Battle of Kapyong, April 1951
The following text is from:
Robert O’Neill, Australia in the Korean war 1950-1953, volume 2: combat operations, Australian War Memorial and Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra, 1985, 131-160
The Battle of Kapyong, April 1951
After its withdrawal to Kapyong the 27th Brigade settled into a reserve position for a period of well-earned rest. The brigade was on three hours' notice to move in support of any of the three formations on the IX Corps front: the 1st Marine Division to the north-east; the 6th ROK Division to the north and north-west; and the 24th Division further to the north-west. Soon after reaching the new position the brigade learned that the enemy had broken contact, and for a short period at least, the battle-line was quiet. Nobody knew whether the Chinese and North Koreans were planning a substantial break in their operations, but many suspected that the speed of their recent withdrawal on the IX Corps front indicated regrouping and preparation for another major offensive.
The British Government hoped to relieve the improvised 27th Brigade, which had been at war for over seven months, during its period in reserve in late April. The two British battalions of the brigade, the Argylls and the Middlesex, were to be replaced by the 1st Battalion, The King's Own Scottish Borderers (1 KOSB) and the 1st Battalion, The King's Shropshire Light Infantry (1 KSLI). The Australian battalion and the New Zealand field regiment were not to be withdrawn as units, but individual members were to be relieved after approximately one year's operational service. Therefore 3 RAR and the 16th New Zealand Field Regiment were constituent members of the Commonwealth brigade throughout the war. The Canadian battalion was scheduled to become part of a full Canadian brigade, the 25th, in May. Brigadier Burke and the headquarters of the 27th Brigade were to be relieved in late April by Brigadier G. Taylor and the headquarters of the 28th Brigade. The formation was then to change its designation to become the 28th British Commonwealth Infantry Brigade. Advance parties of 27th Brigade Headquarters and the Argylls departed for Seoul en route to Hong Kong on 19 April.
After the Eighth Army's advance to the Kansas Line had begun in early April, strong indications of a new Communist offensive were detected by the Americans. Ridgway, still, then, the Eighth Army's commander, continued preparations for the next advance, Operation Dauntless, a drive of some 30 kilometres into the Iron Triangle. He took precautions against a further enemy offensive by planning a fighting withdrawal, Operation Audacious, in which the Eighth Army would absorb the Communist momentum by defending several phase-lines in succession. This plan was Ridgway's last major concern as Eighth Army commander before relieving MacArthur. (1)
Ridgway was replaced by Lieutenant General James A. Van Fleet, who arrived in Korea at 12.30 p.m. on 14 April. Ridgway departed for Tokyo at 7 p.m. the same day. Further indications of an imminent Chinese offensive led him to order Van Fleet not to exploit any success beyond the Wyoming Line without his approval. Ridgway remained confident and told his staff on 19 April that the current enemy situation was more favourable for United Nations Command forces than it might have appeared. He believed that the North Korean formations could operate successfully only against South Korean troops and that the Eighth Army could defeat the coming Chinese offensive. He modified Van Fleet's plans for resuming the advance by widening a secondary objective line on the eastern sector, the Alabama Line, which took the front northwards to include the Kansong-Inje road. (2)
Van Fleet launched his offensive on 21 April, only to meet a much heavier Communist offensive on the night of 22 April. American intelligence officers estimated that 337 000 Chinese were driving for Seoul in the main thrust and 149 000 were attacking in the central sector. (3) These were supported by an additional 214 000 to make a total of some 700 000 Communist troops facing 418 000 United Nations Command personnel, including 152 000 South Koreans, 245 000 Americans, 11 500 Commonwealth soldiers and 10 000 from other United Nations countries. (4)
Standing directly in the path of the main Chinese thrust towards Seoul was the British 29th Brigade. On 22 April the brigade held a front of 12 kilometres on the Imjin, a broad, winding river which drains much of west-central Korea and forms one of the major obstacles on the road to Seoul through the Uijongbu corridor. Unfortunately for the defenders the river was fordable by infantry at many points at that time of the year. The 1st Battalion, The Gloucestershire Regiment, was deployed on high ground which overlooked the valley, flanked on the right by the 1st Battalion, The Royal Northumberland Fusiliers, and supported by the 1st Battalion, The Royal Ulster Rifles, in reserve. The brigade was holding a checking position; its defences were lightly constructed and did not include mines and barbed wire. It had been told to expect the Chinese to close up to the river on the night of 22 April and attack across it at dawn on the 23rd. This appreciation proved wrong. The Chinese did not pause, but delivered their main attack immediately after crossing the Imjin, falling on the Gloucesters around midnight. (5)
The 1st ROK Division, on the brigade's left flank, was driven back several kilometres. The forward companies of the Gloucesters withdrew to the vicinity of the battalion headquarters. The Chinese penetrated a gap of several kilometres between the Gloucesters and the Fusiliers, thereby cutting off the former. The brigade fought back desperately and heroically on 23 and 24 April against enormous odds. Several attempts were made to relieve the Gloucesters, but the enemy forces were too strong to be broken through. Amongst these attempts was one made on 24 April by the Philippines Battalion, supported by C Squadron of the 8th Hussars, in which Captain J. C. Gorman, an Australian, was serving. (6) He later described the state of the Gloucesters' B Echelon (supporting elements), which he encountered on the road to the battalion's main position:
It was a shambles. Rifles and equipment lay scattered everywhere, among burnt-out carriers and smouldering trucks. Dead Englishmen lolled behind shattered steering wheels, and rows of holes in the vehicles showed the line of enemy machine-gun fire. Short Chinese cartridge-cases littered the area. Dead men lay in profusion, sightless eyes staring up to the sky. It was definitely depressing. The thought occurred-`That dead man, but for the grace of God, is me'. There was not a single enemy body. It is nerve racking to see only your own dead, for it gives the impression of disastrous defeat. Of course, the Reds had removed their own dead, as they always did. (7)
The relief column was ambushed a little further along the road. The Philippines Battalion was led by three Philippines M-24. Chaffee tanks. The driver of the leading tank had not closed his hatch cover and a Chinese mortar bomb lobbed straight into his compartment. The tank burst into flames, stewed to the left and struck a cliff face, blocking the road. There was no way around it, because there was a sheer drop on the right side. The Hussars were unable to push the tank off the road, and the weight of enemy fire increased. The Gloucesters were unable to break out towards the column and fight their way to the withdrawal route. The Philippines Battalion was cut to pieces and the Hussars had to withdraw. (8)
The surviving Gloucesters gathered on a small hill, Point 235, subsequently to be known as Gloucester Hill, but they were overlooked by Chinese on two higher hills nearby. Attempts to resupply them and evacuate casualties by air failed. During the night of 24-25 April the 29th Brigade was ordered to withdraw. Soon after 9.30 a.m. on 25 April the Gloucesters' Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel J. P. Carne, gave his company commanders permission to attempt to fight their way out. The Chaplain, the Reverend S. Davies, and the Medical Officer, Captain H. P. Hickey, remained with the wounded and were captured. Only thirty-nine men, members of D Company, rejoined the brigade. The others either died or were captured. (9) The sacrifice of the Gloucesters was not in vain: their stubborn resistance for two days and three nights held up the Chinese sufficiently to enable the remainder of the brigade to withdraw in good order and establish a new defensive line north of Seoul. Carne was awarded the Victoria Cross for his leadership and courage.
Further to the east the IX Corps, of which the 27th Brigade was still a part, prepared to meet the Chinese onslaught. The northern end of the Kapyong valley was held by the 6th ROK Division, which had advanced some 10-12 kilometres north since it had relieved the 27th Brigade. The two forward regiments of this division took the full weight of the Chinese attack just before midnight on 22 April. The IX Corps had little idea of the strength of the enemy forces attacking, because intelligence coverage of the battlefront and the area behind it was extremely limited and the Chinese were adept at moving large formations quickly and stealthily into the battle area. Although Chinese and North Korean prisoners had been giving warning of the coming offensive for several days, 6th ROK Division patrols ranged forward without encountering any enemy as late as the eve of the attack. Later analysis indicated that the assaulting force was the Chinese 60th Division of the newly arrived 3rd Field Army. (10)
The 6th ROK Division was supported by the 16th New Zealand Field Regiment, which had not been withdrawn to Kapyong with the remainder of the 27th Brigade on 18 April. A field battery of US 105 millimetre artillery was also in general support. Under this arrangement neither the New Zealand regiment nor the US battery were required to deploy forward observer parties, but would answer calls for fire from ROK Army observers using ROK Army communications.
At 10.30p.m. on 22 April, the 16th Field Regiment was informed that the Chinese had attacked the right flank of the 6th ROK Division in strength. The suddenness and weight of this attack resulted in the forward ROK elements withdrawing some 5 kilometres. By 11 p.m., communications with the forward regiments of the division had been lost, effectively preventing provision of artillery support from the NZ field regiment and the US battery.
A collapse of command authority within the ROK division soon became evident as its headquarters, located close to the NZ headquarters, admitted the virtual disintegration of its forward elements and reported further withdrawals of some 10 kilometres. Demoralised ROK Army stragglers began to pass the NZ gun area. Very soon these groups became an almost continuous stream of ROK soldiers moving south.
By 3 a.m. the 16th NZ Field Regiment was placed on one hour's notice to move, and this was soon reduced to immediate notice. Finally, at 4 a.m., with the sound of small arms immediately in front of one of the batteries, the decision was taken not to risk the guns any longer, and the regiment withdrew down the Kapyong valley. It redeployed in a gun area about 2 kilometres south-west of the village of Muktun-ni and about 6 kilometres north of Kapyong. This position was finally occupied by 8 a.m., 23 April.
At 10 a.m. the IX Corps Headquarters ordered the regiment to move north again in support of the battered South Koreans, who were reported to be holding an area some 15 kilometres north of the 27th Brigade position. On this occasion Brigadier Burke ordered the Middlesex to accompany the guns for protection. By 4.30 p.m. both units had deployed around Kwanam-ni, about 12 kilometres up the Kapyong valley. From here the guns could strike the attacking Chinese. Although liaison was established with the headquarters of the 6th ROK Division, it proved a futile exercise as the headquarters staff had little idea as to where their units were and lacked adequate communications with them. Some supporting fire was provided using a US observer aircraft for guidance. By 6 p.m. the ROK units began to withdraw again and the Chinese penetrated the defenders' right flank. The New Zealanders soon detected that the situation was out of control, and rather than risk loss of the guns, the Commanding Officer of the 16th Field Lieutenant Colonel Moodie, ordered a withdrawal. At 8 p.m. the guns came out of action after shooting on the main approaches to the gun area, and carrying the men of the Middlesex on the regiment's guns and vehicles, the New Zealanders withdrew down the narrow, winding valley road, which was choked with refugees and ROK soldiers. By 9 p.m. the regiment had reoccupied the position it had left earlier the same day. (11)
Burke was warned at 8.30 a.m. on 23 April to make preparations to move his brigade forward to defend the northern approaches to Kapyong. This town was strategically important because it lay on one of the main east-west communications routes south of the battle-line. The battalion and company commanders commenced their reconnaissances of the area to be occupied, breaking the welcome respite which the brigade had enjoyed for five days. Conditions in the reserve area had been spartan; the soldiers were living in small, two-man shelters, with only one or two larger tents per company. Some films were screened for entertainment, one of which was enlivened when a 3 RAR soldier dropped a lighted cigarette by a small but full drum of petrol which was supporting a plank seat in the outdoor cinema. Fortunately no one was injured in the ensuing explosion. A beer ration arrived, soldiers were able to bathe for the first time in several weeks, and Lieutenant Colonel Ferguson invited the nearby Turkish Brigade to send a detachment to an Anzac Day service. Australian soldiers gathered the wild azaleas in bloom on the hillsides to brighten their commemorative wreaths which were to be laid at the service. (12)
The area which the brigade was to defend lay 6 kilometres north of the town of Kapyong, around the confluence of the Kapyong River-flowing from the north - west and a smaller stream fed by several valleys to the north and north-east. The confluence is flanked by two ranges of hills-one on the west rising nearly 600 metres above the river and crowned by Hill 677, and one on the east rising some 400 metres to the summit of Hill 504. To the north-west is Sudok San, a massive hill which rises to nearly 800 metres. These three hills formed a naturally strong position, well suited to blocking a major advance. Its principal disadvantage from the 27th Brigade's viewpoint was its breadth. The brigade had to hold a front of some 7 kilometres in order to control the valley. This distance was too great for a continuous line of defence, and Brigadier Burke decided to concentrate his forces on the hills around the confluence, intending to place a battalion on each of Sudok San and Hills 677 and 504. By the afternoon of 23 April he had only the Australian and Canadian battalions: the Argylls were on their way home from Korea and the Middlesex were forward with the New Zealand gunners. He positioned 2 PPCLI on the western hills leading up to Hill 677, and 3 RAR on the eastern range dominated by Hill 504. He had to leave Sudok San unoccupied.
The defenders on the high ground looked northwards across a valley floor, 1-2 kilometres wide, to a tangled mass of steep hills, rising generally to nearly 800 metres, of which Sudok San was the nearest. There were several villages and hamlets on the valley floors: Cheguryong on the Kapyong River in front of the Canadians, Muktun-ni and Somok-tong to the east of the confluence, Chuktun-ni to the west of it, and Songhwangdong in front of the Australians. The valley flats were open and cultivated; the hillsides were covered in patches of low scrub which was dry -after the recent thaw. Snow still lay in small patches in sheltered parts of the hills. The nights were cold but day temperatures were mild. Perhaps the most notable feature of the battlefield was the contrast between its breadth and the compactness of the strong points of the defenders, grouped in their tight company perimeters.
Just as Brigadier Burke spread his battalions widely, so did battalion commanders scatter their companies. 2 PPCLI occupied a boomerang-shaped position, with four companies forward on a front of 2 kilometres. 3 RAR ranged across the western slope of Hill 504 with one company on the summit, another along a steeply sloping spur-line running to the north-west, a third on another spur 300 metres to the rear, and the fourth on a small but prominent hill, some 180 metres high, at the north-western foot of Hill 504, immediately adjacent to the tributary stream which flowed into the Kapyong River. The company positions were sited so that each could be defended against attack from any direction. Thus the blocking position of the whole brigade was founded on eight clusters of men, each cluster being some 200-400 metres across and separated from the three others of its battalion by 300-500 metres. The defences of the two battalions lay 3 kilometres apart. The brigade headquarters was in the Kapyong valley, 4 kilometres to the south of the Canadians.
The brigade position suffered from three deficiencies: it was exposed without adjacent formations to protect its flanks; the central sector was not occupied, because the Middlesex were away to the north with the guns; and until the return of the 16th Field Regiment the brigade had little artillery support. If large numbers of Chinese had arrived before these two units had returned and prepared for battle in their new positions, the eight forward companies would have had to rely on their own resources and accept the probability that they would have been cut off for a considerable time by enemy forces between themselves and the brigade headquarters area. Had this situation eventuated, the fate which befell the Gloucesters would have been a distinct possibility, particularly for 3 RAR, whose line of communications ran 4 kilometres back through the exposed central sector of the Kapyong valley.
Ferguson had to meet another requirement which detracted from the strength of his position. The IX Corps Headquarters was concerned to control the withdrawal of the 6th ROK Division as firmly as possible, particularly to prevent the spread of panic. Accordingly Brigadier Burke ordered Ferguson to place his battalion headquarters on the road down the valley to the rear of the main battalion position. Thus the Australian commander was separated from his forward companies by 1.5-2 kilometres. Direct radio communication with the forward companies was obstructed by the rugged terrain, necessitating, in the event that the long, exposed field-telephone lines laid over the ground were cut by gun fire or vehicles, the time-consuming relay of radio messages through the nearest company. More importantly Ferguson faced the prospect of having to control two battles, one involving the four companies and the other involving his own, immediate headquarters area, located directly beside the main enemy approach route and lightly defended. For protection of his headquarters Ferguson had a section of medium machine-guns, two 17 pounder anti-tank guns, the Assault Pioneer Platoon and some regimental police. Headquarters Company, commanded by Captain Jack Gerke, occupied ground a little to the east and to the rear of the battalion headquarters.
The brigade position was strengthened by the addition of American armoured and artillery units. Two companies of the 2nd US Chemical Heavy Mortar Battalion, a field battery of 105 millimetre howitzers and A Company of the 72nd Tank Battalion were provided, of which Brigadier Burke allocated the Canadians and Australians one mortar company each and gave the Australians the tank company. Altogether it was far from an ideal force with which to defend the valley against a Chinese division, but it was the best which could be improvised at short notice. The situation would have been much better had preparations been started three or four days previously. Most of the brigade believed that they were simply occupying an overnight position before moving forward next day.
The Australians began to occupy their positions during the afternoon of 23 April. Ferguson, who had given his orders to the company commanders late in the morning, deployed D Company to the summit of Hill 504, A Company to the spur-line which ran down to the north-west, C Company to the rear spur, and B Company to the small hill by the river. The road skirted the eastern flank of this hill and it was the best area for stationing the tanks. A Company of the 72nd Tank Battalion was equipped with fifteen Sherman M4A3E8 tanks, each armed with one 76 millimetre cannon and one .50 calibre and two .30 calibre machine-guns. The company commander, Lieutenant Kenneth W. Koch, had made a thorough reconnaissance of the area by air and ground in the preceding week. He deployed his three platoons near the road. No. 4 Platoon (five tanks) occupied a northern outpost position forward of B Company to prevent enemy use of the road; 1 Platoon (five tanks) occupied the high ground to the west, with B Company; 2 Platoon (four tanks) and Koch's command tank deployed near the 3 RAR headquarters, covering a ford by which the road crossed the Kapyong River some 800 metres south of the B Company position.(13) The siting of the tanks forward of B Company does not appear to have been wise. It is a normal principle of tactics that tanks in a static position should be accompanied by infantry to prevent any close enemy approach.
The men of D Company had a long and difficult climb to the summit, carrying their weapons, ammunition, food and communications equipment. Hill 504 is crowned by a steep-sided, narrow, U-shaped ridge, the two arms of which lead down via spurs running to the north-west. The more westerly of these spurs was occupied by A Company, whose nearest platoon was some 400 metres away. Captain W. N. Gravener, Officer Commanding D Company, positioned 12 Platoon with a section of medium machine-guns at the northern end of the ridge. He placed 11 Platoon centrally on the ridge on a knoll separated by a small saddle from 12 Platoon's position and he placed I0 Platoon on the summit of Hill 504, which was at the south-western edge of the ridge. D Company Headquarters was with 11 Platoon. Although the steep, convex slope in front of 12 Platoon prevented it from seeing far to its immediate front, it had an excellent field of fire across the ground leading up to A Company's position on the western flank.
A Company also had a stiff climb up its spur. Major O'Dowd deployed I Platoon on the lower flank, then Company Headquarters and a medium machine-gun section above, followed by 3 Platoon. No. 2 Platoon, whose commander, Lieutenant I. R. W. Brumfield, had joined the battalion only the previous day, climbed to the top of the steep slope which led to the ridgeline occupied by D Company. In these positions the platoons of A Company could support each other against attacks from the north. No. I Platoon could fire on the approaches to B Company's hill, but there was little that A Company could do to help D Company, particularly 12 Platoon.
C Company, whose tasks were to counter-attack either of A or B Company's positions if they were overrun, and to attack any enemy who penetrated between the forward companies, was deployed by Captain Saunders over the spur behind A Company. No. 7 Platoon occupied a rocky outcrop overlooking the road 300 metres away. Company Headquarters was on a small knoll further up the ridge. No. 9 Platoon overlooked the headquarters and 8 Platoon was situated near the top of the spur, where it levelled to join the A Company spur and the U-shaped summit ridge. From this position C Company could cover the road and the crest of the spur between A and D Companies.
B Company, under Captain D. P. Laughlin, occupied the small hill close to the river. The hill rises 40 metres above the road to a ridge running some 1000 metres north-south and crowned by a knoll at the northern end, some 40 metres above the ridgeline. Laughlin deployed his platoons on the southern end of the ridge, with 4 Platoon to the north-east, 5 Platoon to the north-west, 6 Platoon to the south, and Company Headquarters between 4 and 6 Platoons to cover the approach from the road. Laughlin placed his medium machine-gun section with 4 Platoon to cover the most obvious enemy line of approach and stationed an outpost of one section forward on the knoll at the northern end of the ridge. When the tanks arrived Lieutenant Koch placed his 4 Platoon by the road forward of the B Company outpost and 1 Platoon occupied the southern slope of the hill, near the Australian 6 Platoon.
The whole deployment took place smoothly. The battalion occupied its new positions with the practised efficiency which can come only from several months of operating as a team. When the companies reached their intended locations they began building defences. Some areas, such as the B Company hill, were suitable for digging. Others were too rocky and the men sought to build shelters from enemy fire by piling up rocks to make sangars. Because there was considerable uncertainty as to whether they would be attacked by enemy that night or moved northwards next day, the Australians made only essential preparations to protect themselves from direct enemy fire. In any event there were neither the materials nor the time to do more, such as provide overhead cover for their weapon pits and command posts.
As the daylight began to fade small groups of South Korean soldiers were noticed moving back along the road towards Kapyong. Advance elements of the headquarters of the 6th ROK Division had established themselves near Muktun-ni around 5 p.m., between B Company and 3 RAR headquarters. Ferguson established a check-point near a road at the southern end of Muktun-ni to steady the South Korean withdrawal and maintain liaison with the 6th Division headquarters. Sergeant Colin McGregor, the 3 RAR intelligence sergeant, went across to the Koreans to investigate the situation on the 6th Division front, only to find that the staff were rapidly moving the map position markers of their own formations southwards, replacing them with red arrows signifying the advancing Chinese. The division headquarters did not stay long at Muktun-ni.
After dark the flow of South Koreans increased to a torrent. They withdrew in disorder, indicating a serious collapse on their front. Groups of soldiers milled about without direction from their officers and nco's. Overladen vehicles clogged the road, blowing their horns. Drivers and occupants impatiently abandoned any that stalled and sought places on other vehicles, even ox-carts, or joined the less fortunate mass of troops walking or jogging southwards. Some of the South Koreans were moaning with fear and exhaustion, shedding their equipment as they went.
In this column were the 16th NZ Field Regiment and the men of the Middlesex battalion. They redeployed to the rear of the 3 RAR headquarters in darkness, around 9 p.m., but were limited in the fire support that they could provide because they had not been able to survey the gun position previously and ascertain its exact location with respect to the forward companies. Thus fire support could not be brought in close to the company defences for fear of hitting them by accident. The situation was complicated by Chinese forward troops who had mingled with the fleeing South Koreans and were penetrating the 3 RAR position along the road, dividing B Company from the other three, surrounding it and pressing on further down the road, directly threatening both the small Australian group in the battalion headquarters area, south of the ford, and the New Zealand gunners behind it. Around 9.15 p.m., soon after nightfall, a nearly full moon rose over the battlefield, illuminating both defenders and attackers. The first Chinese attack fell on the outpost platoon of tanks at 9.30 p.m. and was beaten back. An hour later a much heavier attack was made on the tanks, mortally wounding the platoon commander, Lieutenant Di Martino, and seriously wounding three commanders of three other tanks. The commanders fought with their hatches open so that they could observe enemy infiltrators attempting to close with their tanks, but without protecting infantry they were highly vulnerable. Before Di Martino died he gave orders for a fighting withdrawal.
As soon as Lieutenant Young, the Second-in-Command of B Company, heard Di Martino's tanks start their engines, he ran down to the road to try to prevent them from withdrawing altogether. In his haste he forgot to take a weapon with him. By the time he had reached the road the last tank was passing. It stopped and the commander told Young that he was going to the rear to obtain medical attention for wounded crew members, replacements for personnel who had been killed, and resupply of ammunition. Young persuaded him to stay, promising to send his wounded to the rear by jeep and to bring more ammunition to him.
As Young later recorded:
The tank skipper then asked where we wanted him to stop and block. A rather indefinite wave of the arm on my part was not sufficient for him. He wanted to be guided to his position. That left me posted so I marched ahead of the tank north along the road. By this time an American mortar F.F.O. [forward fire officer] accompanied by a negro carrying his wireless set, had joined us. The F.F.O. was looking for our `A' Company and wanted guiding.
After walking for about fifty yards, with the tank grinding along behind us in the dark, I saw movement in the shadow of a bank on the right side of the road, towards `A' Company. There was moonlight on the road itself. Thinking that R.O.K. troops were still skulking there I called out `Iddiwa' [Anglicised Korean for `Come here']. A train of sparks flying through the air towards me was the answer. I dived for the ditch on the left of the road. The F.F.O. and his wireless man went for the hill towards `A' Company. The tank driver immediately put his vehicle into reverse gear and went backwards. The grenade burst harmlessly on the road. I was now reasonably sure that the Chinese were with us and against us. As I lay in the ditch the Chinese Communist Force literally ran over me after the tank down the road. They flung a few grenades in my direction but did no harm beyond singeing my moustache and hair. I lay quiet for some time, whilst the noise of the pursuit faded south then I cautiously made my way back to `B' Company lines. (14)
After the tanks had withdrawn from in front of B Company, the Australian positions were probed and attacked. Captain Laughlin called down artillery fire onto the area where the tanks had been, to break up a suspected enemy concentration. A 4.2 inch mortar barrage was laid across the valley between B and A Companies, up to 500 metres forward of the line between them. A small group of Chinese infiltrated B Company's position and fired on Laughlin's command post but they were swiftly driven out, suffering casualties. This section outpost on the northern knoll reported enemy massing on their flanks at 11 p.m. More artillery fire was directed onto them and soon afterwards the outpost was attacked by thirty Chinese. Laughlin ordered its commander to break contact and withdraw to the main position. The section disengaged successfully and returned without loss at approximately 12.15 a.m. More artillery and mortar fire were brought down on suspected enemy lines of approach and B Company steeled itself for the coming major assault.
It began at 12.50 a.m., falling on 4 Platoon. The Australians inflicted heavy casualties on the Chinese in the next hour and the attack ceased. A second assault came against 6 Platoon on the southern flank at 3.30 a.m., accompanied by a feint against 5 Platoon. The Chinese advanced with determination and penetrated the perimeter, but counter-attacks by the tanks of 1 Platoon and the infantry of 6 Platoon checked them. Lance Corporal R. N. Parry was awarded the Military Medal for his skilful leadership and use of fire in breaking up this assault. A final attack was made on the company's eastern flank just on dawn, at 4.45 a.m. Some seventy Chinese were repulsed. The strengthening daylight revealed the enemy exposed in the valley between B and A Companies. The defenders then struck them heavily with artillery, mortar, small arms and tank fire, compelling them to withdraw, leaving hundreds of dead behind on the battlefield.
In the meantime A Company had also come under heavy attack. The Chinese made a probing assault on 1 Platoon, the lowest of the three platoons on the west flank of Hill 504, at 9.30 p.m. and followed up with major assaults from three sides over the next three hours. The charging enemy soldiers, accompanied by bugle calls, were guided by bold nco's who continually pointed out to grenade throwers the best positions from which to attack the platoon perimeter. These leaders were easily recognised and killed by the defenders but others quickly took their place.
Despite suffering many casualties, the Chinese continued to make frequent attacks on 1 Platoon, preceding their assaults with a shower of hand grenades. The defenders responded vigorously with their Bren and Owen guns, rifles and grenades, but the Chinese refused to relent, rushing, ahead in waves over heaps of their own dead and wounded. No. 1 Platoon suffered heavy casualties in the action and there was barely time between successive Chinese assaults to withdraw the wounded for improvised treatment and redeploy men to cover the resulting gaps in the defences. The Chinese seemed to have enormous numerical superiority and their attacks increased in frequency to become one continuous onrush of troops. All three Bren gunners of 1 Platoon were killed or wounded and the fighting strength of the platoon was reduced from thirty to thirteen. The commander, Lieutenant F. A. Gardner, was mentioned in despatches for his bravery and leadership in holding the Chinese.
At 1 a.m. O'Dowd ordered Gardner to withdraw the remnants of his platoon through Company Headquarters to take up a new position between 3 and 2 Platoons. Company Headquarters moved inside 3 Platoon's perimeter. O'Dowd's task was complicated throughout the night by a need to co-ordinate the actions of all four rifle companies. Telephone communications with battalion headquarters were severed when South Korean vehicles drove across the telephone lines and cut them. Ferguson was able to pass radio messages to B and D Companies through A and C Companies, but the pressure of Chinese attacks on the battalion headquarters area soon made it impossible for that body to function as a full command post, and O'Dowd had to do his best to control the forward battle.
Enemy attacks continued to fall upon 3 Platoon until 4.30 a.m., although they were not made with the massed numbers which the Chinese had used against 1 Platoon. Presumably that action had cost them too heavily for such tactics to be sustained. At dawn the men of A Company were alarmed to find that the Chinese had infiltrated the gap, higher up the ridge, between 1 and 2 Platoons. The company's situation was now serious because enemy machine-gunners could fire with ease in the growing light down onto 1 and 3 Platoons and Company Headquarters from the slope below 2 Platoon. They were protected from the fire of 2 Platoon by rocks and a steep dip in the ridgeline. The defenders' pulses quickened when they heard whistle calls as a Chinese leader called for reinforcements to exploit their success.
Nos 1 and 3 Platoons were pinned down by automatic weapon fire from some ten Chinese. The Australians suffered casualties when they attempted to move to fire more effectively. The Chinese were aided further by some thick scrub on the slope which protected them from observation. Lieutenant Brumfield ordered searching fire from his forward section above the Chinese but this action was only partially effective because the firers could not see into the enemy position. Brumfield sent out a fighting patrol under Corporal C. J. Eveleigh at 6 a.m. to make contact with Company Headquarters. As the patrol passed over a false crest on their way down the spur they encountered the enemy and attacked immediately. Six enemy were killed for the loss of one Australian and the danger to A Company was averted.
The night's battle had cost the company fifty casualties. O'Dowd then ordered Lieutenant H. Mulry, commander of 3 Platoon, to counter-attack the Chinese who were occupying 1 Platoon's original position. The enemy did not stay to give battle. By 7 a.m., after a hard and furious night of fighting, A Company was again in possession of its original area. The Chinese then faced the problem of withdrawal over open country, under observation and fire from the Australians on the heights. As O'Dowd remaked later:
The situation rather resembled sitting in the middle of a wheatfield at dawn potting rabbits as they dashed hither and thither. (15)
D Company, on the summit of Hill 504, spent a quieter night. It was not probed until 4 a.m. on 24 April when some six Chinese approached the Australian perimeter. Approximately an hour later, Company Headquarters personnel shot one enemy soldier and 10 Platoon captured another. The Chinese then ceased their efforts against D Company for two hours.
C Company was attacked only once during the night by a small group of Chinese, but was struck several times by mortar bombs fired at A Company. In the growing light of 24 April the forward section of 7 Platoon saw some fifty enemy moving in file on the lower ground between B and C Companies. Both companies opened fire and dispersed the Chinese, some of whom surrendered to a B Company clearing patrol. Small groups of enemy were then detected all around C Company. They appeared lost and disorganised and the Australians began to snipe at them, causing some to surrender and others to hide.
While the forward companies had been fighting for survival during the night Lieutenant -Colonel Ferguson had been conducting a desperate battle around his own headquarters, which was situated in a small gully south of the Kapyong River ford. Fighting flared around the position before 10 p.m. as the Chinese, mingled with the retreating South Koreans, swept along the road. They bypassed the battalion headquarters and the American tanks, surrounded the defenders and set up a blocking position on the road to the south. Lieutenant Koch dismounted from his tank under heavy fire to investigate the state of his 4 Platoon when it arrived after withdrawal from the B Company position. After learning of the platoon's heavy casualties, he ordered that the dead and wounded be loaded onto three of the tanks and sent further south to the support area. The tanks were then to obtain replacement personnel and return to the battle. The two remaining tanks of 4 Platoon joined those of 2 Platoon near Ferguson's headquarters.
During the night the Chinese attempted to mount the tanks and destroy them with grenades and satchel charges, but they were driven off by fire from adjacent tanks. One tank received a direct hit by a 3.5 inch rocket which killed the loader and mortally wounded the tank commander. The enemy were pressing so vigorously around the tanks that Koch was unable to evacuate any of the casualties.
The Australian infantry were in a more extreme predicament in the headquarters area, fighting from hastily constructed defences against their more numerous attackers. One member of the Mortar Platoon, Private John Godden, lay in a creek-bed with a Bren gun, near one of the tanks. At twenty-minute intervals during the night the tank commander opened his hatch and called, `Are you still there, Aussie?'. On one occasion Godden replied, `For Christ's sake don't make a noise!'. The forward defender of the battalion headquarters, the light machine-gun section of the Medium Machine-gun Platoon, the whole of the Assault Pioneer Platoon, and the Regimental Police section were struck heavily by attacking waves of Chinese, and forced back. Two members of the light machine-gun section were killed and four wounded. The Regimental Police also suffered several wounded. Lieutenant C. B. Evans, the Medium Machine-gun Platoon Commander, directed a nearby tank to fire on the road-block and on some houses in the village of Chuktun-ni from which Chinese soldiers were shooting at the headquarters area, thereby breaking the force of the attack. Forty Chinese were killed in one house alone.
The gun area to the rear of the battalion headquarters was also probed by the Chinese, who were detected moving around the western flank. Lieutenant Colonel Moodie had foreseen soon after he had reached the position that it would become untenable and had sent a reconnaissance party to survey a new position near Charidae. The regiment moved to this area around 3 a.m. and came into action an hour later.
Headquarters Company was not seriously molested during the night. Although some Chinese came near, they were either attacking the battalion headquarters or pressing southwards along the road, a few hundred metres to the west of the company position. At 11 p.m. the company commander, Captain Gerke, lost communications with Ferguson by both radio and line. He sent two drivers, on foot, to the battalion headquarters in an attempt to find out how the battle was developing. They returned at midnight accompanied by a jeep and trailer loaded with ammunition. The jeep had been sent earlier in the night to take ammunition forward to A and B Companies, but it had been turned back by an American tank which was destroying Chinese positions in the houses of Chuktun-ni. The two men in the jeep had been unable to make their way back to the battalion headquarters because they had been fired on by Chinese who were in control of the road.
Gerke ordered all members of Headquarters Company to remain in their pits, make no noise and refrain from firing unless they were certain that they were aiming at enemy soldiers. In the meantime he had become curious about the absence of noise from the direction of B Company of the 2nd US Chemical Heavy Mortar Battalion, which was deployed nearby, and at 11.30 p.m. he sent the Company Sergeant Major and a driver to investigate. They reported that the area was deserted, although some of the mortars were still in position on the ground and the company's vehicles were packed ready for movement.
The company had evidently fled, abandoning most of its equipment. It was discovered later that it had sought refuge some 16 kilometres to the east. All fifty of its vehicles were recovered undamaged from the paddy fields next day. Gerke himself drove one out to safety. Others were brought out by members of Headquarters and Support Companies and by members of B Company of the US 74th Engineer Battalion.
Ferguson requested reinforcements from Brigadier Burke around 4.30 a.m. A Company of the Middlesex arrived from the south, but it could not be given artillery support and was unable to force its way through the Chinese-controlled area around the battalion headquarters. The company also withdrew to the east, in the wake of the mortarmen.
Ferguson grew particularly concerned about the safety of the Regimental Aid Post which, located in a paddy field across the road from his headquarters, was under fire all night. Some wounded members of Support Company and the battalion headquarters had reached the aid post during the night, where the Medical Officer, Captain D. D. Beard, gave attention from his limited resources in the darkness, assisted by Chaplains A. W. A. Laing and E. B. Phillips and the Salvation Army representative, Major E. C. Robertson. Although the Chinese fired on the aid post, they did not attack it directly; nor did they fire on men when they were loading casualties aboard the battalion's ambulance, which prominently displayed the Red Cross.
At dawn the Chinese intensified their attack on the headquarters perimeter and Ferguson decided that withdrawal was his only option. All members of the light machine-gun section had been either wounded or killed and the Assault Pioneer Platoon had suffered many casualties. They were driven off the high ground which they had been holding, and the Chinese were then able to fire directly into the headquarters position below. Ferguson crossed the road and, much to Beard's relief, told him to move some 3 kilometres along the road south to a new position within the Middlesex perimeter. The whole aid post party made a break for safety and reached the Middlesex area without loss. During this action the Mortar Platoon under Captain P. H. Bennett fought particularly well in holding part of the perimeter. Bennett was later mentioned in despatches, partly for his leadership that night.
Between 5.15 a.m. and 6 a.m. the main body of the headquarters group withdrew, covered by the American tanks, which by then were running very low in ammunition. The Australians withdrew in small batches, well separated. The whole position took some three to four hours to vacate. The Chinese dominated the high ground to the north and west of the road for 2 kilometres and the Australians on foot had to move along the river-bed. A Chinese mortar bomb landed between Ferguson and Argent, injuring neither but blowing a front wheel off the Commanding Officer's jeep. On several occasions the Australian vehicles on the road were halted by enemy machine-gun and mortar fire. Those on board quickly dismounted, took cover and returned the fire until one of the American tanks came up and suppressed the enemy position. The Adjutant, Captain L. A. Eyles, who had displayed great courage throughout the night in personally repulsing enemy attacks, commanded a determined rearguard action during the withdrawal. His bravery had a steadying effect on other members of the headquarters group and he also was mentioned in despatches for his part in this action.
There were three principal Australian casualties in the withdrawal of the battalion headquarters. First, Private Robert Parker, Ferguson's despatch rider, was struck in the hip by enemy machine-gun fire as he was riding southwards along the road. He lost control of his motor cycle and went into a ditch. Parker's Owen gun fired as he fell and jammed. He lay by the road until an American vehicle came past, but when he tried to crawl towards it, he found that his hip was paralysed. Some time after all the Australians and Americans had withdrawn, he regained the ability to move a little and crawled to a nearby house where he cleared his Owen gun and returned enemy fire. Soon a group of Chinese closed in on him. He attempted to withdraw and his Owen gun slipped into some deep mud. Further resistance was pointless; he covered the gun completely in the mud, surrendered and the Chinese forced him to hobble northwards to their rear area. No bones appeared to be broken, although his hip was in poor condition. On his second night in enemy hands he was forced to march forward some 40 kilometres to collect and carry enemy wounded. After several days he was marched 150 kilometres to the northwest to a prison camp, known to the inmates as the Bean Camp, because they were fed little else. (16)
Second, Private H. W. Madden, a signaller attached to the battalion headquarters, suffered concussion at the time of the withdrawal. In the darkness and confusion he was left behind and was soon captured. He resisted Chinese and North Korean attempts to make him collaborate and earned a wide reputation amongst other Commonwealth and allied prisoners for his refusal to bend his spirit in any way. Testimonials provided by many of his fellow prisoners indicate that he displayed outstanding courage during his captivity. Brutal punishments, including repeated savage beatings, were inflicted on him because of his defiance, but Madden remained cheerful and optimistic. Although deprived of food because of his conduct, he shared his meagre supplies with other prisoners who were sick. It must have been clear to Madden that this course would eventually result in his death through malnutrition. He was undeterred and for over six months, although growing steadily weaker, he remained undaunted in his resistance. He died of malnutrition on 6 November 1951 and was posthumously awarded the George Cross for his exemplary conduct. (17)
The third casualty was the Commanding Officer's caravan, a converted 2.5 tonne truck nicknamed Pandora's Box, which became bogged in a ditch during the withdrawal. With great reluctance Ferguson ordered Private E. E. Michels, his batman, to destroy it. Michels poured petrol over the caravan and burned it, saving only the Commanding Officer's Zenith radio, his battle maps and his wife's photograph.
The headquarters group then redeployed within the Middlesex perimeter and set about re-establishing control over the dislocated battalion. Even this area was dangerous. After the arrival of the Australian headquarters group, the Middlesex set up a detachment of two medium machine-guns in bushes nearby, overlooking the Kapyong River valley. They were soon fired on, one member was wounded in the leg, and the detachment withdrew to a safer place. Later the Australians heard some strange calls from immediately forward of the headquarters position and several Chinese soldiers came out of the bushes with their hands up. They were exhausted, their faces were smudged from smoke and they indicated that they were very hungry. The Australians gave them some of their rations, water and cigarettes before providing them with the unaccustomed comfort of riding in a jeep, back to the brigade headquarters. Until the battle of Kapyong relatively few Chinese had surrendered to the Australians. Usually they fought to the last or withdrew skilfully after delaying their pursuers, but that day there were many willing Chinese prisoners, exhausted after the battle and hungry from lack of supplies.
By 6 a.m. Gerke was aware that sounds of action around the battalion headquarters area had ceased, but he did not know that the headquarters had withdrawn. He could still hear the noise of battle coming from around the rifle companies in the forward battle zone. Just then a jeep and trailer were seen approaching the Headquarters Company area. The driver, who was from the battalion's Mortar Platoon, slowed down and shouted, `Bug-out! Battalion headquarters is back down the road. Watch out for the Gooks on the road; they hold the high ground over there!'. As the driver accelerated past the company Gerke ordered his men to withdraw gradually, moving out one vehicle at a time, along the road behind the mortar jeep. Those remaining gave covering fire, from their pits, against any enemy interference with the withdrawal. Finally only one vehicle remained: a 5 tonne truck laden with small arms ammunition and mortar bombs, which refused to start. Its driver remained behind and fortunately the Chinese did not advance into the former Headquarters Company position. The driver managed to start his vehicle late in the afternoon and he brought it back to the Middlesex position safely.
Gerke, accompanied by one of his men, Private R. R. Guest, went to check the American mortar company area before withdrawing. He started the nearest American jeep and trailer and headed south over the paddy fields towards the Middlesex area. Gerke and Guest were fired on by Chinese from high ground to the east but were not hit. As they travelled along the road they rescued six Australian soldiers who were on foot.
When all of Headquarters Company had assembled in the Middlesex area Captain Eyles ordered Gerke to move with as many of his men as possible to secure a ford across the Kapyong River, some 2 kilometres to the east, which the four rifle companies of 3 RAR were intending to use when they withdrew from Hill 504.
The coming of daylight had improved the situation of the four forward companies but the battalion's position was nonetheless serious. The rifle companies were cut off, over 4 kilometres behind the enemy front. Their members had fought hard all night and A Company had suffered nearly fifty casualties who could not be evacuated. The casualties had a particularly difficult time because they could not be given adequate medical attention. The company soon ran out of medical dressings for serious wounds and no spare blankets were available to protect the wounded from the coldness of the night. To make matters worse, Chinese incendiary rounds started fires in the dry post-thaw scrub and flames sometimes raced through the company area, burning wounded men and exploding grenades and small arms ammunition.
Supplies of ammunition, food and medical items were extremely low throughout the forward area and unless the battalion could be concentrated, resupplied and supported, it was in danger of being overwhelmed by a new wave of attacks. Ferguson decided to withdraw B Company from its exposed hill on the western flank to a new position behind C Company.
At 7. 15 a.m. Laughlin was ordered to move between C and D Companies to form a complete battalion perimeter on the high ground of Hill 504. Before departing, B Company men counted 173 Chinese dead on their perimeter and in the valley. A clearing patrol which Laughlin had sent out at 6 a.m. under Warrant Officer II Eric Bradley, the Company Sergeant Major, had captured thirty-nine prisoners and they had to be taken to the new position also. During preparations for the withdrawal, which included the laying of a smokescreen by the New Zealanders, enemy pressure increased on the western flank and B Company suffered its first casualty of the battle when one man was wounded in the arm. Laughlin ordered 6 Platoon to move first, followed by 4 Platoon, the machine-gun section and company headquarters. No. 5 Platoon was to hold the hill until the other two platoons had reached C Company and then cross the open valley. The whole withdrawal was covered by the platoon of American tanks which was still with the company. The company vehicles, onto which eight seriously wounded Chinese had been loaded, were escorted back to the Middlesex position by the tanks, which then occupied the ground immediately below C Company. Throughout the withdrawal B Company exchanged shots with Chinese who were hiding in broken ground, on small rises around Muktun-ni and in the river-bed. The prisoners were divided into groups and dispersed amongst the rifle sections for easier control. The company passed some horrifying sights as it crossed the bodystrewn valley. The prisoners repeatedly pointed at the bodies of their comrades who had been blown to pieces.
Just after 9 a.m., once B Company had occupied its new position, a group of Chinese made a spirited attack on 8 Platoon, at the top of the spur held by C Company. The Chinese were repulsed and made no further assaults on C Company during the day, although they continued sniper fire and mortar bombing for several hours. At 9.30 a.m. Ferguson ordered Laughlin to reoccupy the hill from which B Company had just moved. It now appeared that the 27th Brigade would be reinforced by American troops and their move forward would be facilitated if the Chinese were cleared off the small hill which commanded the road. Also, retention of the hill would have made impossible any Chinese attempt to attack Hill 504 from the western flank. Fifteen minutes later Laughlin ordered 5 Platoon, commanded by Lieutenant K. D. McGregor, brother of the battalion's intelligence sergeant, to clear the ground between C Company and the small hill in preparation for an assault on the summit by the remainder of the company. The platoon soon became involved in a hard fight for control of a knoll between C Company and the old B Company position. This knoll was strongly held by a platoon of Chinese, who were well dug in, using bunkers which had been constructed there at an earlier time. At 10.30 a.m. McGregor ordered his platoon into a frontal assault on the knoll. The two attacking sections advanced across the open ground leading up to it, covered by fire from the reserve section. The Chinese allowed them to-approach to within 15 metres. The defenders then opened fire with machine-guns and rifles and hurled grenades. The Australians suffered seven casualties, including McGregor who was wounded in the face and had to hand over command to Sergeant D. Frazer. The platoon withdrew under cover of supporting machine-gun and 2 inch mortar fire which made the enemy keep their heads down.
Laughlin then ordered Lieutenant L. M. Montgomerie, commander of 4 Platoon, to take over the attack. Just before his men moved into another assault some American tanks arrived from the rear and gave support. Montgomerie led his men across the open ground in a right-flanking attack. They came under fire and suffered a few casualties in the opening phase. When they were within 30 metres of the forward Chinese trench, the weight of enemy fire increased. Montgomerie then led a desperate bayonet charge against the nearest line of trenches. Corporal D. B. Davie, commanding 1 Section on the right flank of the platoon, led his men into the first trenches. In fierce hand-to-hand fighting they cleared the enemy from these trenches at a cost of three casualties. Davie's section then came under heavy machine-gun fire from the rear trenches. He gathered together his remaining men and they hurled themselves at the Chinese. Montgomerie quickly reorganised the whole platoon and they fought their way forward from trench to trench with the grenade and bayonet. The Chinese defended the position bravely but were unable to hold the Australians. The leading members of the platoon then saw that they were under fire from another knoll in front of them. Leaving his rear sections to continue clearing the first position, Montgomerie and Davie's section quickly pressed on to the second knoll. Their aggressiveness was too much for the defenders, some of whom climbed out of their trenches and fled across the open ground. The majority fought to the death. When the whole position had been captured at about 12.30 p.m., fifty-seven enemy bodies were counted in the first position and twentyfour in the second. Montgomerie's platoon had reversed the normal ratio for a successful attack, of three men assaulting for every one in the defences. The whole operation had cost B Company three killed (Corporal W. K. Murphy, Lance Corporal E. A. Devine and Private K. T. Matchett, all of 4 Platoon) and nine wounded (two members of 4 Platoon and seven of 5 Platoon). Montgomerie was awarded a Military Cross for his outstanding leadership. Davie was awarded a Military Medal for his example to other members of the platoon and his complete disregard for his own safety.
Once the knolls had been occupied by 4 Platoon, the men of B Company could see that their former hill position was held in strength by the Chinese and a major attack would be required to dislodge them. Before Laughlin could prepare his plans for this next move he received orders from Ferguson to withdraw. Brigadier Burke had decided during the morning to move the Australian battalion back to the Middlesex area, believing correctly that it would not be able to survive another night of heavy attacks in its exposed, isolated position.
During B Company's battle for the knolls, Ferguson, Argent and Beard rode forward in the tanks of Lieutenant Miller's 1 Platoon, in response to an urgent appeal by O'Dowd to take ammunition to the forward companies and to evacuate the wounded. Ferguson rode in the gun-loader's seat in Miller's tank and Argent crouched on the floor with the radio. The tanks came under fire and Ferguson quickly had to learn how to supply ammunition so that Miller could return the fire. The action went undetected by Argent, who had gone to sleep on the floor. No losses were suffered and at 11 am Ferguson was on the hillside below his forward companies. Just then C Company suffered two casualties when a Chinese medium mortar fired on its position.
Because the Chinese dominated the road south to the Middlesex position, Ferguson ordered his companies to withdraw along a ridge running 3 kilometres to the south-west from Hill 504, some 500 metres east of the Kapyong River. The Middlesex position lay 1 kilometre further south-west of the foot of the ridge and could be reached by the ford which Gerke had been ordered to secure. Ferguson appointed O'Dowd, the senior company commander, to command the withdrawal. The first company, B Company, was not to move until mid-afternoon so that the rearguard would have the protection of darkness as it sought to break contact with the Chinese.
Ferguson and Argent returned to the Middlesex area with the tanks. Wounded Australians rode with them, both inside and. on the rear decks. Several tank crewmen also rode on the rear decks to enable some of the wounded to travel under cover and to prevent those on stretchers from falling off the decks. Sixteen Australian wounded were brought through to safety in two round trips by Miller's platoon, and only two American crewmen were wounded in the process. According to Captain Beard's recollection, the Chinese refrained from firing on the tanks carrying wounded on their two journeys southwards. While in the A Company area, however, the tanks had been fired on accurately by Chinese mortars when loading stretcher cases. United Nations Command soldiers could never take for granted that the Chinese would respect the Red Cross emblem but it is possible that on this occasion the Chinese mortar observers were unaware that they were firing on wounded men being evacuated. There were many episodes, particularly during the static period of the war, in 1952-53, when the Chinese permitted evacuation of allied wounded without attack or harassment.
The tanks replenished their fuel and ammunition and Lieutenant Koch took the whole company forward to patrol the road and to assist in covering the 3 RAR withdrawal. During the fighting on 23 and 24 April, A Company of the 72nd Tank Battalion lost three men killed, twelve wounded and two tanks destroyed. The ammunition expended by the company included 32 000 rounds of .30 calibre machine-gun, 11830 rounds of .50 calibre machine-gun, and 162 rounds of 76 millimetre high explosive. Koch was awarded both the US Distinguished Service Cross and the British Military Cross for his part in the battle. Miller was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. The company was awarded a Presidential Citation for its crucial role in the action.
During the morning of 24 April, D Company, which was on the summit, was under constant and increasingly heavy enemy attack. Commencing at 7 a.m., 12 Platoon, under Lieutenant J. C. Ward, at the forward edge of the company's position, was attacked at intervals of approximately thirty minutes until 10.30 a.m. The security of D Company's position was vital to the whole battalion. Not only did it occupy the commanding heights of Hill 504 but also it protected the battalion's open right flank. No. 12 Platoon repulsed all attacks, which were made up a very steep slope on a narrow front of four to five men supported by many others in depth and by mortar and grenade bombardments. In the first six attacks the Chinese lost some thirty men killed and the defenders suffered seven wounded. The New Zealand gunners played a notable part in D Company's defence right through the day. The artillery observer parties with each of the forward companies were doubled to control accurate fire which was brought in to within 50 metres of the Australian positions. The supply of ammunition caused severe problems for the regimental headquarters. The desperate battle of the 29th Brigade on the Imjin River, together with the action at Kapyong, had depleted the stock of 25 pounder ammunition available forward of the airhead at Seoul. New Zealand regimental and transport platoon vehicles had to be used to ferry ammunition forward to Kapyong from as far afield as Seoul from 23 to 26 April. Every round had to be used effectively. There was no question of being able to indulge in the luxury of a continuous barrage around the forward infantry. On many occasions the gunners broke up enemy attacks or preliminary concentrations, delivering accurate fire in response to the forward observer's directions.
During the morning, Corporal W. J. Rowlinson's 8 Section of 12 Platoon, which had occupied the left forward position on Hill 504, fought particularly hard. Although Rowlinson and six members of his section were wounded, the position was defended vigorously throughout the attacks. The remainder of 12 Platoon gave full support. Men from other sections replaced 'the wounded as they were evacuated to the Company Headquarters area. Rowlinson refused to be relieved and continued to lead the defence of his sector for six hours of hard fighting. He displayed outstanding leadership and bravery in holding the section together during the successive attacks.
His defence played a vital part in maintaining the security of both the company and the battalion position. He was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his part in the action. Another member of his section, Private R. F. A. Smith, was awarded the Military Medal for his part in the morning's combat, despite a bad wound. Smith's pit, on the right flank of 8 Section, bore the brunt of each enemy attack. Eventually the seriousness of his wound compelled his evacuation but his determination and skill helped to inspire the other members of the section to greater efforts.
The stretcher bearers also performed notably in supporting Rowlinson's section. Private R. E. Dunque helped to evacuate all six wounded from their forward pits, under heavy fire. While evacuating the last casualty he was wounded in the temple by an enemy grenade but he continued to perform his duties without regard to his own injury. Lance Corporal H. A. Richey, who was also assisting with evacuation of the wounded from 8 Section, had just returned to the forward position to carry out another casualty when another attack came in. He placed the wounded man across his shoulders and began to move, but heavy enemy fire forced him to take cover. When the fire ceased, he made another attempt to carry the man to safety but was cut down, fatally wounded by another burst of fire from the Chinese. He was mentioned in despatches for his courage and devotion to duty.
A further series of attacks was launched at 11.30 a.m. and continued until near 1.30 p.m. No. 12 Platoon fought them off with determination, well supported by the guns of the 16th Field Regiment. The Chinese failed to break through in a series of costly attempts. The Australians had little knowledge of the casualties the Chinese were suffering because the steepness of the slope afforded concealment of the enemy evacuation movements.
It soon became apparent to the defenders that they were opposing an experienced force. The attacks were prepared and launched rapidly and regularly, despite the casualties suffered. The Chinese were performing a well-practised routine, in which they were excellently supported by the accurate fire from their own 60 millimetre and 81 millimetre mortars. They were also adept in placing light machine-guns on a flank to give covering fire to their assaulting infantry until they were within a few metres of their objective.
From 1.30 p.m. there was a lull in the attacks for one and a half hours, although D Company was continuously fired on by mortars, machine-guns and rifles Captain Gravener decided to move 12 Platoon back to the centre of the company position, believing that if the battle continued into the night, the forward platoor would be overrun. He hoped that with a tighter perimeter his company could continue to maintain its hold on the summit, although the withdrawal of the forward platoon gave the Chinese a more protected line of approach and assembly area for attacks on the ridgeline. Chinese machine-gunners continued to fire on the Australians as they moved, but news of the evacuation did not reach the Chinese mortar crews, who kept up their fire on the vacated position. A new wave of Chinese infantry about to attack was also not informed of the Australian withdrawal and D Company had the satisfaction of seeing a full-scale assault go in on 12 Platoon's old defences. The Australians then subjected the area to intense machine-gun and rifle fire. The artillery also struck the Chinese hard as they endeavoured to establish themselves on the northern end of the ridge.
Gravener then called for air attacks to dislodge the surviving Chinese from the old 12 Platoon area. Unfortunately the spotter aircraft directing the airstrike dropped a spigot flare onto the position occupied by Lieutenant Mannett's 10 Platoon and the Company Headquarters. The two attacking Corsair aircraft then dropped their napalm right into the heart of the D Company defences. The Chinese had already started some fires in the dry scrub on the hill. The napalm set off many-more and the flames raced across the summit, adding to the distress and confusion caused by the accidental attack. Private J. F. Winson; the company radio operator, rescued the commander's radio from the flames in the nick of time. Had the set been destroyed, Gravener estimated later, the final withdrawal of the company could have been jeopardised. Winson played a key part in communicating fire orders to the New Zealanders during the final phase of the thinning-out process, when artillery support was essential to-prevent the rearguard from being overwhelmed by onrushing Chinese. He remained behind in the final group with Gravener and was mentioned in despatches for his actions.
The napalm attack was quickly halted by Captain M. W. Ryan, the company Second-in-Command, who ran out under enemy fire waving the marker panel which had been placed on the ground to identify the Australian position to the pilots. Lieutenant Miller, in the valley below with his tank platoon, also detected that the attack had struck the wrong target and sent messages back through the US communications system to halt the attack.
The napalm killed two Australians, wounded several and destroyed weapons and ammunition which were of great importance to the defence of D Company's position. Private Dunque immediately ran to the assistance of the wounded in 10 Platoon, only to be wounded himself for a second time-in the leg on this occasion--when a grenade exploded in a nearby fire. He refused to be evacuated and assisted more seriously wounded men to safety. During the subsequent six-hour withdrawal march he continued to assist as well as he could while the company fought its way out through difficult terrain along the ridge and down to the river, carrying heavy loads of weapons and equipment in-addition to the wounded on stretchers. Dunque was awarded the Military Medal for his actions.
Gravener had been worried during the day that the Chinese would also attack the company's long and exposed eastern flank. Parties of enemy had been observed moving southwards some 2 kilometres east of his position and out of range of the company's weapons. They had evidently been preparing such an attack and quickly exploited the chaos created by the misdirected napalm strike. No. 11 Platoon, on the main ridge between the summit and 12 Platoon's former position, received a frontal attack immediately after the accident and hurled the Chinese back with heavy casualties. The enemy did not abandon their efforts, however, and continued to attempt to infiltrate D Company's eastern flank throughout late afternoon.
Soon after the airstrike, at approximately 3.30 p.m., the battalion's withdrawal began. B Company moved back first, followed by C, A and D Companies, in that order. O'Dowd, in planning the withdrawal, had been anxious that the Chinese might have predicted the route he intended to take and blocked it. During the afternoon Ferguson had contacted him by radio to say that no allied force would be clearing a way into the forward companies and they would have to fight their way back to the Middlesex position. There was a large and visibly increasing Chinese force attacking the Australians from the north. The Chinese dominated the road between the Australian and Middlesex battalion positions. Other enemy groups were known to be infiltrating around the eastern flank of Hill 504. O'Dowd expected the Chinese to attempt to frustrate the withdrawal in three ways: by continuous frontal attack aimed at making a clean break difficult for the rear protection elements; by flank attacks made soon after the Chinese on B Company's hill observed the withdrawal of B, C and A Companies; and by blocking forces on the withdrawal route, further south along the ridge.
O'Dowd decided to move carefully so that the four companies could give as much support to each other as possible. He moved A, B and C Companies onto the high ground behind D Company then despatched B Company along the ridge to locate enemy positions and dislodge them. The other three companies then withdrew in a leap-frog fashion, with one in a blocking position, one preparing the next blocking position through which the former would withdraw, and one company moving back to the next stage. When Laughlin received his orders, he asked what he should do with his thirty-nine prisoners. O'Dowd had forgotten them in the heat of the moment. The group could not be left behind because they knew too much about the battalion, but a large party of enemy within the withdrawing battalion posed problems of control, particularly if the Australians had to fight their way out through further enemy positions. O'Dowd told Laughlin to take the prisoners with him. They proved to be more of an asset than their captor thought. They assisted in carrying the wounded on stretchers and carried some of the Australians' equipment; they gave no trouble during the long movement.
O'Dowd's fears that the Chinese might have blocked the withdrawal route were not realised. B Company moved back along the ridge and down to the ford without incident, reaching the Middlesex area after dark, where it occupied a position on the south-east of the existing perimeter. Sergeant McGregor, who was waiting near the entrance to the Middlesex area when B Company arrived; surprised by the appearance of the first three men he saw coming up the road. They were Chinese soldiers, but they wore Australian web equipment. C Company the next to withdraw, departing at 4.30 p.m., just after suffering another casualty from sniper fire. After climbing the spur to D Company's perimeter, Saunders led his company south down the main ridge without incident, followed by A and D Companies during the next hour.
D Company continued to bear the weight of the enemy attacks and was prevented from moving at the scheduled time by a particularly determined assault. The attack was preceded by heavy machine-gun and mortar fire. The Chinese infantry then ran headlong at the company's forward weapon pits in an attempt to overrun the position. Once again they were hurled back by vigorous defensive action and Gravener decided to begin thinning out his position before the situation deteriorated. No. 10 Platoon covered the evacuation of the area, closely engaged by the enemy.
During the rapid movement which occurred after the last Chinese attack, one member of the company, Private K. R. Gwyther, was accidentally left behind. Some members of his platoon believed that he was absent assisting with a stretcher party. In fact he was unconscious in a forward pit. He had been in the pit alone after the other occupant, a Bren gunner, had gone to discover what was happening. The Bren gunner did not return to the pit. Gwyther was last seen at 5 p.m. Soon afterwards a shell or a mortar bomb landed close to his parapet, concussed him and collapsed the sides of the pit. When he regained consciousness some hours later, only his head was above ground and in the darkness he saw Chinese all around him, digging in. When they saw him attempting to reach his water-bottle they dug him out and made him assist in carrying their wounded from the battlefield to a collecting point some 10 kilometres to the north.
After several days on this task he was joined by twenty-four American prisoners and marched 150 kilometres to the 'Bean Camp', where he met Parker, the battalion despatch rider who had been captured in the early hours of the morning of 24 April. They were marched to a collecting point on 16 May, where they met Corporal Buck who had been captured in the Ichon sector on 21 January. (18) They marched north again on the night of 5-6 June, en route to Camp 5 at Pyoktong on the Yalu River.
On the second night Buck and Parker dropped out of the column and escaped to the west. After surviving on raw vegetables, bran and salt for eleven days they reached Hunsung-ri where they were befriended by an old Korean who allowed them to rest and gave them food and information about enemy activities in the area. They continued on their way, turning to the south, but were sighted by North Korean troops who recaptured them after a long chase, during which the Australians' bare feet were badly lacerated. They were then bound and subjected to brutal treatment from which they were saved by some Chinese soldiers after heated argument with the North Koreans. They were marched to north of Pyongyang, handed over to North Koreans and taken to another camp near Kangdong, consisting of hillside tunnels and known to prisoners as the Caves. They then marched a short distance north to Camp 12, where they remained until to December when they were taken by truck to Camp 5, at Pyoktong, and they joined Private Hollis, who had been separated from Buck over seven months previously.
Gwyther dropped out of the column with an American on the seventh day of their march northwards from the 'Bean Camp'. They travelled across country to the Taedong River, hoping to reach the Yellow Sea, but were recaptured near the coast by North Koreans. They were marched to Pyongyang where they were gaoled with dissident Chinese soldiers under appalling conditions for a month, during which they became extremely debilitated. After a further two months near Pyongyang they were moved by mule-cart to Camp 5, arriving on 5 September. During their following two years of captivity, the four Australians were active in organising resistance to indoctrination and in preparing attempts to escape by hiding small stocks of food, drawing maps and making compasses. On 25 June 1952 the four escaped with approximately twenty other prisoners in small groups. They were betrayed by an American prisoner who withdrew from the escape a few hours beforehand, and were soon recaptured. The escapees were then subjected to savage punishment and torture for several weeks in what they called the Sweat Box. (19) All four survived this experience, although they were in poor condition.
Parker finally received medical attention for his hip in June 1953. Buck and Parker were released on 6 August 1953, followed by Gwyther and Hollis three days later. Gwyther had been reported as missing in action, believed killed, after the battle of Kapyong, and until the Communists released a list of prisoners on 24 December 1951 it was not known in Australia that he was alive. All four were mentioned in despatches for their outstanding conduct while in captivity. (20) Parker, as mentioned above, had already been awarded another mention in despatches on 19 July 1951 for his services as despatch rider during the advance into, and withdrawal from, North Korea.
The battalion completed its difficult and brilliantly executed withdrawal from Hill 504 aided by a fortunate accident. The Chinese followed up closely and skilful action was required for the small rearguard elements to avoid being overwhelmed. The New Zealand artillery played a vital role in keeping the Chinese at bay. They delivered highly accurate fire, with shells falling only 50 metres behind the rearguard. The confidence of the Australians in the skills of the 16th Field Regiment was so high that one member of D Company asked Gravener to call the fire in even closer. Captain Saunders wrote after the action:
As D Company evacuated their positions Chinese troops were right behind them and many a Chinaman had a dead heat or a photo finish with a 25-pounder Kiwi shell. Sometimes the Chinaman won and sometimes only came second. After darkness had fallen, the Chinese did not move as quickly as the Australians and a clean break from pursuit was finally achieved. (21)
The artillery support available to the forward infantry was augmented by the Americans late in the afternoon: the 213 th Armoured Support Battalion, the 6 1st Field Artillery Battalion and an 8 inch howitzer battery were provided. These
units were placed under control of the 16th Field Regiment. Although their addition had come too late in the action to provide any significant support to 3 RAR, they were able to give 2 PPCLI valuable assistance that night.
In the gathering darkness D and A Companies were vigorously pursued along the ridge by the Chinese. Captain R. Murdoch, Second-in-Command of A Company, and in temporary command while O'Dowd was commanding the withdrawal as a whole, was most concerned lest he and his men should be brought to bay when they reached the Kapyong River in an exhausted condition and with little ammunition. Owing to difficulties of communication and navigation along the rough ridgeline in the dark, parts of A Company became separated and the last two platoons descended to the river too early to strike the ford.
When they reached a deserted part of the bank they realised their mistake and immediately turned to the west again, following along the river-bank to the ford. The Chinese did not follow this sudden final turn and plunged on into the river, giving A Company an unexpected opportunity to break free from its pursuers. The Chinese were detected by the Canadians on Hill 677 and were fired on. Fortunately the Canadian fire did not hit the Australians. This possibility had been foreseen, but the complexities of the radio relay system required to link the Canadians and Australians were such that there was no guarantee that the withdrawing Australians would not be mistaken by the Canadians for Chinese as they crossed the Kapyong River. On this occasion the Australians' luck held and no accidents occurred.
Meanwhile, Lieutenant Young, Second-in-Command of B Company, was waiting on the enemy side of the ford for the last three companies to pass through. C Company arrived first, followed by the Company Headquarters and a platoon of A Company, and then came D Company. Young waited as long as he dared for the two missing A Company platoons, but had to order his men to fall back gradually before the platoons arrived. When his last man was some 80 metres on his way back across the river, Young finally decided that he should withdraw, but while crossing the river he looked back and saw two columns of men beginning to cross. They were the missing platoons which had followed the river-bank to the proper crossing point. By 11.30 p.m. all elements of the battalion had reported in. Ferguson checked them through, waiting at a pass on the road into the new position. When they reached their new company locations they enjoyed the sleep of exhaustion. It was Anzac Eve. Saunders later described his emotions at that time:
At last I felt like an Anzac and I imagine there were 600 others like me. (22)
The battle had cost the Australians dearly. Thirty-two men were killed, fiftynine were wounded and three were captured. They had withstood a continuous attack by far greater numbers of Chinese for over twenty-four hours. Although they did not know it when they reached the Middlesex area, the men of 3 RAR had halted the Chinese advance in their sector and no further attempts were made to break through on the eastern flank of the 27th Brigade. Next day the Australians went forward to the former battalion headquarters area and reclaimed abandoned equipment. The Chinese had made no attempt to destroy it.
A Company had fought off a series of heavy attacks all night and regained its original position next morning. B Company had defended its hill skilfully all night and fought a furious action next day. C Company had not been under such intense pressure, but withstood sniper and mortar fire throughout 24 April. D Company stubbornly defended the vital summit of Hill 504 all day and covered the most crucial phase of the battalion's withdrawal. The withdrawal was conducted immaculately by Major O'Dowd and the four rifle companies. Lieutenant Colonel Ferguson, the Battalion Headquarters and Support Company had been in the unusual position of having to fight a major and prolonged action for their own survival while attempting to control the whole action and support the rifle companies. Ferguson had to direct two defensive battles and two withdrawals while constantly exposed to personal danger. The 16th New Zealand Field Regiment, despite the difficulties of its night withdrawal from the north, provided excellent support and made a major contribution to the survival of 3 RAR during 24 April. The American tank company also played a vital role in supporting and supplying the Australians and in saving many wounded from death on the battlefield.
The combined Australian - New Zealand action was singularly appropriate on the eve of their first spectacular partnership in combat on Gallipoli Peninsula thirty-six years previously. The addition of American support symbolised the new strategic partnership which Spender had achieved during Dulles's visit to Canberra in February. For many of the men who had crossed from Japan to Korea with the battalion in September 1950, this battle was to be their last major action before completing their operational tour. They had fought hard, in appalling weather, amidst chaos and confusion on occasion, in operations which had ranged far over the Korean peninsula. They had become acknowledged experts in all four phases of ground warfare: advance, attack, defence and withdrawal. They had achieved that smooth integration born of mutual confidence, which is essential to the making of an outstanding combat unit. During this period the battalion had suffered 8'7 killed, 291 wounded and 5 captured.
If any one factor stands out in 3 RAR's conduct at Kapyong it is the unfailingly high morale which its members showed throughout the battle. It was difficult enough to fight off waves of attacks at night. It was yet more demanding to endure the following day in a relatively open position, exposed to the enemy on all sides, cut off from other battalions by several kilometres and under constant fire. The greatest test of morale was the final withdrawal, which was carried out by exhausted men in considerable danger without giving way to depression, fear or panic of any kind. Many of those who have related their experiences of this battle, both officers and men, have remarked on the cohesion and spirit shown by the whole battalion, right to the time when it reached the Middlesex area.
Credit for this performance belongs to all members of the battalion, but particularly to Ferguson. He was an outstanding fighting soldier and battalion commander in the finest traditions of the First AIF and the Second AIF. A former private in the battalion said of him:
He would turn up wherever you went, whether you were humping mortar ammunition or whatever. He would always have a crack at you whenever he appeared, and you would think, 'He is not a bad sort of a bastard-we will do some more for him'. (23)
Although normally taciturn and cool in his relations with his subordinates, he had a great capacity to raise morale when he addressed his companies. He is remembered by his men both as a strict disciplinarian and as a good performer at battalion concert parties. His men were confident that he would do everything possible to assist them to fight effectively and trusted that he would never commit them to a poorly conceived operation. They knew that he had fought through the 1939-45 War, from marking the way to the start-line at the battle of Bardia as a 23-year-old lieutenant on the night of 1- 2 January 1941 through to the New Guinea campaign, winning both the Military Cross and a mention in despatches. He made a strong impact on his American allies during the battle. Koch has written:
Bravery was routine to him. His battle knowledge and execution was superb. I must say most outstanding in my view was the total respect and esteem he was held in by his officers and men. (24)
Miller also has stated:
His unit must have been a reflection of him, his officers and non-commissioned officers. I observed him personally on our forays into and out of the area of the encircled Australian soldiers, during which time Colonel Ferguson was calm, acted like he was in total command of the situation, and that his organisation would triumph. He demonstrated great concern for his wounded and his encircled men and had no apparent regard for his personal safety. He exposed himself to enemy fire by getting out of the tank, speaking to the wounded, and walking among his troops as if it was just a practice drill back in Australia. (25)
Brigadier Burke recommended Ferguson for an immediate award of the Distinguished Service Order for outstanding leadership. The recommendation was approved with unusual speed and the award was made on 1 May, when Lieutenant General Robertson made a special visit to present it to Ferguson at the headquarters of the 28th Brigade.
After the Australians had withdrawn, the weight of the Chinese advance fell on the Canadians, on Hill 677 to the west. Early in the morning of 25 April the Chinese launched heavy and sustained attacks on the left companies of 2 PPCLI, concentrating their thrusts along the ridgeline from Hill 865, 2 kilometres to the west. During this phase a rare, possibly unique, order was given to the New Zealand field regiment: the guns were to engage one of the predesignated target areas (defensive fire tasks) in front of the Canadians continuously at the slow rate of fire (two rounds per gun per minute) instead of simply firing a designated number of rounds. Thus twenty-four rounds exploded every thirty seconds in a target area some 150-200 metres across. After fifteen minutes the rate of fire was halved, to 'very slow', in order to conserve ammunition. Despite the weight of this fire, Chinese attacks continued, and after three or four minutes at the `very slow' rate the Canadians asked that it be increased to the 'slow' rate. By then the Chinese had penetrated one of the company positions and the company commander requested the guns to shell his own area in order to clear the attackers out, while the defenders took what cover they could. This fire achieved its purpose but it took a further ten minutes of continuous shelling of the approaches to the defences before the Chinese gave up their assault. This action, which lasted some thirty-five minutes, required 1500 rounds of 25 pounder ammunition and many thousands of Canadian mortar and small arms rounds. It was repeated on several occasions and altogether the New Zealanders fired some 10 000 rounds in support of the Canadians that night.
By dawn 2 PPCLI was in a similar situation to that of 3 RAR on the previous day, isolated from the main brigade position and in danger from enemy attacks on all sides. Supplies of ammunition and food were parachuted to the Canadians on the morning of 25 April. In the afternoon the road to the rear was cleared of enemy and reopened. The Chinese did not renew their assaults on 2 PPCLI, which had lost ten killed and .twenty-three wounded during the battle. Together the two Commonwealth battalions, the New. Zealand field regiment and the American company of tanks had broken the offensive of a full Chinese division. By 1 May the first effort of the Communist fifth phase offensive was spent and General Van Fleet began preparations for the Eighth Army to return to the Kansas Line.
In launching their rapid drive southwards through the broken remnants of the 6th ROK Division and on to the Australians and Canadians guarding the approaches to Kapyong, the Chinese had made mistakes similar to those of the Japanese on the Kokoda Trail in 1942. The terrain was rugged and mountainous. There were no roads to enable them to bring forward supplies and reinforcements quickly. Their forward troops were fighting at great distances, for foot soldiers, from their support bases and logistic elements. Although both the Japanese in 1942 and the Chinese in 1951 pressed ahead vigorously, flushed with the success of early victories, they were soon exhausted when brought to battle by determined defenders in their path. Their attempt at a dramatic coup de main was frustrated and they had to withdraw, regroup and make the more elaborate but also more obvious preparations required for a major set-piece offensive against a stout enemy who was in good heart following his own success. 3 RAR, 2 PPCLI and A Company, 72nd Tank Battalion, were awarded the high distinction of a Presidential Citation by President Truman for their parts in the battle in which they displayed such gallantry, determination and esprit de corps in accomplishing their missions as to set them apart and above other units participating in the campaign, and by their achievements they have brought distinguished credit to themselves, their homelands and all freedom-loving nations. (26)
The 16th Field Regiment was awarded a Presidential Citation by Dr Syngman Rhee. The conduct of the Australians, Canadians and New Zealanders at the battle of Kapyong had won them the highest respect of their allies.
Robert O’Neill, Australia in the Korean war 1950-1953 : volume 2 : combat operations (The Australian War Memorial and The Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra, 1985) : 131-160.
6. Captain Gorman was one of the few Royal Australian Armoured Corps officers to serve in an amoured unit during the Korean war. No Australian armoured units were sent to Korea. Through personal contacts he had been invited by the 8th Hussars to join them in Korea, and the Australian Army approved the attachment. His account of the attempt to relieve the Gloucestexs is in `Korean Relief Column', Stand-To, vol. 4, no. 4, July-August 1954, pp. 1-5
9. Barclay, op. cit., pp. 64-6. For an account of this battle and the Gloucesters' subsequent experiences in captivity see Anthony Farrar-Hockley, The Edge of the Sword, Frederick Muller, London, 1954. Farrar-Hockley was the battalion's Adjutant in Korea. He made several attempts to escape from captivity in North Korea. His contacts with Australian prisoners of war are described in Chapter 23. In the late 1970's, as General Sir Anthony Farrar-Hockley, he was commissioned to write the official history of Britain's participation in the Korean war.
11. Barclay, op. cit., p. 67; Wood, op, cit-, p. 73; WD 27th Brigade, 23 April 1951. I am grateful to Colonel R.K.G. Porter, who was then Adjutant of the 16th New Zealand Field Regiment, for detailed information on the regiment's activities as related throughout this chapter.
13. From this point in the chapter, individual sources are not cited, because they are so numerous and have to be interwoven frequently. The sources used include the War Diaries of the 27th Brigade and 3 RAR; a special report on the battle by 3 RAR, including detailed accounts by each of the company commanders; the books by Barclay, Bartlett and Wood cited previously; James J. Atkinson, The Kapyong Battalion, NSW Military Historical Society, Sydney, 1977; Lieutenant Colonel Ray Stuart, `Prelude to ANZAC Day', Canberra Times, 25 April 1979, pp. 2,4; and papers kindly made available by Stuart, which he had gathered in the course of his own research. These papers include correspondence with participants, records of interviews and post-action reports. I am also grateful to Colonel I. B. Ferguson, DSO, MC, for the use of his marked map of the Kapyong battlefield which he has presented to the Australian War Memorial. This account is also based on the author's interviews with many participants, several of whom have commented on many drafts of this chapter.
18. Private T. H. J. Hollis, who had been with Buck, was marched northwards on 24 April with a party of 100 prisoners. He reached Camp 5, Pyoktong, on 12 August, where he was later joined by Buck, Gwyther and Parker (see Chapter 23).