by Olwyn Green

Bomber Terry - of "the million dollar smile"i

…a deed whereat valour will weep. Coriolanus V.v.134

Lionel John (Bomber) Terry, MIA (presumed dead) 3400376, b. 29/12/103
    Considered for VC - "Suicidal Patrol"ii of 24/1/1953

Bomber ready to go on patrol on 24/1/1953
Bomber ready to go on patrol on 24/1/1953

Photos of Lionel

On that moonlit, freezing cold night, Bomber Terry, aged 22, a K Force volunteer, wounded earlier in night , went on to sacrifice his life in aggressive defensive action that saved others' lives. This occurred close to 3 RAR's position on 355, one of the bloodiest of hillsiii of the Korean War.

This tragic A Co. patrol of 31 men was one of many such "Snatch Patrols" ordered for RAR battalions to undertake during the 2 years of the war's Static Phase. In this account it will be seen that, despite Australian soldiers' consistent display of great courage and skill, these patrols failed in their objective - to capture a prisoner. In this case, it required brave aggressive action to save lives. During the period of trench warfare, the evidence suggests, Australian soldiers were only able to capture one prisoner. Yet the practice continued, at the same high standard of soldiering, throughout the Static Phase - and at great cost of casualties. The War Diary Report records ivthat in this "suicidal" patrol, 13 went MIA and 10 were WIA. A perusal of regimental numbers shows that 20 of the 23 casualties were K force volunteers.

The ill-fated patrol of 24th Jan was divided into 3 groups. The first protective group of 12 was led by Lt F.C. (Geoff) Smithv who was the Patrol Leader. The second protective group of 12 was led by Corporal Frank L Mackay and the Snatch Group of 4 was led by Sgt John Morrison.. The following account of the patrol is based on the War Diary and on R. O'Neill's Official History.

The orders were for the patrol to penetrate deep into enemy territory and bring back an enemy prisoner. The patrol moved off at 1900 hrs. At 1000 yards out, Lt Smith "put down" the first protective group on a feature and another 1000 yards out Cpl Mackay's second protective group "formed up on a hill". Sgt Morrison's Snatch Group proceeded another 600 yards to the objective, the embankment alongside the enemy trench line. To reconnoitre, Morrison jumped into the enemy trench but was challenged twice, on each occasion by two of the enemy. Believing no other enemy threatened, he killed the 4. The Chinese responded immediately with fire. Morrison's group returned fire and quickly withdrew 30 yards along the escape route towards the second protective group position. At this point Morrison called down artillery fire on enemy positions. Simultaneously a fierce fire fight was in evidence at site of the first protective group, Smith's group. As well, a large number of enemy were sighted moving toward Smith's group. Morrison's Snatch Group then joined Mackay's group with Morrison taking command so that, combined, the two groups could go to the assistance of Smith's group. 200 yards further towards Smith's group, it was observed that 2 enemy platoons were approaching. In order to avoid detection and take offensive action Morrison held fire until the enemy was upon them. At that point the diggers opened fire and killed all in that group.

"In the moonlight" it was then observed that on Smith's position, weapon fire was dying down, and the enemy were sighted moving over the that position (obviously lost to the Chinese). Also sighted was a large number of enemy heading for Morrison's group. Morrison's tactic was to move swiftly to high ground but he found the ridge line already held by 6 enemy. The situation was critical: the ridge was occupied and enemy were approaching, which meant his group was surrounded. Morrison was faced with their only "chance of success." There was the need to take immediate, aggressive action. Smith led two attacks on the ridge. The 6 enemy were disposed of in hand-to-hand fighting. Morrison then re-organised the group in order to continue withdrawing for another 500 yards, under continuous harassing fire. As the group persisted in the withdrawal plan, they were in the critical situation of being twice attacked by platoon-sized groups on their right flank and from the rear.

Morrison's quick, aggressive action , a mere 500 yards from A Co position was able to disorganize the Chinese sufficiently to compel them to withdraw. At the same time, Bomber Terry was attacking the enemy in the rear position so courageously that he could have determined the fate of the patrol. And this aspect of the "aggressive action" is not reported in the War Diary, but is to be found in O'Neill's Official History, p 260. Pte Terry, who had been wounded earlier in the evening (but remained on duty), led an attack from the rear. "He charged into a group of twenty Chinese, hurling grenades and firing his Owen Gun. The Chinese stopped short and dispersed, but Terry was not seen again. "

  • Awards:
    • Consideration was given to recommend Terry for the Victoria Cross but criteria could not be met (no officer witness).
    • Sgt John Morrison, DCM
    • Cpl Frank L Mackay, MM (wounded in the action)
    • Lt. F.C (Geoff) Smith posthumous MID
    • Bomber Terry posthumous MID
    • Private C.Y.Hales WIA of Morrison's group, MID.

  • Casualties:
    • MIA (Missing in Action)
      • To write this story, next of kin were contacted. Those contacts revealed a mountain of grief and disappointment over treatment of the MIA and their next of kin. Consideration of casualties and their next of kin needs to be a principle that is always a priority in relevant bodies e.g. veterans'associations. This oversight in Korean War historiography, commemoration and support to the next of kin could be attributed to the absence of a united Korean War Veterans'voice. Instead of one voice, there has been but a chorus of dissonant voices. Another consequence of dissonance is that the Korean War has remained a forgotten war whereas the Vietnam Veterans brought their single strong voice to bear on the nation.

      • 3 RAR's newly formed Corporation with its concept of "family"is addressing this problem, as members are now observing.
  • List of MIA, now presumed dead, after Patrol of 24-25/1/1953
    • Copied from the War Diary (with its inadequacies in reporting) Does not show groups in which MIA fought:
      • Privates: Poole, A POW; Brady,F; Terry L.T vi; Brown, G POW ; Davis JF POW; McCullock, J, POW; Mackay J.H. POW vii ; Davoren, B.T. POW; Hodgkinson J; Scurry A.J. Lieutenant F.C. Smith (Patrol Commander)
  • Analysis of group Casualties:
    • Morrison's group (including 2nd Protective):
    • 3 MIA, 3 on stretchers, 5 walking wounded
    • Smith's group: Smith himself was killed; 10 MIA
    • A Company position: 1, KIA - K Force volunteer, Pte W.E.Waters ; 2 Wounded.
  • Documents:
    • Mrs Louise Burgess sister of Bomber provided many complementary original documents quoted from here (letters from patrol members, photographs, etc). She has given approval for them to be lodged in the AWM.
  • References
  • iJim Bridges (friend and comrade) sums up Bomber. ( See Terry papers in AWM)
  • iiPatrol member B. Horgan's perception (see Terry papers in AWM)
  • iiiAllusion to well-known poem from the Korean War: 'There's Blood on the Hills of Korea'
  • ivCopy of War Diary Report (see Terry papers in AWM)
  • vLt Geoff Smith's sister Mrs Pat Kitcher has undertaken to provide Lt Smith's papers in which witnesses report his death etc.
  • viIt is noted that Bomber Terry's earlier wounding (WIA ROD) was not noted in the War Diary. It is recorded in the Official History
  • viiJohn Mackay 's (he was taken prisoner ) letter to Bomber's sister and a newspaper cutting (in Terry papers AWM)

                 SEARCH SITE                  
     Principal Infantry Weapons     
                   Guest Book                   

     The Korean War, 1950-1953        
  Map and Battles of the MLR   
        Korean War Time Line        


© Australian Album ©