QUESTION: Massacre in Pass on Northwest Frontier


Book Reviewer

I am currently researching/writing on the massacre of the US 2nd Infantry Divsion in their attempt to break through a six-mile fire block at Kunu-ri Pass (North Korea, Winter 1950). This remains the worst disaster suffered by the US Army in the years since 1945.

The slaughter appalled British troops holding open - against considerable Chinese pressure - the southern end of the pass: the MO of the Middlesex, inundated with American wounded, subsequently suffered a nervous breakdown, and those interviewees I have spoken to recall it with brilliant clarity 60 years later.

Here is what one of the most competent British company commanders, Major David Wilson, 1 Argylls, had to say about it:

"2 regts of US 2nd Div withdrew through Kunu-ri in Motor Transport and they tried to drive through by day and they were massacred. I have never seen trucks coming with blood running out of the scuppers before. Command and control had completely gone and two regts were very nearly wiped out. It was a dreadful business. Midsex was sent up to hold the pass- had quite a sticky time too, but again did not make the mistake of trying to drive through the enemy. Strangely enough, there was a historical parallel on NW Frontier in 1937 when a road bound column was caught in very much same conditions not such a big column and was absolutely massacred by the tribes. Motto: Don’t try and drive through mountain passes with enemy on either side"

(Note: I am quoting Wilson's Imperial War Musuem interview transcript here)

Does anyone know of the incident in the Northwest Frontier Wilson is referrrig to here?

FYI, Wilson was an Argylls officer, and had served in India prior to WWII.

Thanks in advance for any info/leads, either on this thread or via PM.

FYI, the writing/research is for "Scorched Earth, Black Snow: The Commonwealth vs Communism, Korea, 1950" due for publication next spring.
Waziristan campaign 1936–1939–1939

An example of this occurred in April 1937, when a convoy from Wana was ambushed in the Shahur Tangi defile. Using captured mountain guns and modern rifles, the vehicles were destroyed and the exits blocked, and in the ensuing battle seven officers and 45 men were killed, while another 47 were wounded. The tribesmen did not have everything their way, however, as the British began quartering the troubled areas and destroying hostile villages with both air and ground forces. These forces included five batteries of mechanised field artillery, two companies of Mk II and Mk IIb Light Tanks and six squadrons of aircraft including Hawker Harts, Westland Wapitis and Hawker Audaxs.

That took some finding! :D
Have enjoyed your
To the last Round, a good read and well worth the purchase.

I will ask my Old friend who I know got as far as the Khyber Pass if he as any recollections.
I have just had a reply from my 90 year old Sapper which I quote below.
Lyall Grant later rose to General officer rank.


Thank you for the NWF URL, not yet had time to view.

About the massacre you ask about, yes, I had read something, but cannot find it at the moment. But I read an article in the December 2009 issue of REJ that mentions it

In 1938, 2Lt Lyall Grant RE, with three other YOs from Chatham who had been posted to India, voted to skip the boring voyage on a troopship and buy a Ford station-wagon, and drive to India. He wrote an article about the journey in the December 2009 issue of the RE Journal.

After five weeks language study at the Bengal S&M depot in India he was sent to a place in South Waziristan. He had to join an armoured car convoy going to Wana. As the only officer heading for Wana, he was in charge. He writes that "...other subalterns had great fun..." telling about a convoy to Wana that had been ambushed by the Mahmud tribe the previous year (ie. 1937) in which seven British officers and 45 Indian soldiers were killed.

I will bring the REJ with me next time we are due to meet. Or you may wish to call earlier round for it. There is plenty of other good stuff in it."

Maj Roy late RE psc, my hero.
Joined TA day of Munich, commissioned from the ranks, Burma Jan 41 -Aug 45, mined the Sittang Bridge, Twice, and as he says spent 41 blowing up Burma and 44-45 repairing it.
Came to Bangkok in 45 to lock up jap, decided he loved the place and retired here 46 years ago when he left HM Forces.
A marvelous raconteur, has a fund of tales on matter military life in general and a Sapper to the end.


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