The 1st Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment
Korea, 1952, Hill 159

Herb Stacker, Ex Mortar Pl, 1 RAR, 1952-1953

Hill 159 in Korea is historically significant to 1 RAR. It was from Hill 159 that an ambush patrol from D Coy suffered the Battalion's first battle casualty on Sun, 22 Jun 1952, when Pte L.A. Etheridge was KIA.

D Coy occupied the position from 20 Jun until 8 Jul 52. I was sent to Hill 159, a position vulnerable to shell and mortar fire, from the comparative safety of the reverse slope on Hill 210, on 22 Jun.

Walking up into the position I could see that it was being shelled. Fortunately, the shelling ceased when I had about 200 yards to go. I remember being curious about some damage caused be shelling near the crest of the hill. As I stopped to look the voice of Maj Kayler-Thomson boomed out and in very colourful language he ordered me into the nearest bunker.

I stayed on Hill 159 in the Mortar OP as a signaller, first with Sgt Sam Irwin, and then with Sgt Jack Potts and was back on the reverse slope of Hill 210, with the Mor Pl, a much wiser but a very fatigued soldier by 1 Jul.

I invited the OC of D Coy on Hill 159 at that time - LtCol C.D. KaylerThomson MBE MC Retd, to give his impression of the period that Hill 159 was occupied by D Coy. He responded as follows:

"I have been asked by young soldier, Herb Stacker, to give my impression of D Coy's tour of duty on Hill 159. According to the researchers of Robert ONeill's history of the Korean War, B Coy were on Hill 159, not D Coy. (Page 243 refers). However, the map trace on page 244 shows the correct Coy localities.

Hill 159 was forward of the other rifle companies and overlooked by the enemy held Hill 227 on its right flank, a distance of about 1500m. The front to the position was under direct observation from the 156m ridgeline. The Chinese had full observation of both forward and reverse slopes.

D Coy relieved A coy of the Leicestershire Regt. Maj Bernard Briggs MC, told me during the handover that a half sqn of the 5th Inniskilling Dragoon Guards (centurion tanks) had carried out operations forward of the FDLs, and on withdrawing to our own lines left two tanks bogged in the paddy fields forward of Hill 159, on the left flank. He said that the Technical Adjutant of S IDG was bringing forward recovery vehicles on the morning of 21 Jun and under covering smoke from the artillery, would bring them out. Smoke was to commence at 0900 hrs. He said, "We have Been mounting ambush patrols on the stranded tanks for a week". We finalised the relief and the handover was complete. As is the custom D Coy stood to until dawn.

At 0900 hrs on the 21 st the gunners laid smoke on the Pt 156 ridgeline to the front of the position. Shortly after, I moved out of my CP to observe the effects of the smoke, I notice three officers standing in front of the left tank. Before I could issue a rude warning a 122mm shell landed about 5 metres in front of the tank killing the Tp Comd and wounding the Sqn 2/IC in the legs, and seriously wounding the NZ OPO. I called for stretcher bearers and the call was answered by jeep ambulance driver Pte Ignitiv, Pte Phillpot, and L/Cpl Dick Ross (ex 2/3 Bn). After being blown off their feet by subsequent shells they were able to get the casualties to the Coy Aid Post. After treatment they were evacuated by Sioux helicopter to the Fd Ambulance.

As the shelling continued the tank was hit, fires started, and some 20 pounder ammunition exploded. I rang 1 RAR CP and requested that they contact Bde for permission to move the tank down the reverse slope. "Permission was denied". As the shelling continued I called out to the Tp Sgt and said, "Can you get the tank off the hill". A man of few words the answer was, "Sir". The tank driver Tpr Jones complained about the heat of the metal on the tank. He did his duties in a soldierly manner. The sniping gun then fired on the right tank. Their first round set alight the camouflage netting. I ordered the tank down the reverse slope.

A relief tank arrived that night with the new Acting Tp Comd Lt Lemercier, an Australian Officer on exchange with 5 IDG. He was relieved the following day by an officer from C Sqn. He was wounded two days later.

My new OPO (Arty) was Capt The Hon John De Grey MC, from 17 Fd Regt. He inherited a blown out OP. The Chinese had commenced to snipe the OP. We were able to get a number of railway sleepers and in time made the OP reasonable safe. The good captain now occupies a seat in the House of Lords.

Back to the bogged tanks. Around the 25 Jun 2Lt Ian Thomson RE reported to me to say that he and his small party were going to gap a minefield prior to a further attempt to recover the tanks. A short time later I heard an explosion, and shortly after that the wounded officer and some of his party were evacuated through the gap to the RAP. The tanks were still in the paddy fields when I handed over Hill 159 to the First Battalion Black Watch (C Coy).

The period 20 Jun - 8 Jul was a very noisy period when the Coy were able to receive on the job experience which showed in future operations. Shelling by 122mm and 75mm guns was on a daily basis, and 120mm and 60mm mortars by day and at night. From my point of view I was pleased to experience open warfare once again where you could see the Chinese positions an had quick and efficient fire power laid on by Arty, Mors and Tanks: Quite the opposite to war in the Pacific".

Many thanks to LtCol Kayler-Thomson for this interesting report. I never knew until now that I was in such close proximity to an officer who was to take up a seat in the House of Lords. That I was not formally introduced had a lot to do with the Chinese gunners and a bit to do with Maj KaylerThomson's insistence from day one that Hill 159 was not a place to expose yourself to the enemy, not even for a few seconds. You did not stray from your own OP.

Herb Stacker.

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