'Guy Fawkes' Battle

Today marks the 59th anniversary of the Korean War 'Guy Fawkes' battle - Kowang San - in which 1st Bn The King's Own Scottish Borderers bore the brunt of an attack by a Chinese division. Bill Speakman won the Victoria Cross that night, many other awards were hard won, including, uniquely, a DSO for a young National Service subaltern - William (now Sir William) Purvis.

I had the honour of serving with veterans of that battle - they were some men!

Lest we forget.
Bill Speakman, a Boyo in his own right.
Tale I wuz told was that the Border's where running the Brigade Nick and Williams was let out to do his duty.
Was said that after running out of rounds, he exhausted all the grenades then ended up throwing beer bottles (Empty, I trust) at the on coming Chinese.
Last tale I heard was that he had had his VC stolen.

John. The beer bottle tale is an urban myth! They did throw rocks though - and just about everything else they could get their hands on!
Bill actually sold his VC - much to the chagrin of RHQ KOSB - he wears a replica nowadays, and of course the regimental museum has replicas of his medals on display. Bill was at the KOSB Association's annual Minden Day celebrations at their old RHQ in Berwick a couple of years ago. There's a great photograph of him sitting with two others from his company who were present at the battle - a VC, a DCM and a MM. Not many left now.


Book Reviewer
Another Guy Fawkes day battle in Korea, this time in 1950 in the midst of the first, shock Chinese offensive.
I will offer a free ale to anyone on this forum who has even heard of it: Pakchon.

27th Infantry Brigade (1 Argylls, 1 Middlesex, 3 Royal Australians) are on the extreme left flank on the UN line in North Korea.
They wake up on Nov 5 to find Chinese attacking US artillery five miles to their rear...
Air recce reports an entire Chinese Division bypassing the brigade, with the aim of cutting them off from the Chongchon River behind them...
Men seeing the Chinese movement are reminded of Macbeth: Entire forests appear to be in motion...
American general sends message that he "thought the world" of 27th Brigade (ie they are written off by US Command)...
Argyll platoon holding a hill dominating the road to the rear is overrun in gruesome circumstances...
Night falls...
A CO is relieved of his command...

Remarkable stuff, but almost completely unknown at present. Watch this space next April...

RE: Bill Speakman, VC
I had the honour of hosting Bill to the Seoul Foreign Correspondents Club this April. There were Korean OTC Cadets in attendance as well as hacks and Bill actually got a bit choked up: He ended up thanking the Koreans for inviting him back to Seoul so he could see the extraordinary progress Korea has made since the war. (A reaction a fair number of vets have, but you don't often see a VC holder with tears in his eyes) He is quite a fellow and is one of those rare heroes who - with his imposing height, bushy eyebrows, brooding stare and grey beard - actually LOOKS like a hero.

The beer bottle myth is exactly that - a myth. He threw crates of hand grenades, but no bottles.

He is very irritated that this story still circulates.
Bill Speakman was one of the hero's of my childhood.
My elder brother just missed out on National Service and I can still remember him and his schoolmates discussing Korea.
Speakman was frequently mentioned. That's where I learned the Bottle story and it was from the News of the World that I read the story of him and his Sgts Mess adventure.
We have one man retired here, who served with The Dukes at The Hook if I remember correctly, but I haven't had contact for over a year now, his Misses don-ta like me.
Best of Luck to Bill he's had a hard life and good to see him receiving some appreciation.

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