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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Didn't Sir Max Hastings among other claim Pvt Speakman had drunk the beer and was effectively drunk on duty
There were always allegations from a long time ago that he was drunk but Bill Speakman and his collegues who were there have always robustly debunked them. I spoke to an old 1 KOSB Cpl in Palace barracks in Holywood in 1975 who first told me it was LOB.
There were always allegations from a long time ago that he was drunk but Bill Speakman and his collegues who were there have always robustly debunked them. I spoke to an old 1 KOSB Cpl in Palace barracks in Holywood in 1975 who first told me it was LOB.
I don't believe the bottle throwing bit either, there would have been a deposit on the bottles.
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.
Sam Mercer.

I had the great privelige of meeting Pte Sam Mercer 1 Glosters in 1983 in South Korea when the British Korean War veterans came out to visit as guests of the Korean government. They were taken to Gloster Hill near the Imjin River where the final stand of 1 Glosters took place during the battle in April 1951.

Sam was in the counter attack led by Lt Curtis and held the dying officer in his lap after he was mortally wounded in the attack. Sam was badly wounded in the breakout two days later, captured, and spent two years as a Chinese POW in North Korea.

He was imaculate in his old soldiers uniform of navy blue blazer, grey slacks, polished shoes, medals and beret. He was ramrod stiff and walked with the aid of a cane as he had lost an eye had subsequently lost a leg. This was the first time that the British Korean war veterans had been back to Korea and the first time that the veterans of the battle had been back since 1951 where their subsequent journey had been north to the POW camp.

Sam was asked if he wanted a lift back down in our landrover, but he refused as he said he would walk back down with the rest of the veterans as they finally walked off that hill.

He returned to Korea many times after that especially after South Korea became a full democracy in the nineties. He and his comrades were feted by the Korean people whenever they returned. He was always immensely proud of the progess the country and its people had made due to the chance the sacrifice that he, his comrades and all the UN Forces had given it. The only regret was that they had been unable to liberate the north of the country.

Sadly he died aged 92 on 31 January this year. Probably amongst the last survivors of the battle.
The bottles/drunk business doesn't stand up to any logic test for army myths and, as no one knows for sure, I prefer not to give it any credence.

However, I was once given a lift in a LR by a KOSB guy and of course the inevitable subject arose. His explanation which I do find credible went something like as follows.
"Look, you don't leave shit on your own doorstep, if you are going to toss empties or anything else, of course they will be tossed forward of your position and not rearwards or worse still, left in situ."

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