1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment
G.C. Ralston , G.C. (Toby) MM|
7 Pl C. Co.
Prepared for Toby by Olwyn Green, to acknowledge the efforts he has made to provide photos etc to enable 1 RAR's history to be recorded on the "Oz Album"
Toby Ralston MM modestly declined to offer his personal story but provided a copy of 1 RAR's War Diary that is so brief and lacking in detail that it raises the question whether it is the original or whether it is a summary. I have analysed this into an even briefer outline of 1 RAR's movements and positions during its tour of duty.
This is intended to be complementary to Herb Stacker's account of the significant actions in which 1 RAR was engaged.
At the same time, the following information provides a general picture of the British Commonwealth Division in its positions along the Jamestown Line and those British Regiments who were in Korea in this period.
Toby Ralston did provide some important photos of C Co. 1 RAR taken at the front in 1 RAR's period of service in Korea.
Information that complements Herb Stacker's report.
1 RAR served in Korea from 3/4/52 to 24/3/53 which are the dates of disembarkation and reembarkation at Pusan, Korea. The ship from Australia to Japan was the "Devonshire" and to Pusan, the "Empire Longford" The return to Australia transport was "New Australia." 1 RAR movements and positions:
Upon arrival at Pusan, 1 RAR was transported to a bivouac area at Nam Myon, south of Line Kansas.
On 5th April they moved into unprepared reserve positions on Line Kansas which was then the third Line of Defence. The front line was Jamestown and the second was Wyoming. During this period 1 RAR consolidated its position on Kansas and underwent familiarisation tactical training with elements of 25 Canadian Infantry Brigade and the PPCLI (Princess Pat's Canadian Light Infantry and the RCHA (Royal Canadian Horse Artillery)
Here on Anzac Day in 1952 personnel from many Commonwealth units gathered to honour Anzac Day. The participating units were 3 RAR, 1 Battalion KSOB (Kings Own Scottish Borderer) , 16th Field Battery of the Royal New Zealand Army, "buglers" of 1 KSLI ( Kings Shropshire Light Infantry) and members of the Turkish Brigade. This data can only suggest the nature of this memorable occasion.
It is recorded that before it moved, 1 RAR operated in Area 8, SANDOK.
June 16th found 1 RAR in line Jamestown, relieving 1 RL (Royal Leicesters). The very next day D Company became the first sub unit to come under enemy artillery fire.
The War Diary does not record happenings from 19th June to 8th July when the Battalion at Wangjing-Myon (North Korea), on Jamestown Line was positioned on the left flank of the 29th British Infantry Brigade.
On 19th July at "2251 hrs" 1 RAR assumed operational control (relieved 1 RL). It was before control was assumed however that the Machine Gun Platoon had taken the honour of being the first to engage the enemy.
The first fatal casualty was recorded on 22nd June, when Pte L.A. Letheridge of D Co. was killed on an Ambush patrol in North Korea.
On 23rd, A company provided support to 1 Battalion The Welch Regiment when it attacked Hill 227 which was above A company's position.
Herb Stacker's account of OPERATION BLAZE of 2nd July should be consulted at this point, for he provides through a citation, some details of this A Copmpany action that cost a total of 36 casualties. It was A Company's OC, Major D.S. Thomson who led the attack and for which he was awarded an MC.
On 8th July, 1 Battalion of the Black Watch relieved 1 RAR at 2400 hrs.
What 1 RAR's War Diary does not contain is any detail about trench experience in this "static" phase of the Korean War, which is likened unto the trench warfare of World War 1. 1 RAR was maintaining aggressive patrolling and raiding while in Jamestown Line . They were subjected to heavy shelling and mortar bombardment. "at one stage D Coy was convinced the enemy were using a new type of projectile which turned out to be discarded heating elements and lids of British Army soup tins issued to 1 RL [the previous occupants of that position] [ Apparently] the tins were blown up during normal shelling."
The day following, 1 RAR commenced relieving 1 KOSB Kings Own Scottish Borderers) patrols before their next change of position.
9th July, 1 RAR was at Naechon, in North Korea, Right Flank, 28th British Conmmonwealth Brigade , Jamestown Line where it assumed operational control of the Naechon area from the KOSB. This meant 1 RAR and 3 RAR were under the same command in 28 BCB. 3 RAR was then on the left of 1 RAR and on its right was the BL (Black Watch).
1 RAR at this time experienced heavy shelling; they continued intensive patrolling, despite the heavy rain that fell.
In the collapse of 114 bunkers due to flooding, Private Kendrick of D Co died from suffocation.
The War Diary notes that in this period "elements of the Battalion were involved in improving reserve positions in the Pintail Bridge area over the Imjin" [river] What this entry does not say but suggests is that the soldiers were engaged in digging and constructing, which is the not so glamorous and not talked about aspect of soldiering in that phase of the war. It is also recorded that the Pintail Bridge was the only one left that was available to the Western Front as the Teal bridge had been closed.
A loss of an airman was witnessed on 6th August when the aircraft (a "friendly" one) was hit. The pilot while parachuting down drifted into enemy lines where he could not be extricated.
Members of the Battalion became prisoners of War on 23rd August. The Assault Pioneer Platoon led by Capt. P.J. Greville was "ambushed by patrol of 12 enemy." Two men, Capt Greville and Private Condon, were reported MIA, later confirmed as POWs. Other platoon members were casualties - one was killed and 3 were wia (wounded in action) but the names are not recorded in the WD.
A Chinese soldier becomes perhaps the only one captured by Australian forces in the Static phase of the war on 14th September. The capture is credited to a private soldier (reported by Stacker ) of 9 Platoon led by Lieutenant Peter Cliff.. Only a few days later, 22nd September, Lt. Cliff himself was killed leading another night patrol.
25th September l DLI (Durham Light Infantry) relieved 1 RAR in the Naechon position.
1 RAR then, on 26 September, took up a position, designated a "Rest Position," at Yong Dang, North Korea on the left flank of 1 Commonwealth Division. On its left was the 1st US Marine Division This area (1) overlooked the Samechon Valley.
Change of Command occurred on 26th October. Lt Col M (Bunny) Austin assumed command after Lt Col Hutchison became Adm Commander of 28th British Commonwealth Brigade, relieving Brigadier "Tom Daly" who went on leave.
27th October. A pilot of a US Marine fighter bomber hit by enemy ground fire crashed into forward positions of A Co. 1 RAR, killing the pilot.
Again 1 RAR was relieved and this time by the 1 22eR (Royal 22nd Royal Canadian Regiment) which are widely known to diggers as the Van Dooze and around whom exist many, shall we call them, trench rumours.
During this period there were no actions no incoming fire and no casualties. The Battalion was preparing for its turn on the infamous Hill 355 Little Gibraltar or Kowang San, one of the most fought over territories in the Static Phase of the War. While waiting their turn on 355, the Battalion could hear the heavy enemy fire as the Chinese in strength attacked 1 RCR on 23 - 24th October.
1st November 1 RAR is itself on Kowang San (" Divisional Vital Ground") relieving 1 RCR after their encounter with the enemy on 23-24th October.
On their right they had the 15 ROK Regt (Republic of Korea) of 1st ROK Division (the Elite Capitol Division) On the right was 3 RAR. Both Australian Battalions are here under command of 28th British Commonwealth Brigade.
It is November, and November in Korea means the onset of bitterly cold weather. "The nights were freezing here in Korea's mid winter with temperature at night well below O zero to 16 degrees below, the winds from the Manchurian - Mongolian steppes hitting the high exposed position on the heights of 355". First snow fell on 7th November leaving a 3 inch blanket of snow.
This period is marked by intensive patrolling to regain supremacy of "real estate". Minefield traces from 1 RCR showed inaccuracies of location and gaps in minefields. The late October attack on 1 RCR left damage to defence works that required repair.
More casualties that were to be expected on 355 occurred. On 17th November, Lt John Seaton of B Co was killed when the patrol he was leading was attacked.
11th December Company Size attack. B company led by Major AS (Joe) Mann attacked 2 - 3 kilometres to the north of their position to capture a prisoner. They did not. There were though 24 casualties: 2 MIA and 22 WIA. WD does not give details See Stacker's entry for the citation that details the action. 22nd December is recorded for the event of Brigadier Daly hoisting his slouch hat on top of Hill 355. [diary says] "other defenders usually hoisted their unit/regimental flags."
Messages from the enemy, the Chinese: To acknowledge Xmas, the Chinese early on Xmas Eve got through patrols, minefields to hang on forward wire "propaganda material" consisting of Xmas Cards, diaries, jade charms, safe conduct passes and suggestions that the Australians should go home to their loved ones.
The Chinese also were true to their promise. They held their fire and did not engage in any action on Xmas Day.
1 RAR left Hill 355 on 29th December when they were relieved by 3 RAR. During their period on 355 1 RAR conducted 242 patrols.
Soon 1 RAR would be on their way home , their tour of duty over. They were to be relieved by the arrival of 2 RAR newly arrived in Korea from Australia.
Before embarking for Australia, there was a period of Rest at Camp Casey and a visit to the Australian graves in the United Nations Cemetery at Pusan to pay homage to their 18 dead comrades.
On 21st March 1953, 1 RAR's flag was lowered for last time and 2 RAR's was raised. Finally, on 24th March 1953 1 RAR embarked in Pusan on "New Australia" for home.
This account of their tour brings home to readers the nature of this phase of the Korean War. It did not create headlines or achieve very much in the way of bringing about a conclusion to the Korean War that continued for 2 long years after the Peace Negotiations began in July 1951.
Another point is raised by this bare account. The static phase of the war cost a lot of lives that were spent virtually unnoticed. This sort of situation surely contributed to the Korean War becoming "The Forgotten War." More importantly it raises the question how could the negotiations for a conclusion to the war have dragged on for 2 years - to maintain the status quo.
1 RAR casualties were: 18 KIA, 74 WIA and 3 MIA = 95 And in that period 3492 shells (artillery/mortar) on their positions were recorded.
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