence.

Caution wasn’t a major ingredient of the withdrawal. We moved swiftly, reaching the minefield gap in thirty minutes. Again the Chinese reaction was predicted correctly. They would anticipate that we had come from the western end of 355 mortaring and shelling accordingly. On the eastern end we were struggling with our wounded. Private “Bob” Auhl, unconscious, strapped to a stretcher with rifle slings, was brought “home” by exhausted mates, on their hands and knees, clawing every icy metre up that gap. I had taken my turn and can still recall our race against the mortars, which by this time, had switched to our return route. Thankfully, though close, they were ineffective allowing us to reach our forward defensive line (FDL) by 0630 hours unscathed, there to be greeted by a relieved CO.

Lt Gus Breen, Pl Comd 4 Pl B Coy 1RAR – First Post 43/3 2003

Monday the 24th December the Chinese left Christmas messages on the wire, which were recovered by the wire laying patrols. On the 29th December 1 RAR was relieved by 3 RAR and was redeployed to a rest area. The battalion conducted courses, re-issued equipment and prepared to hand over to 2 RAR whose advance party had arrived on the 25th February 1953.

Group portrait of members of 9 Platoon, C Company, 1st Battalion 1952

9 Pl C Coy 1 RAR 1952

 

Group portrait of members of 9 Platoon, C Company, 1st Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (1RAR), prior to embarkation for Japan then service in the Korean War.

Back row, left to right: 12432 Private (Pte) Harold James Gibson; Bentley?; 2400630? D Roberts? (possibly 27966 Pte Don Roberts); 1400287 Pte Donald Clarke; 2400645 Pte David Scullion (served as David McCarthy) (later MM); 11905 Pte Gerald Duncan Woodrow; 11909 Pte Raymond John Smith; 2400687 Pte John Joseph (Dixie) Lee; 2400515 Pte Keith Louis Herd; 2400641 Pte Patrick James Humphries; and 2400599 Pte Athol Douglas Frederiksen.

Middle row: 25331 Leon Amos Brown; 27402 Ronald William Prothero; 25677 Pte John Francis Logan; 25701 Pte Joseph Thomas Baikie; 25229 Pte Edward Thomas Watmore (died of wounds 14 January 1953); 28530 Pte Ivan Hall; 2400620 Ronald John McCrindle (later MM); 2400639 Pte Patrick Michael Wayne; 2400693 Clyde Neville Schubert; 51024 Pte Gordon Herbert “Curly” Daly (served as Pte Alexander Daly); 25232 Pte Edward Charles Smith; 32649 Pte Leslie “Paddy” Boyce; and 2400663 Pte Peter John McLean.

Front row, seated: 2400656 Pte Roger Herman Van Straveren; 2400576 Pte Roger Henry Harvey; 2400718 Corporal Arthur Nicholas Gough; 2955 Sergeant John Edward Fury; 237657 Lieutenant Peter Henry Cliff (killed in action 21 September 1952); 23973 Corporal Neil Norman Parker; 24602 Corporal Joseph Clyde Stewart; 25267 E C Schmidt (probably 25287 Pte Douglas Austin Schmidt); 25313 Pte John Rollen Batten; and 2400618 Pte Kevin Talmadge.

1 RAR left Korea on the 24th March 1953 on the “New Australia” and arrived in Sydney on the 8th April 1953.

The battalion was based in Enoggers and for the next two years conducted training, promotion courses and ceremonial duties.

The battalion returned to Korea on 31st March 1954 under command of Lt Col N Nicholls. The Korean War having officially ended 1RAR became part of the UN Peace Keeping Force on the Kansas defensive line, returning to Australia in March 1956.

Battle Casualties – 1 RAR

35                                    KIA

5                                      DOW

3                                      MIA

166                                  WIA

2                                      POW

Honours and Awards

DSO                                         2 (1 immediate)

OBE                                         2

MBE                                         3

MC                                           7 (2 immediate)

MM                                           7 (3 immediate)

BEM                                        1

MID                                          20 (2 immediate – 3 Posthumous)

The Immediate Award of the Military Cross – Major D S Thomson

On the morning of the 2nd July 1952, Major Thomson, with outstanding skill and gallantry, led A Company, 1st Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment, on a raid against a well organized and entrenched enemy strong point on hill 227, in Korea.

Displaying dash and determination of a very high order, Major Thomson quickly gained the top of hill 227 and with complete disregard for his own personal safety directed his two forward platoons onto their objectives.

Despite heavy, accurate enemy small arms, mortar and artillery fire and the fact that his company headquarters received two direct hits from enemy mortar fire, killing his wireless operator and wounding the artillery forward observation officer attached to his headquarters and two other members, Major Thomson continued to direct operations, and with amazing calm and tenacity so inspired his men that they remained in possession of the enemy strong point for 90 minutes, blasting and wrecking the enemy defences with flame and specially prepared high explosive grenades.

It was only when he was running out of ammunition, and on receipt of orders to do so, that he finally withdrew. During the withdrawal he remained until the last and only left the position when he was sure that all his wounded had been evacuated safely to our lines. At this stage he was wounded in the right arm but refused to have his wound attended to until he had reorganized his company back in their base.

Throughout the entire action Major Thomson displayed qualities of leadership, courage and devotion to duty of the highest order and his conduct was an inspiration to all.

The Award of the Military Medal – Corporal J F Thomas (RAAMC)

Corporal Thomas has shown himself to be a medical orderly of outstanding quality. He has repeatedly and on his own initiative gone out beyond our own forward localities to tend men who have become casualties in action and has always kept himself informed of the progress of patrols so that in the event of contact with the enemy he could quickly get to a position from which he could render immediate aid. He has more that once voluntarily exposed himself to heavy enemy shell and mortar fire to assist wounded men and even in reserve he has volunteered for service with other units when heavy casualties have been anticipated.

In particular, during an attack on hill 227 on 2 July 1952, Corporal Thomas established a company aid post on an exposed woody spur half way up the feature. Where he was able to administer ready assistance to the badly wounded, and personally control his hard-pressed stretcher bearers.

Again during an attack on the same hill by another unit he personally organized the stretcher bearers of the attacking unit and led them to the top of the hill to bring in the dead and wounded.

His outstanding courage, determination and good humour in adversity have been an inspiration to all who have served with him and the example he has set of selfless devotion to duty can seldom have been surpassed.

Lieutenant C N Khan was Mentioned in a Dispatch for Distinguished Service

Lieutenant C N Khan led a fighting patrol to “Vancouver” (CT 161190) on the night 10/11 Nov 52 and was wounded by enemy fire. He organized the evacuation of wounded before allowing himself to be evacuated.

During the stage in the line Lieutenant Khan’s platoon occupied the right forward platoon position which had been badly damaged by enemy mortar fire and artillery fire. The platoon was subject to heavy fire throughout this period, and by his leadership qualities and example he kept up the spirits of his men. At this stage, his platoon sergeant had been evacuated, with only junior NCOs left in his platoon.

He commanded eight fighting patrols during his period with the company and his leadership and control in all cases were outstanding. It is therefore recommended that he be Mentioned in Dispatches.

Pte Keith Payne recalled that the first two weeks in the Hill 355 position was a tough time for platoon commanders in a rigorous patrolling programme. His own platoon commander, Lt J L Seaton, was KIA on the night of 11-12 November with Sgt E J McNulty taking over until Lt Gus Breen arrived on 30 November 1952.

Lt WB James of A Coy was badly wounded on the night of 7-8 November. Another B Coy platoon commander was also badly wounded as Keith stated “on the eleventh day of the eleventh month”. He was Lt C N Kahn.

Brig Colin ‘Ghengis’ Kahn, DSO, commented on the incident as follows:

“On the 11-11-52 I was leading a fighting patrol from my 5 Platoon B Company, down the forward slopes of Hill 355. A Chinese patrol was using the same ridge line coming up 355 and seeing us first, went to ground and opened fire at about 10 yards range. In the small arms and grenade fire fight that followed I was hit in the chest with bullets that penetrated the zip on my flak jacket.One of the stretcher bearers who came out into no man’s land that night was a Private Keith Payne who carried me back into our lines.”

“I saw Keith next in Vietnam and then, by coincidence, on 11-11-84 Keith and I stood together as guests of honour, speaking at the opening of the Southport RSL Vietnam Memorial. The 32 intervening years had passed quickly and Pte Payne had become Keith Payne VC.”

Source : Australian War Memorial
Brigadier C N Khan, DSO
Mr. Jack Campbell, 1 RAR
Mr. Herb Stacker, 1 RAR

After the parade for Anzac Day, the Battalion was stood down for 24 hours to allow us to celebrate.

In my wisdom I decided to go across to the “I” camp at Uijjonbu to catch up with a couple of Canadians I knew, and after several shots of Canadian Club then a bit of lunch we decided to go and watch baseball between the Americans and the Canadians. So we went to the field and sat on the bonnet of the nearest vehicle and watched the game, while also completing our last bottles. After a while a voice behind me said ” excuse me but do you mind getting off the jeep I have to go”. Being a trifle inebriated, I replied “get stuffed the game is still on.” There was dead silence, then the biggest, aggressive negro M.P. sergeant I’ve ever seen walked round in front of me holding the biggest billy stick I’ve ever seen and said “Would you like to get off the front of General Mark Clark’s Jeep” I replied ” Yes Sir”.

Brian Blade.