Victoria Cross Winners of the Korean War by Stephen Wynn

ARRSE Rating
3.00 star(s)
The book is slightly mis-titled in that this not only deals with the VC winners but also two men who were awarded the George Cross for actions while PoWs.

There were four VCs awarded for the Korean War, 2 to Glosters, 1 to A&SH and one to KOSB. The George Crosses went to Lt Terence Waters, Glosters and Fusilier Derek Kinne, Royal Northumberland Fusiliers.

The book starts off with an explanation of the reasons for the war and the run up to it, and then covering the countries that took part, although the main effort was by the USA. All of this was done under the auspices of the newly formed United Nations.

We then have a chapter each for the winners of the award giving not only the circumstances of the award but also the background and life of the people involved. Interestingly, the author was able to interview Bill Speakman, the last living recipient at that time. Bill was an In-Pensioner at the Royal Hospital Chelsea at the time. These chapters are the meat of the book and very interesting. This war is not well known and was somewhat in the shadow of WW2 so it is good to get a book detailing these actions.

VC winners.jpg
The author then has a couple of chapters going more in to the war itself, outcomes and how it was received and perceived in the UK, especially in local newspapers. Again interesting and considering the way the armed forces are perceived today by the media, very refreshing.

The book then goes on to list all the units from the Commonwealth Brigade who served in Korea, which yet again is interesting, amazing just how many UK and Commonwealth troops were actually involved in the Korean War.

The one thing I have about the book is minor but a tad niggly. It is obvious that the author has not served in the armed forces as there are a couple of schoolboy errors which would probably not have occurred had he done so. However, these are minor and don’t really detract from the book.

This book gives one a background into the War plus, obviously, the worthy winners of the VC or GC, not all of whom came home, but in no way is a definitive account, which to be fair, the author does not claim..

3/5 Mr MRHs

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Just off the top of my head, wasn't there a DCLI Lt by the name of Curtis awarded a posthumous VC ?
Perhaps my memory is completely at fault. Perhaps if he existed, he served with a different regiment if re-called to the colours.
 
2 Glosters ? Shouldn't Philip Curtis count as DCLI ?

Edit: Just seen post #2. Curtis was DCLI att 1 GLOSTERS

IIRC Speakman was BW at the time, att 1KOSB, but he later transferred permanently to KOSB
 
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Sgt Speakman at 4:00 minutes in
Look at Life is well off with that one - the regiment (and Bill Speakman) on parade was definitely 1KOSB at the time of the feature and not BW as inferred.

My own guess, based on the written experiences of some others in different regiments at that time, was that 1KOSB didn't do attached- new drafts would have been subsumed into the new regiment, cap badge and all.
"You're one of us, now"
The paperwork would have caught up later.
My guess (and I have no confirmation) is that if cap badges were worn in that battle, Bill Speakman would have been wearing that of the KOSB.

Edited to add,

I believe the Bill Speakman section of the feature was filmed in Edinburgh, late 1961, when 1 KOSB were on public duties just (as mentioned) before setting off for Aden.
 
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QRK2

LE
Look at Life is well off with that one - the regiment (and Bill Speakman) on parade was definitely 1KOSB at the time of the feature and not BW as inferred.

My own guess, based on the written experiences of some others in different regiments at that time, was that 1KOSB didn't do attached- new drafts would have been subsumed into the new regiment, cap badge and all.
"You're one of us, now"
The paperwork would have caught up later.
My guess (and I have no confirmation) is that if cap badges were worn in that battle, Bill Speakman would have been wearing that of the KOSB.

I don't know about KOSB but the Gloucesters definitely had their cap badges with them. 'Lofty' Large spoke later that his was all that he could initially find to use as a spoon (and it wasn't very good for that purpose) after capture.
 
Look at Life is well off with that one - the regiment (and Bill Speakman) on parade was definitely 1KOSB at the time of the feature and not BW as inferred.

My own guess, based on the written experiences of some others in different regiments at that time, was that 1KOSB didn't do attached- new drafts would have been subsumed into the new regiment, cap badge and all.
"You're one of us, now"
The paperwork would have caught up later.
My guess (and I have no confirmation) is that if cap badges were worn in that battle, Bill Speakman would have been wearing that of the KOSB.
He would have worn a KOSB cap badge as is normal for such attachments, but at the time of his VC action he was still BW.

Another attached individual during the same engagement in which Speakman earned his VC was Patrick Lydon, RNF att 1 KOSB..
He was the last British soldier to be convicted of cowardice.
 
Look at Life is well off with that one - the regiment (and Bill Speakman) on parade was definitely 1KOSB at the time of the feature and not BW as inferred.

My own guess, based on the written experiences of some others in different regiments at that time, was that 1KOSB didn't do attached- new drafts would have been subsumed into the new regiment, cap badge and all.
"You're one of us, now"
The paperwork would have caught up later.
My guess (and I have no confirmation) is that if cap badges were worn in that battle, Bill Speakman would have been wearing that of the KOSB.

Edited to add,

I believe the Bill Speakman section of the feature was filmed in Edinburgh, late 1961, when 1 KOSB were on public duties just (as mentioned) before setting off for Aden.

Stan,

You are absolutely correct, 'Big Bill' was always emphatic about being KOSB.
The scene featuring Bill in the news clip was set in Napier Barracks Folkestone, spring of 1964, 1KOSB had recently returned from their two year tour in Aden and were about to return to the Radfan on operational service as Spearhead Bn of Strategic Reserve. Bill accompanied us on that tour too!

Best wishes,

BD
 
He would have worn a KOSB cap badge as is normal for such attachments, but at the time of his VC action he was still BW.

Another attached individual during the same engagement in which Speakman earned his VC was Patrick Lydon, RNF att 1 KOSB..
He was the last British soldier to be convicted of cowardice.

Charged by the same Borderer who recommended Bill Speakman for the VC.
 
The book then goes on to list all the units from the Commonwealth Brigade who served in Korea, which yet again is interesting, amazing just how many UK and Commonwealth troops were actually involved in the Korean War.
Minor point, but it was the Commonwealth Division. Formed in late 1951 with 25 Canadian Infantry Brigade, 29 British Brigade and 28 Commonwealth Brigade (two British and one battalion from Royal Australian Regiment, with 16 Regiment RNZA and an Indian Parachute Field Ambulance, this brigade was renamed from 27 British Brigade the first British troops sent to Korea in August 1950 from HK to the Pusan perimeter with 1 Argyles and 1 Middlesex).
 
Just to put this BW/KOSB thing to bed, this

Private Speakman, a Black Watch soldier temporarily attached to the 1st Battalion of the King’s Own Scottish Borderers, was acting as a runner for B company, positioned on a ridge known as Hill 217 on 4th November 1951.

From this


Having served with Big Bill, he was always vehement in maintaining he was a Borderer when he was awarded his VC. The photo in the piece quite clearly shows him wearing a KOSB regimental tie....photos of Speakman from the Korean War show him with a KOSB cap badge in his bonnet...he was wearing KOSB uniform for his investiture too.
In Bill's words, "I felt at home as soon as I arrived in the KOSB, it was such a lovely Regiment.

RIP Bill

XXV!
 
The book is slightly mis-titled in that this not only deals with the VC winners but also two men who were awarded the George Cross for actions while PoWs.

There were four VCs awarded for the Korean War, 2 to Glosters, 1 to A&SH and one to KOSB. The George Crosses went to Lt Terence Waters, Glosters and Fusilier Derek Kinne, Royal Northumberland Fusiliers.

The book starts off with an explanation of the reasons for the war and the run up to it, and then covering the countries that took part, although the main effort was by the USA. All of this was done under the auspices of the newly formed United Nations.

We then have a chapter each for the winners of the award giving not only the circumstances of the award but also the background and life of the people involved. Interestingly, the author was able to interview Bill Speakman, the last living recipient at that time. Bill was an In-Pensioner at the Royal Hospital Chelsea at the time. These chapters are the meat of the book and very interesting. This war is not well known and was somewhat in the shadow of WW2 so it is good to get a book detailing these actions.

The author then has a couple of chapters going more in to the war itself, outcomes and how it was received and perceived in the UK, especially in local newspapers. Again interesting and considering the way the armed forces are perceived today by the media, very refreshing.

The book then goes on to list all the units from the Commonwealth Brigade who served in Korea, which yet again is interesting, amazing just how many UK and Commonwealth troops were actually involved in the Korean War.

The one thing I have about the book is minor but a tad niggly. It is obvious that the author has not served in the armed forces as there are a couple of schoolboy errors which would probably not have occurred had he done so. However, these are minor and don’t really detract from the book.

This book gives one a background into the War plus, obviously, the worthy winners of the VC or GC, not all of whom came home, but in no way is a definitive account, which to be fair, the author does not claim..

3/5 Mr MRHs

Amazon product
Apologies, interesting article, but I have a fundamental objection to the the term ‘winners’ for recipients of gallantry and other medals. Athletes win medals; gallantry and other medals are awarded.
 
Apologies, interesting article, but I have a fundamental objection to the the term ‘winners’ for recipients of gallantry and other medals. Athletes win medals; gallantry and other medals are awarded.
Have you ever wondered why the expression should be universally used by learned people for so long?
Is it perhaps that those who use it are piss-poor at the English language ?

How about objections to the use of the word 'The Fallen' when describing those who fell in war? They didn't trip up.
 
If anyone is visting Seoul for any reason I highly recommend visiting The War Memorial of Korea. Its free to visit and is a fantastic museum up there with any in the world. The exibits documents Korea's military history from the earliest times and being a peninsula situated between China and Japan it has been shit on many times in its history.

As woud be expected, a large part is devoted to the Korean war with an entire floor with the British and Commonwealth contribution well documented. There is a good exibition on the ROK particapation in the Vietnam war. On the walls outside are listed every soldier killed in the war from the UN forces and the South Korean Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. There are four panels listing the 1,000 British dead and an entire wall with the 36,000 US dead. Also listed are the 7,000 South Korean military and civilian personnel killed as a result of North Korean incursions since 1953.

There are some great exibits of Boats, Armour, Artillery and Aircraft outside including a B52 Bomber.



 
Stan,

You are absolutely correct, 'Big Bill' was always emphatic about being KOSB.
The scene featuring Bill in the news clip was set in Napier Barracks Folkestone, spring of 1964, 1KOSB had recently returned from their two year tour in Aden and were about to return to the Radfan on operational service as Spearhead Bn of Strategic Reserve. Bill accompanied us on that tour too!

Best wishes,

BD
Yes, I think what threw me was that I thought that the preparations for the return was kept confidential, as was the building up of Radforce. Certainly at the Aden end it was a bit if a surprise to see them pitch up again; if I recall correctly in Waterloo Lines which they had occupied before. But maybe but the time that Look at Life hit the silver screen, there was no need for their prep to be kept quiet.
They returned, I was given to understand, initially to provide cover in the IS role in the colony while 1/1 East Anglian were in the Radfan but they later had their own turn at the action up country.
I always thought that the KOSB cut quite a dash with their glengarries in the days when most service headgear in the colony was pretty mundane. Even the Royal Scots who arrived a bit later looked a bit drab in comparison, with their Khaki TOS's ( I hope I've got my terms correct here!)

Here's a photo of Bill Speakman receiving his VC ribbon on 30th December, less that two months after the action. the contemporary clipping may be of interest but the beer bottle story may be a bit of embroidery by others not necessarily by the press but not by Speakman either.

Speakman.png

Speakman2.png
 

syrup

LE
Yes, I think what threw me was that I thought that the preparations for the return was kept confidential, as was the building up of Radforce. Certainly at the Aden end it was a bit if a surprise to see them pitch up again; if I recall correctly in Waterloo Lines which they had occupied before. But maybe but the time that Look at Life hit the silver screen, there was no need for their prep to be kept quiet.
They returned, I was given to understand, initially to provide cover in the IS role in the colony while 1/1 East Anglian were in the Radfan but they later had their own turn at the action up country.
I always thought that the KOSB cut quite a dash with their glengarries in the days when most service headgear in the colony was pretty mundane. Even the Royal Scots who arrived a bit later looked a bit drab in comparison, with their Khaki TOS's ( I hope I've got my terms correct here!)

Here's a photo of Bill Speakman receiving his VC ribbon on 30th December, less that two months after the action. the contemporary clipping may be of interest but the beer bottle story may be a bit of embroidery by others not necessarily by the press but not by Speakman either.

View attachment 600523


Didn't Sir Max Hastings among other claim Pvt Speakman had drunk the beer and was effectively drunk on duty
 

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