70th Anniversary of the out break of the Korean War. 25 June 1950

On this day 70 years ago in 1950 Kim il Sung launched an armoured invasion south of the 38th parallel using armour supplied by Stalin with Soviet advisors the North Koreans had captured Seoul by the 28th June 1950. Amid frantic US-led diplomacy-aided by the absence of the Soviet Delegation, boycotting the organisation in protest at the UN's refusal to grant a seat to Mao's China - the UN Security Council passed resolutions on the 25 and 27 June recommending UN members act to 'restore international peace and security in the area.On the 7th July the UN Security Council recommended that UN forces be placed under US command and General McArthur was put in charge of United Nations Command.

The first clash between the North Koreans and US forces was on the 5th July when a Regimental Combat Team - RCT Smith was overrun by North Korean armour near the the town of OSAN about 40K south of Seoul (near the present day USAF Osan and Camp Humpries). Further troops were sent from Japan from the 24ID and 25 ID but as they had been occupation troops in Japan they were unprepared for the conditions in Korea. The US and ROK forces were pushed back to a perimeter outside the southern city of Pusan.

The first British troops arrived in Korea on the 29th August in the Pusan perimeter and were quickly put in the line as they were desperatly needed. They consisted of the Infantry from 27th British Infantry Brigade in Hong Kong and consisted of 1 Middlsex and 1 Argyles. There were no supporting arms and they were nicknamed the 'Woolworth' Brigade. On September 30th they were joined by 3RAR, and in November by 29th British Brigade in November. 41 Commando RM arrived in October and would go on to distinguish themselves with the USMC in the Battle of the Chosin Resevoir as Task Force Drydale with the frozen Chosin in the most northerly Korean province next to Siberia in conditions similar to the Russian front.

In 1951 the two original British Brigades together with a newly arrived Canadian Brigade formed the 1st Commonwealth Division and fought in the defensive battles in the area of the Hook on the 38th Parallel until the Armistice in July 1953. Britain supplied 5 Infantry battalions and an Armoured Regiment to the Division plus supporting arms. The RN was involved virtually from day 1 and two RN cruisers and four USN supplied Naval Gunfire support to the Inchon landings in September 1950 and provided a carrier battle group with air strikes and Naval bombardment for the rest of the war. HMS Belfast was involved in some of the earliest fighting, supporting troops with gunfire in company of USS Juneau on the 19 July 1950. In July 1952 she would be hit by a 75mm shell from a NK shore battery killing two sailors.

Although an armistice was signed in July 1953, there has never been a peace treaty and over 7,000 ROK military, police and civillians have been killed since 1953 by border clashes and NK raids on the South. The last british battalion left Korea in 1957. Over 1,000 British military personnel were KIA in the war with most being buried in the UN cemetery in Pusan/Busan although a few are still MIA from the fighting in 1950/51 mostly in the North. The South Koreans to this day hold the British miltary with awe and hold us in high regard for the exploits of the soldiers/sailors/marines and airmen of 1950- 53, many of them 18 or 19 year old National Servicemen. It might be the 'forgotten war' in the west but it certainly isn't in South Korea, who acknowledge that the fact that they are a successful modern democracy and with a world class economy and standard of living is down to the sacrifices of the UNC troops including 36,000 from the USA.
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For those living in or visiting the Republic of Korea, the war museum in Seoul is well worth a visit.
Point of order, there is a E in Argyle street, however the only Inf Rgt bestowed with the battle honour Balaclava has a L instead of the E ;)

The Argyll’s were a mix of both war time and national service jocks. After a hard year of fighting they came home to Scotland as heros.
The jocks starred as extras in the film Rob Roy, where the battle scenes resulted in a few unpopular NCOs battered authentically on the silver screen.

For those living in or visiting the Republic of Korea, the war museum in Seoul is well worth a visit.
I have to second that. Entry is free and it covers all the wars that Korea has been involved in since earliest times. Most of them where they have been trampled on by their neighbours from the Mongols, Chinese and Japanese. The largest part is on the Korean war with a section on Britain and the Commonwealth's involvement. There is a good section on South Korea's involvement in the Vietnam war between 1965-73 where they supplied the largest foreign contingent after the USA.

There are some cool exibits outside the museum as well such as a B52 Bomber, F4 Phantom, Huey, Cobra gunship, T34, various ROK and North Korean Armour and a replica of a South Korean Patrol boat which was involved in a battle with North Korean warships on the Northern Line limits in 2002. They have marked all the shell hits on it with red circles. You can clamber all around the boat.
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I have previously mentioned that 27th British Brigade was joined by 3 Royal Australian Regiment in September 1950. In January/February 1951 they were joined by 2nd Battalion Princesss Patricias Canadian Light Infantry and 16 Field Regiment Royal New Zealand Artillery and became 28th Commonwealth Brigade.

In April 1951 the two British battalions of this Brigade - 1 Middlesex and 1 Argyles were being replaced by 1 KSLI and 1 KOSB when the CPV spring offensive hit the UN forces. While 29 British Brigade with the Glosters, 1RUR, 1 RNF, 8th Hussars and 45 Field Regiment RA were fighting the epic 'Battle of the Imjin River', 3RAR and 2 PPCLI were also fighting an epic action at the 'Battle of Kapyong'.

Battle of Kapyong

Both 3RAR and 2PPCLI received US Presidential Citations for their actions which are still celebrated today in both battalions.

In May 1951 25th Canadian Brigade arrived in Korea and 2 PPCLI joined them.

28th Commonwealth Brigade was de-activated after the Korean war, but reformed in Malaya in 1955 as the Commonwealth Strategic Reserve. Consisting of one British battalion, one Australian battalion, and one New Zealand battalion with supporting units and Brigade staff drawn from all three nations with the Brigadier rotating between the three, its units saw action in the Malayan Emergency and the Borneo Confrontation. In 1964 the Brigade was based at Terendak Camp near Malacca on the west coast of Malaysia.

In 1971 it moved to Singapore where it became 28 ANZUK Brigade based in the north of the island in Nee Soon camp and the former 3 Commando Brigade camps in Sembawang. The British battalion being 1 RHF based in Nee Soon camp. They were replaced in 1973 by 1 Gordon Highlanders from 1973 until November 1975 when they became the last British battalion in Singapore.

The 2nd Gordons had been one of the pre war battalions based in Singapore from 1936 until the fall of Singapore at Selerang Barracks.

The Australians pulled out of ANZUK in 1974 with the last battalion being 6RAR. It then became 28 British Brigade until it was disbanded in November 1975. The last British troops left Singapore on the 28th February 1976.

The Kiwis remained until July 1989 with 1 RNZIR at Dieppe Barracks Singapore as part of New Zealand Force South East Asia. There is still a small RN presence in the form of Naval Party 1022 who maintain fuel depots at the former RN Naval base in Sembawang for visting ANZUK and USN ships.


I shall never forget how in SW London, a lad who was one of the older paperboys, suddenly was no longer picking up his sack of the morning paperround at the local newsagent.
A few months later in 1951 a group of us met up with him again, and this previously mild tempered lad, was now an easily angered individual who would fly off at the slightest remark. It turned out he had been called up at the age of 18years for two years National Service, and after initial training had been sent out to Korea. It wouldn't happen today......would it?

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