Korean War veterans remember Battle of Imjin River

By David Bailey
BBC News

image captionAbout 400 men fought until they ran out of ammunition on Gloster Hill

Veterans of the Gloucestershire Regiment are to return to Korea to mark the 60th anniversary of the Battle of Imjin River.

About 400 "Glorious Glosters" held out against 10,000 Chinese troops for three nights during the battle in April 1951.

It remains the bloodiest battle fought by British Forces since World War II.

Returning veterans will take part in a remembrance ceremony at the Gloster Valley Memorial at Solma-ri in South Korea on 23 April.

The battle, fought between 22 and 25 April 1951, was a pivotal moment in the Korean War.

About 4,000 troops of the British 29th Brigade, including about 700 from 1st Battalion, The Gloucestershire Regiment, faced more than 27,000 men of the Chinese 63rd Army.

'Fix bayonets'

About 400 Glosters fought a last stand on Hill 235, which was later renamed Gloster Hill.

The stand-off on Gloster Hill allowed time for UN forces to regroup and block the Chinese advance on the capital Seoul.

image captionHundreds of Glosters were taken prisoner and spent more than two years in POW camps

Royston Mills, of the Glosters' A Company, fought on Gloster Hill and on nearby Castle Hill.

"These Chinese came over the top [of a hill]," he recalled.

"They [our officers] told us to go up and clear it. The officer said 'fix bayonets'.

"As we went in [a colleague] Spud Murphy opened up with a Bren gun. We went in to the bunker and as we went in the Chinese ran down the other side."

Tom Clough is one of the veterans of the Battle of Imjin River who will return to South Korea for the remembrance ceremony.

He served as a gunner with the Royal Artillery which was attached to the Glosters.

'Terrible weapon'

He said he witnessed the dropping of napalm on the enemy lines.

"That's something that always stands out in my mind, the Chinese getting hammered by napalm because it's a terrible weapon," he said.

"The screams that came from those Chinese still ring in my ears to this day."

Despite their stand, the Glosters eventually ran out of ammunition and, being surrounded, had no choice but make a break for it, to try to get back to friendly lines.

They had started the Battle of Imjin River with 700 men but few avoided death or imprisonment.

Fifty-nine were killed and nearly 600 were taken prisoner. Thirty-four died in captivity.

Prisoners remained in POW camps for more than two years until after the armistice was declared in July 1953.

'All good blokes'

Although a ceasefire was agreed the two sides have never signed a peace treaty meaning North Korea and South Korea are officially still at war.

For their heroic stand during the Battle of the Imjin River, the Glosters were given the Presidential Unit Citation - the highest American award for extraordinary heroism and collective gallantry in battle.

Two Victoria crosses were also awarded for acts of heroism in the battle. The Korean War was the first significant armed conflict of the Cold War but 60 years on it is largely ignored.

Eight veterans from the Gloucestershire Regiment will join other British and United Nations Korean War veterans to attend the ceremony at Solma-ri to remember those who were killed.

Bugler Tony Eagles said: "We are the lucky ones. We came away from it. We're still alive sixty years on.

"What I want to remember is the chaps that didn't come back with us. They were all good blokes, every one of them."

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