Chapter 10



Service Details

Maurie Pears was born Paddington, Sydney in 1929. He was educated atSydney Boys High School to 1946 as a Cadet Lieutenant and graduated from the RoyalMilitary College Duntroon in 1950. He served in Japan, after 3 RAR Korea 1951, in theReinforcement Holding Unit Kure and the British Commonwealth Battle School Haramura beforehis return to Australia in 1953 for a posting as Adjutant in the Citizen Military Forces59 Infantry Battalion Shepparton Victoria, School of Infantry Seymour Victoria, variousStaff and AHQ appointments in Melbourne and Canberra, Commanding Officer Corps of StaffCadets Royal Military College Duntroon 1966 and Commanding Officer 1 Battalion PacificIslands Regiment Papua New Guinea until 1970 when he resigned to take up a personnelappointment with Con Zinc Rio Tinto Australia for Bougainville Copper Limited onBougainville. From 1980 he has lived on the Gold Coast and has been active overseas as abusiness man and consultant on PNG affairs for government and foreign corporations, aninterest which he still retains.


I often think nowadays how lucky I was to have been involved with the3rd Battalion Royal Australian Regiment in Korea and to have survived the war. I was anunlikely Duntroon Cadet, rebellious, insubordinate and close to failure on a number ofoccasions, and a more unlikely Subaltern, confronting authority at every opportunity. Bythe Grace of God, the understanding of a few senior officers and primarily the help andsupport of the Diggers I served with, I managed to resolve my own personal conflict withmyself, in Korea and found my way in life and the Army.

My strongest recollections are not the tactics of the battles, butrather the actions and reactions of the colleagues who took part and in particular thediggers of 7 Platoon. Sharing with them their courage and spirit and the challenge ofbattle was a lasting inspiration to me. In spite of all obstacles the platoon faced, ayoung and inexperienced officer, an unfriendly climate and terrain and a formidable enemyand firepower, they kept on doing what was asked of them. They stuck to the job andovercame almost impossible obstacles to achieve many victories, over themselves and theenemy. This determined and courageous platoon performance supported by inspired battalionand company leadership was an invincible nexus for 3 Battalion Royal Australian Regiment(3RAR) victory.

War is a humbling and poignant experience. It changes your lifeforever. For me, it was my salvation. In battle, many soldiers and their officers,realize, sometimes for the first time, how strong and brave is their fellow man and howdeficient is their own character in comparison. Brash and irresponsible young subalternsare pulled together by the sheer guts of their soldiers, the meek and mild of all ranksare strengthened by the performance of their colleagues and the bold are tempered by theirfallen comrades. War brings out the best in men as well as the worst. The men of 7 Platoondisplayed little of the worst, they were typical Aussie diggers and front-lineInfantrymen. Their courage, determination and loyalty were inspirations to me. I was neverto meet their equal in Civvy Street.


KOREA - the beginnings

The men of 7 Platoon C Company 3 Battalion Royal Australian Regiment (3RAR) were led by three now legendary soldiers, the Commanding Officer, Lieutenant ColonelFrancis Hassett, Australia's youngest wartime Lieutenant Colonel and at 33 years, nowcommanding 3 Battalion (and the Australian Defence representative in Korea), Major JackGerke, Officer Commanding C Company and Warrant Officer Arthur Stanley Company SergeantMajor. The quality of this leadership was the inspiration which raised C Company and 7Platoon to the heights of their performance. The other platoons and companies in thebattalion were similarly commanded and performed with magnificent dash and courage duringthe many battles to follow, but this, however, is the story of 7 Platoon, with whom I hadthe honour of serving. It could well be the story of any other platoon on those fatefuldays.

January 1951 Ingleburn Sydney, 1 Battalion Royal Australian Regiment,the holding area for reinforcements for Korea. Some regular, young recruits and someexperienced K Force. Hot humid days of training and preparation, and for a young Duntrooncadet, the beginnings of awareness that his commission entailed responsibilities andexample rather than himself, football, pubs and parties. I remember quite early in thepiece recovering from the effects of a rolled Morris 40 piloted by a fellow subaltern"Chic" Charlesworth. This was closely followed by some contusions when I went tosleep and fell off the back of Corporal Carstair's motor bike on the way home fromthe Red Cross ball. He didn't notice and had to come back from Ingleburn to find mestill asleep but unharmed under a tree. Later, as a result of a peer group challenge, Icrept into the visiting Director of Infantry's room (Colonel Campbell, later to beGeneral Campbell in charge of Administration Japan/Korea) after a late night mess party,to ask him when we were off to Korea. I don't know what gave him the biggestsurprise, a drunken subaltern in his room with unknown intentions or the request for aposting, but he did assure us the next day that we would soon be on our way. All of uswere flushed with the spirit of adventure and the challenge of war. We knew nothing ofwhat was ahead and in spite of much advice from the returned servicemen and the training,we comprehended little of the challenge which was to confront us. It's good to beyoung. You are invincible. The worst never happens!!!

The reinforcement draft I was to take to Korea was mostly K Force, agroup of experienced and adventurous soldiers recruited especially for Korea. Rough, toughand awesome. The others were regular soldiers, well trained but young and inexperienced aswas their Subaltern. We gathered at Mascot, with the help of New South Wales Rail , coldpies and coffee?, for departure by Qantas for Japan. The aircraft was a DC4, an ancientun-pressurised cart-horse by present standards but a dream machine at the time. I do notrecollect any families being present and suspect the departure was classified. Before takeoff I laid down the law for behaviour en route but the draft knew who was Boss and itwasn't me. I decided then and there not to press my new found authority. Instead Iworked through the senior soldier who wisely acquiesced. This was my first experience ofreal soldiering, I had no barracks or unit authority to back me up. I learnt quickly ofthe dual hierarchy of command, Officer and Non Commissioned Officer. Never the twain shallmeet but never can they exist without each other. We ate and drank the magnificent fare ofQantas, the Purser being counseled to slow down the service if any of us made a pig ofourselves, which he failed to do! The beer was cold and FREE!!

We stopped over briefly in Darwin and proceeded to Manila. The city atthe time was recovering from War. Civil demonstrations were common and the cities full ofAmerican Carpet Baggers and prosperous Filipino aristocrats. It was a wild town. Men werearmed with side-arms in shoulder holsters (which had to be left at the front desk), andthere was a Bar on every corner. The very rich locked themselves away in the Hotels ormansions and the poor were clustered in tin hovels in the suburbs and around the walledtowns. We were transported from the airport on arrival by bus through the outskirts of thecity and through the slums of what now is Makati. It was late and we were tired but onarrival at The Hotel Manila we had a new lease of life. Our rooms were sumptuous.Unbelievable luxury to most of us. As a Qantas passenger we got the best. Shortly afterarrival we received news that the Huk Balups had cut the road to the airport at Makati andour departure would be delayed indefinitely.

Grand news for the Diggers at present the life of the party in theHotel bar, the beer provided free by a mass of American ex-servicemen living in Manila,but what about the young subaltern trying to get his draft to Japan without loss? Whatabout the bars, the girlie shows and the red light? Well, he took the standard Armyprocedure. When in doubt, ask the senior Non Commissioned Officer. We all gathered anddiscussed the dangers of the sinful city and the result of failure to meet the aircraftdeparture. In retrospect it must have been a comedy. This serious and nervous youngsubaltern trying to lecture those K Force veterans on the penalties of sex and sin in thebig city! We laid down a few ground rules between us (to include the Yellow Bar ) and offthey went with a solemn promise to be back by 0600 hrs. I spent most of the night prowlingthe bars with one or two soldiers who took it in turn to ensure I didn't get intotrouble. Who was supposed to be looking after who? The Yellow Bar was something out ofChicago prohibition. Girlie bar in the front, dancers in the background, a gambling jointin the back room all humming like a giant carousel. Guarded by shoulder holstered bouncersto keep law and order? It was something to see. King's Cross, Darlo, Sammy Lee,Thommos and Ziggies had nothing on it. As it turned out, all were back on time, somedecidedly the worse for wear but at least standing and able to sleep it off on the plane.This was a big lesson to me . Good men don't let you down if they feel they areinvolved, especially if they are part of the decision making process. They may of coursegive you a hell of a fright at times. By now the Filipino Army had cleared the road and wewere soon on our way to Japan. One more step to our individual destinies.

We spent a short time in Japan and then transited via Iwakuni Base byRoyal Australian Air Force (RAAF) DC3 on a freezing and rattling service flight to Kimpo,Seoul, Korea. The DC3 "Gooney Bird" may be the most reliable airplane in theworld but for intercontinental flights it leaves a lot to be desired. Apparently it isnormal to see daylight through the fuselage in flight? But not comforting! On arrival wewere trucked immediately to the Battalion area. Approaching destination, we decided (on KForce advice)b as a gesture of scorn, to throw our steel helmets into the river. Indeed anunfortunate beginning for this particular subaltern. On arrival at Battalion Headquarters,on report to the Adjutant Captain Bill Keyes, he received the rounds of the kitchen in nouncertain terms. Strike 1!

My Korean career looked like ending then and there. I'm afraid itwas a very disenchanted little subaltern who then moved off to the platoon position. Lateron in years when Bill was Sir William we were to meet again and recall this incident in amore humorous vein.


My first appointment was to D Company. My Officer Commanding, Major"Daddy" Lukin was awaiting rotation after the Kapyong battles. Kapyong was atough time for all ranks, and had left a few scars on many individual soldiers. We werethe newcomers fresh, brash and bushy tailed and in many ways a pain in the bum to theveterans. My new platoon manned a fearful outpost on top of a high, rocky mountain oftenin the clouds. The storms were something to behold (one soldier later killed bylightning). This was a short period of indoctrination from which I left with littlereputation. Our first patrol into enemy territory was to be a "learner" for meand I was to take instructions from the Platoon Sergeant (another battle weary veteran duefor rotation), who was in command. Unfortunately many of the platoon were also ready forrotation and fed up with the war, post Kapyong. The patrol strolled casually along thebanks of the Imjin, smoking, contemplating their navel, generally chatting on the state ofthings at home and taking no steps at concealment. We were lucky, the enemy chose not toreact, but for me, there was worse to happen. The Commanding Officer, in the company ofAmerican Commanders, was taking over the area and watching the patrol, trying to convincethe Yanks of the excellence of his command. They were far from impressed, having lost somemen in the same area recently. I received another great rocket on return. No point insaying that I was an observer. C'est la vie. Strike 2!

I did not have much longer in the platoon, as a battalionreorganization was in hand, to cope with the massive rotation. Hardly enough time to getto know anyone, except for the daily short arm inspections, undertaken bravely by myselfand the Sergeant. We of course had to inspect each other after examining the men. On acold wintry morning on the hilltops, on an empty stomach, this is a ghastly display andrequires sharp eyesight indeed. I am mindful of the current move to include females infront line infantry. God forbid. The mind boggles.

The monotony of training and preparing for war in a reserve positioncan cause problems especially when a large number of the Battalion is due for rotation andraw reinforcements are arriving. This may be compounded by the inexperience of thesubalterns and their desire to be accepted by their men. We began playing Poker in theslow periods and to gamble with our few pennies. Unfortunately one soldier lost a littlemore than he could afford, and having no money left after leave, falsified his paybook inan attempt to pay. I was paraded to the Commanding Officer for my stupid and dangerousparticipation. My military career could have ended then and there but I was saved by theCommanding Officer's understanding. He decided to Give God another Go. Later when Iwas a Commanding Officer myself, of the Corps of Staff Cadets and the Pacific IslandsRegiment, I remembered this lesson and hope I displayed also a little understanding andforgiveness. Strike 3!

Very soon after this the Battalion reorganized and I was posted to C"Charlie" Company Officer Commanding Major Jack Gerke ( many years later I wasto hear from Jack that this was a last effort to sort me out), with an old Duntroon mate,Bushy Pembroke, and we set about building a team on the Lozenge. Jack was an outstandingCommander experienced in Africa, The Islands 1939-45 as well as Kapyong. Tough as nailsand as subtle as an ax. Brutally efficient and just what the Doctor ordered for all of us.He knew his job and made sure we learnt ours. He was feared and respected. You mustcertainly fear the enemy but it is better to fear also the Boss! That way you are lesslikely to lose.

He had with him as Company Sergeant Major another great personality,Warrant Officer Arthur Stanley. In view of what was to come, C Company would not havesurvived without them. Our morale, over the forthcoming battles, would not have stood up.We are all getting a little old and frail these days but when I see Jack and Arthur onreunions I still visualize the soldiers of old, darting back and forth in battle, alwaysforward with the action and always showing the way.


The build up, to Commando on the Lozenge was one continuous period ofactivity. We dug and re-dug our positions, sighted weapons and gradually cleared the oldmines from our position approaches. We used the face to face method, holding a long stemof grass to pick up the trip wires and a sharpened fork to probe underground. It wouldtake us days, and pints of sweat, both nervous and physical, to clear the track approachesand the paths through the old wire which we subsequently re-laid. Unfortunately there weresome casualties. These were the days of getting to know each other and it stood us ingreat stead when we finally went into battle. We knew and trusted each other. DutchyAtkinson, Mark Young, Georgie Long, Joe Vezgoff, Jack Neal, Jack Gordon, Shaky Graham,Lofty Watkins, Bill Clements, Keith Smith, Ralph Warhurst, Jim Perry, Shagger Cabban, JackCurley, Bruce Passfield, Rex English, Ron Quinn, Snow Keenan, Mocka Collins, Ron Curtis,Jim Bennett, Bill Massey, Bruce Harkness ,Ron Curtis, Kipping and Wilson and Alby Hart.The whole platoon (about 20 all ranks) and our neighbours on the hill all doing their ownlittle bit to maintain morale and better the team. I might have the names and numberswrong but the faces and the places will never be forgotten. We were not in contact withthe enemy and the evenings and nights were spent swapping tall yarns on the hillsideslowly consuming our daily ration of one Asahi beer bottle after a hard day's dig.Oh, how sweet it is. Beer never tasted better. I learnt a lot about myself (a lot of itnot much good) from those guys. In retrospect, we would never have got through Commandowithout this "togetherness".

We took part in many patrols but the first major contact was operationMinden, a battalion patrol into enemy territory as a precursor to Commando. We wereshelled and in contact for the first time. The distinctive swish of a shell and the senseof anticipation of where it would fall, the zipzap of a rifle round overhead and the buzzof Machine Gun fire remained in our memory for future use. The platoon was distanced fromthe main strike and suffered no casualties but we did see the shells exploding and heardthe distinctive swish of "incoming". We watched in dismay as our own battalioncasualties were evacuated. It was a minor engagement but an important part of our battlepreparation. The intensity of Kowang San (355) and Maryang San (317) was not foreseen.Perhaps all war was as easy as this?

I often think, in cold sweat, of George Long (our Australian bornChinese digger) and the near tragedy of the 2 inch mortar. The perils of " bignoting"! A New Zealand Army Public Relations Film team had come to Korea to make afilm of the Kiwi gunners and 3 RAR. We were on the Lozenge feature in reserve and wereselected to be the actors. We moved out to a forward area, with the cameras, and pointedourselves towards the enemy ( who were far, far away). We faked attacks, engagements andbayonet thrusts and finally we were asked to fire some mortar to jazz up the filmproduction for the old folks at home. I was so taken up with the sense of movie making andmy own importance that, instead of siting the mortar with the professionalism it deserved,I pointed towards a tree selected by the camera team and instructed George to fire a fewrounds. George, in his enthusiasm, failed to look upwards. I failed to check the flightpath and the round exploded in a branch above causing general mayhem. A few of us receivedminor shrapnel wounds, which were harmless but bled with the enthusiasm of a haemophiliac.The camera team popped their eyes back in place, decided to call it quits and we allstraggled home, me with my tail between my legs and an overpowering sense of guilt in mygut. The platoon were good about it but I knew whose mistake it was. I was beginning towonder when anything would go right. Strike 4.I did not see George after Commando (he waswounded and evacuated with Joe Vezgoff and the rest of his section during Maryang San,Commando, 317 ) and he died in a car accident soon after his return to Australia.

Good, clean water is vital to the soldier. During one of the manypatrols across the Imjin, prior to Commando, I ran out of water. I found out that onebottle is not enough for a 10 hour day's activity on patrol. On the barge, on thereturn crossing I became delirious from heat prostration (the platoon had no water to help) and they dipped my head into the Imjin. The temptation was overpowering and I gulpeddown salty, putrid water, tainted with last winter's dead and local sewerage. Perhapsit saved my life but I suffered from gut problems ever afterwards. I have not run out ofwater since then and thanks to Arthur Stanley, come rain or shine, water was re-suppliedevery night. I think I was more afraid of the empty bottle than I was of the Chinese.Later, I was to learn of the death of another Duntroon buddy, Chic Jarman, from heatprostration.. Another reminder of the cruelty of fate. Chic was a champion athlete andfootballer from Duntroon days and going places in the Army.

During our stint on the "Lozenge", in the heat, stink andsweat of digging, we used to look up to see Lieutenant Joe Luscombe ( Joe was my ColourSergeant in Duntroon), flying over in his Auster Light Aircraft on return from his dailyreconnaissance. We thought how lucky he was to be in such an adventurous job with a nicebed and comfy quarters at night. On one sortie, his aircraft was damaged by small arms andhe was killed, trying to land, crashing into the banks of the Imjin. Another mate had leftus. It was a sad and sobering thought.

Before Commando we had detailed briefings of what was to come. Much ofit went over my head, except for the medical briefing, which struck a chord, withhaemorrhagic fever, a fatal bleeding disease contacted in Korea. There was NO cure! ( Inretrospect, was this the first "Ebola" virus?) What with Bilharzia,Leptospirasis, Schistomasiasis, Malaria, angry rats, water snails and mosquitoes I wasbeginnings to wonder who the enemy really was.

Gladys Moncrief performed for us the night before Commando. A temporarystage had been set up in the valley near the Forming Up Place (FUP) and we were allgathered on the hillside. It was a magic night, clear skies, starlit, deadly quite andcalm. You could hear a pin drop. She sang in the open with a sole piano accompaniment. Itwas almost like Mum saying "Look after yourself". This was the closest we wouldbe to home for a long time.



In the beginning, no one in the platoon, including myself, fullycomprehended the scope of Commando. The briefings did not foreshadow the intensity offuture operations. We set sail early in the morning almost with a feeling of deja vu. Itwas as if this was just another exercise, one more Minden, one more experience before wereturned home. This may have been fortunate as I am not sure I would have led off theadvance with as much confidence as I did if I knew what was to come.

7 Platoon was to advance to our base position east of Point 355 (KowangSan, "Little Gibraltar") near the Imjin River. We were to cross the Imjin atPintail pontoon crossing. It was a daunting exercise under the circumstances.Inexperienced troops heading into no mans land with an inexperienced Subaltern, readingfrom a map lacking in contemporary accuracy. I was nervous of making a mistake and leadingthe company into enemy lines. The platoon, no doubt, were similarly unsure of theirplatoon commanders ability and would have preferred to see Jack and Arthur up front. (asindeed I would! ) Some how we got there and commenced to dig in. The enemy reacted withshell and mortar fire over the battalion front and our positions copped a few. Thehornets' nest had been stirred. Our own mortars (Rene Lemercier was in command andkept popping up to our position to see what was going on), were nestled next to us anddrew the crabs. Suddenly our thoughts for food and shelter took second place to the depthof our foxholes. I suppose it was just beginning to dawn on us that we were deeplyinvolved. Information was scarce. The platoon was a lonely place. We took a lot of comfortfrom the Company Headquarters and Mortar colleagues close by. Late that night Jack told uswe were to assault Point 355, (Kowang San to the Brits - "Little Gibraltar" tothe Yanks) at first light to assist the British battalions who had been held up."Bugger the Brits" was the immediate response but.......! We were to learn thatthe Forming Up Place (FUP) was about 3000 yds? from our position and we were to move tothere under cover of darkness. It was a restless night with little sleep. I couldn'thelp but think of the British battalion "Gloucesters" who were all but wiped outin an action after Kapyong.

7 Platoon led the advance to the Forming Up Place, under the brow ofour objective, threading the way through the rice paddies, under cover of darkness andlater, heavy fog. It was difficult to maintain direction except for the pinnacle of Point355, Kowang San, which saved the day. The approach was under the shadow of our objective,Point 355, with steep slopes in front. We led off the first assault with two sections insingle file (a one man front) and Joe Vezgoff's section left in reserve with CompanyHeadquarters. The enemy soon reacted violently with light mortars. They were caught withtheir pants down but they recovered quickly. We were mortared ferociously all the way upthe hill, on some occasions the webbing was cut from the advancing soldiers. There weresome minor shrapnel wounds and many miraculous escapes, brought about, in retrospect bythe speed of our advance. To this day I can only premise that we were saved by racingthrough the mortar barrage at speed and consequently exposed for a lesser period than theothers who were static below. This is a big lesson in battle, he who hesitates is lost.L'audace, toujours l'audace! The major casualty impact was on our reservesection fixed at the base of the hill which suffered 100% casualties from all the overs.We were not to see them again. Unfortunately the Platoon Sergeant, "Alby" Hart,was evacuated with them leaving a serious gap in our manning which had to be absorbed fromwithin. I was informed, many years later, that Joe Vezgoff, though seriously wounded inthe head, took charge of the captured enemy and used them as stretcher bearers for ourcasualties, including himself. Arthur Stanley our trusted Company Sergeant Major now tookover as platoon reserve as well as his other duties. We were to know nothing of this atthe time as we were relying on our walkie talkies which only worked when they felt likeit. Somehow we reached the top in narrow formation and ran into the enemy bunkers and afusillade of frontal fire.

The front was narrow, one man only in places and we sheltered behindsome large rocks like rabbits on the hunt. The enemy was firmly entrenched and reactedwith small arms and grenades. We were too close for mortars. We called for our long tube(Bazooka rocket launcher) to blast them out, " the long tube's buggered "was the reply. "Send up the reserve", " what reserve " was thedispirited response. We were held up and sent the remaining section, "Shagger"Cobban, round the left flank but they were bogged down on the slopes and had lost contactwith us and the enemy. The remaining section and platoon headquarters (in total abouteight of us), held the ridge, hiding behind large boulders, which seemed the size ofpeanuts. "Mark" Young blasted away with the Owen sub machine carbine. Contactwas lost with Company Headquarters. Enemy fire was heavy. I was confused. What was theenemy strength? Where were they? Where were my other two sections? Who was up who? What doI do next? At this stage Jack Gerke dashed into view with his trustee shadow Jim McFadzeanhauling the Wireless Pack and Jim Burnett blasted forward with his Bren gun on the hipwith great courage and dash. It was the stimulus we needed (myself in particular) and wesurged forward onto the enemy positions. The sight of these wild eyed Australians musthave been too much for the Chinese. They withdrew. Suddenly there was an eerie silence. Aone man section front had pushed over what was , we were to learn later, a battalionposition. Speed, surprise and determined diggers had won..

The sheer guts of the platoon and the bold courage of Jim Burnett hadsaved the day. Arthur Stanley had maintained our base and re-supply under impossibleconditions and Jack Gerke had worked his way forward in spite of heavy fire to support us.What would have happened if Jim Burnett hadn't broken cover with a one man assault?What if the Chinese had held firm? What if Jack had been wounded and withdrawn? Who knows?Jim was to receive an immediate award of the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his courageand remained for the final Commando operations. Jack was awarded the Distinguished ServiceOrder and Arthur the Military Medal.

7 platoon, now reunited with the "lost" section, less itsreserve section, all 15? of us, flushed with success, now moved forward to the remainingobjectives on the way to the summit but it was all over. The Chinese were withdrawing torear positions. We were able to report the enemy fleeing north. The only sound was theKing's Own Scottish Borderers, (the KOSB, "Kossbies") bagpipes howling aprelude to an advance on the fortress which had already fallen. The Brits had a strange"colonial" attitude towards the Australians. I was reminded a little of myreadings of Gallipoli. Even to this day British reports of the operation indicate that theheights of Point 355 were taken by the KOSB. They don't say much about theAustralians. The platoon licked its wounds and rested overnight (what rest ) in a state ofshock awaiting the probable counter attack which never came. Some of us had minor shrapnelcuts. We licked our wounds and thanked our lucky stars. " At last " we allmurmured the next morning, " its all over - we can go home now! " Little did weknow that, what we thought was our major battle, was a diversion to the central thrustwhich was soon to develop against Point 317, Maryang San. In retrospect, it never occurredto us that similar engagements were being carried out all around us by the otherCompanies. Fortunately, in some ways, the battlefield isolates your thinking andtelescopes your thoughts to the immediate job in hand. It is only later that you think inthe privacy of "stand too", "What the hell am I doing here? - "mymates are at home painting the town and getting rich ", "Why should I risk mylife in Korea? " I don't think anyone of us found the real answer.

What was left of 7 Platoon was awaiting developments, not sure whetherwe had been punched or bored, when I received a message to report to Jack for CommandingOfficer's (CO's) orders. I moved to Battle Command Post on a high feature, whichmay have been 199, where the Commanding Officer pointed out Point 317 and asked if Ithought the platoon was up to a final assault on this feature, Maryang San. I lookedacross the valley at this God Almighty rock with the remnants of battle strewed around itsbase and prayed that someone would lift me up and take me away, any where else. I was toostunned for a quick reply and I suppose I nodded my head, and the affirmative waspresumed. C Company was to rush across the valley and move through B and D Companies whowere held up under Point 317, to take the summit from the rear. Surprise was again thetactic, the Chinese being used to the previous massed frontal attacks of the Americans.The battalion artillery and tanks would support us with enfilade fire during the finalassault as the approaches to the summit were clear from the Observation Post. I lookedwith despair at Jack who returned an optimistic " piece of cake " look. I knewfrom our experiences in the Kowang San battle, that he would be right on my tail, as wouldArthur, if we got into trouble. I think Lieutenant "Frothpot" Scott and Major"Jim" Shelton were there also at the briefing with Captain "Bill"Keyes our Adjutant and Lieutenant "Lou" Brumfield Assistant Adjutant, as part ofthe Battalion Command Post. I returned to the platoon with a quick "trust me "briefing, I was on "auto pilot" by this time and we led off across the widevalley to the base of Maryang San ,Point 317.

I know Lieutenant "Rusty" McWilliam (who was soon to bekilled in a mortar attack, post Commando) 8 platoon and Lieutenant "Bushy"Pembroke 9 platoon were on our flanks but we had forgotten them for the task in hand. Thebattlefield had shrunk to the men of 7 platoon and the monstrous mountain ahead. We had noplatoon sergeant and one section had been taken out but we reorganized into makeshift firegroups; "Shaky" Graham, "Shagger Cabban" and "Mark" Youngpicked up the pieces of command. "Jim" Burnett and his Bren gun was in thebackground as a proven saviour in time of need. We were now down to 15? all ranks from ourstart of 20. Someone said, "things are crook in Tallarook". There was noargument with this.

This motley crew, well worn and tattered, headed off across the valley,to battle. Some off us had the webbing equipment cut from the body by mortar shrapnel onthe day before. Bits of clothing and equipment had been lost or discarded. We had dumpedour heavy packs and blanket somewhere with Arthur but we had all set off with enough ammo(ammunition), food and water, thanks to Arthur Stanley's backup over night. Wedidn't look too good, certainly not the "model of a modern major general "but we keep pointing in the right direction whipped along by a fear of failure or delay.As we came out of the valley we met what was left of the other companies, badly bruisedfrom heavy fighting. The ground was strewn with the remnants and the haze of battle andthere was an overpowering stench of gunpowder and white phosphorous. There were woundedscattered around awaiting evacuation in various stages of repair. It was a scene from the"War is hell " movies. D Company Officer Commanding, Major "Basil"Hardiman and second in command (2IC) Captain "Paddy" Maloney, had been woundedand evacuated. We were in the midst of this company which had taken enough but was stillholding firm. B Company was off track on the right flank. We found Lieutenant"Jim" Young (a Kapyong veteran), standing alone and covered in battle grime. Hehad taken command of the company. I remember thinking " Thank God it wasn't me.I still had Jack!" I was disoriented but could just see the summit of 317 in thedistance. Jim told us what he could of the enemy dispositions, which was precious littlein the confusion of battle, and pointed us in the right direction. Jack Gerke urged us on.I decided to abandon any caution and headed off with speed for the summit. The platoonagreed, " any bloody place is better than here." We had learnt fromyesterday's encounter that the safest place to be was on the objective; theapproaches were deadly.

The climb to the summit was a physical effort with a few hiccups on theway. At times we clambered on our hands and knees, drawing tortured breaths in our race tothe top, expecting at any minute the frenzy of yesterday but it was not to come . Theenemy had been beaten by the efforts of B and D Companies and we had copped the benefits.We finally reached the crest and peeped over the large boulders (like FOO) on the ridge ofMaryang San Point 317 and called the others forward. It was a magical moment. We could seefor miles in three directions over the surrounding valleys. Some Chinese were fleeingnorth and were engaged by our small arms with little success. In our enthusiasm we hadforgotten the downhill theory of small arms fire! We could see all of our previousday's engagement Point 355 and the British Fusiliers battalion on the west ridge toPoint 317. It was a grandstand of great tactical importance. No wonder the enemy were tofight so desperately for it over the next few days. We commenced to dig in or rather digup amongst the boulders. My trusty offsider Bruce Passfield was smarter than most? andselected a shell hole, to save the extra digging, for our future little home.(Unfortunately, later that night, it turned out to be a white phosphorous shell hole andwe lit up like lanterns.) We later surrendered this prime real estate to CompanyHeadquarters which was to be hit by shellfire in the counter attack.

Meanwhile 8 and 9 platoons moved forward into what proved to be majorenemy resistance. The Chinese had finally turned and were to put in a major effort to holdwhat little they had left. Jack Gerke took command of the battle. 7 Platoon set up a basesupported by Arthur Stanley and his re-supply ( and casualty evacuation stretcher bearersBill Massey and Bruce Harkness). At this time Captain "Lee" Greville and thecargo line of Korean carriers (with "A" frames) were battling their way forwardunder repeated enemy fire, exposed and without pit protection. They may have had a littlecomfort at night but re-supply was no picnic for any of them this time. Lieutenant"Jim" Stewart, signals officer and his cable party were active, laying thebattalion telephone line, which continued to be cut over the next few days with theshellfire. The signalers were working largely in the open, as were the re-supply teams.This was one occasion when the soldiers in the pits in contact with the enemy ("thegrunts") seemed relatively safe. The Commanding Officer soon arrived , as was hiscustom, to be well forward during battle, and B company thrust forward to assist theFusiliers. It was a tactically sensitive situation. The battle could have gone either waywere it not for the determination of the men to keep going no matter what. Any hesitationat this stage could have resulted in the loss of Point 317 and massive casualties to C andB companies forward. 7 platoon maintained the firm base whilst 8 and 9 platoons wereengaged in a life and death struggle for the features ahead. "Bushy" Pembroke,"Rusty" McWilliam (C Company), "Hooker" Hughes and Brian Falvey (BCompany) and their platoons were to bear the brunt of this vicious operation (they werelater all to be decorated). Hand to hand fighting was common, at one stage, over run ,they called down their own divisional artillery on themselves in an attempt to hold on.This desperate fighting was successful and at the close of day C Company and B Companywere in possession of the features, dead beat, tired and waiting for the eventual counterattack.

These few days and nights were clouded with continuous shelling andprobes. Our own reinforcements were arriving but they were fresh from Australia and unsureof themselves, lacking battle indoctrination. Some were wounded and evacuated only hoursafter arrival. The intensity of operations prevented an orderly reinforcement and therewere many casualties. During one such probe 7 Platoon Headquarters (myself plus BrucePassfield) moved to the front of the hill to observe enemy flanking movement to BCompany's forward positions. No one was sure where the next probe would occur andwhether the enemy would come right to our rear and cut our re-supply. Jim Burnett andelements of 7 platoon were located with Company Headquarters on the rear slopes which wasreceiving mortar and shell fire. We lost another comrade, Private "Jack" Neal atthe same time as Arthur Stanley was wounded, narrowly missing a fatal hit. I remember JimBurnett coming forward to my pit and cursing the daylights out of me for not coming backto help Jack. To this day I don't know whether I did the right thing in staying upfront. It was a trying time for all of us. It seemed the battle would never end. The longline of casualties, badly torn apart, passing through our forward positions was a sadreminder of our own personal vulnerability.

Late on that day it became quieter, suddenly. The enemy had eithergiven it away or were preparing for a counter attack. We were to find out about 2000 hours(8 PM in the evening) when there was a deathly hush over the battlefield; time seemed tostand still. It was almost supernatural. We all looked at each other in disbelief andwonderment, when suddenly, all hell broke loose with a massive enemy bombardment of allour features. The noise and devastation was intense. The sense of futility overpowering.We huddled in our pits waiting for the one with our name on it, popping up now and then toobserve but keeping our heads down waiting for the lull which would herald the infantryattack. It soon came, with bugles and whistles and activity on all fronts, flanks andrear. Bedlam broke out. There were many brave and heroic probes by the Chinese soldiers.It was hard to tell initially where the main thrust would be but it was finally madeagainst the forward platoons who defended and held in magnificent fashion against a vastlysuperior force. B and C Company "Guts" won the day and finally towards firstlight enemy momentum was lost and the sad task of collecting casualties was commenced onboth sides. Post battle field was a charnel house - Dante would have drawn inspirationfrom the pain and misery. There was an unofficial truce during this period and fire waswithheld on both sides. Maryang San was still ours. The Brits were not so fortunate andwere held up on the west spur denying occupation of the whole of the 317 complex to theBrigade, consequently weakening the brigade front.

The 3 Battalion Royal Australian Regiment effort in taking 355 and 317and the Hinge, was never given the emphasis it deserved in subsequent Divisional andBrigade reports. There is a bitter side to joint operations, but, I suppose this is bestforgotten now. 3 RAR was luckier than the other British battalions in that they hadexploited the benefit of surprise rather than being committed to a frontal attack. This inno way diminishes the magnificence of the Australian achievement which must remain aclassic of Regimental History. Our withdrawal was an orderly one and we were replaced bythe King's Own Scottish Borderers (KOSB) who were to bear the brunt of furthercounter attacks, Speakman gaining a Victoria Cross. The enemy was determined to regain thelost ground and regrettably 317 fell to them weeks later, the Australians with a frontseat view on the right flank. It was unfortunate that some of the 3RAR soldiers were notto receive the Victoria Cross (VC). God knows. They deserved it.


When we withdrew from 317, Jack and I were evacuated with others, forminor wounds received over the preceding battles, whilst the battalion went into positionson the right flank. It was planned to be a reserve position but, as we learned later, itbecame far from that. My wounds were superficial and undeserving of evacuation however theoffer was accepted and I headed off down the line of evacuation with all the seriouswounded. I was pooped and in poor shape and desperately tired, (as were the platoon whoremained) They took a brief rest in a quiet location, whilst I took Penicillin shots allthe way from the Regimental Aid Post (RAP) to the Swedish Mobile Army Surgical Hospital(MASH) to Seoul Base Hospital. A massive overkill for two small pinhole wounds. MASH wasbetween battles. "Hawkeye" and "Hotlips" were no doubt around thecorner. I saw my first Swedish female whilst in transit and dreamt of her thereafter .Often, later, in the dark hours of the night I would imagine I was alone with one of theseScandinavian Goddesses or at home with "Dawn", a singer friend from Australia. Ihope their husbands never found out! It kept me sane. Seoul Base Hospital was located inthe old theatre in the centre of town, or what was left of it, surrounded by many shantiesand demolished buildings. The British Mess, (complete with Sherry and Chili sauce and theoccasional monocle) was close by. I was a bit ashamed of being there with all the badlywounded and found my way home after a few days.

I stopped off at B echelon on the way back to see the Quartermaster"Reg" Whalley, who was a real mate to me then and later in Japan. He was a bitolder than most of us and a good shoulder to cry on. It was his sad task to receive thebodies of the Australians killed in action and to arrange for their evacuation. We knockedoff a bottle of rum together to drown the sorrows of the last two weeks. Reg had brokendown and cried. I was never to forget his humanity and understanding. We later servedtogether in Japan at the Reinforcement Holding Unit Kure where he got me into and kept meout of lots of strife. Sadly he was to die soon after in Australia.

The new battalion location was supposedly in reserve but turned out tobe part of the front line protecting the eastern flank of our old nemesis Maryang SanPoint 317 now defended by the "Kossbies" who were constantly under attack. Itwas in many ways worse than "Commando". We were tired and battle weary withlittle sleep, in a fixed position, enfiladed to enemy artillery with nowhere to go. Wetook the overs from the Chinese counter attack on 317 as well as some of our own . It is abad feeling to be shelled from the rear knowing that the enemy watches your every move.There was a lot of activity on our left flank around Maryang San with many enemy probes.It seemed that they were building up to another counter attack on us. "Lofty",exhausted by frequent "stand too's" rolled over in his pit onto his Owengun and discharged a burst destroying his leg. We were all edgy, tired and rundown fromthe earlier Commando operations and the subsequent loss of 317 and not in the mood to takemuch more. We were looking for excuses to go home. Self inflicted wounds and battle traumawere around the corner but were held off by the guts of the men and our need for eachother. There was a little bother with lawful commands within the platoon, (but, what is alawful command in those perilous circumstances?). We dealt with this as a platoon problemand still held together, all 15? of us. I had come to rely heavily on the diggers in theplatoon. We were without a Platoon Sergeant and would remain so for the remainder ofoperations,(until Sergeant "Big Jim" Pashen arrived in January).

"Rusty" McWilliam was killed by mortar fire during an enemyprobe, nearby on our right flank one evening. He was an outstanding commander and buddy,and was sorely missed. Stretcher Bearer "Bill" Massey was another fatality ofthis period. The loss of his cheer in reserve, courage in battle and comfort to thewounded left a big hole in our morale. Eventually "Jim" Stewart (who had beenawarded a MC for his courage laying cable under fire), took over but in the meantime 8Platoon was commanded by Lance Corporal, temporary Sergeant, acting Platoon Commander"Slim" Cotton. Not much has been said about Slim. He was the strong, silenttype, accepted into the ranks of the subalterns with pride. He didn't get his name inthe history books but I will never forget him or his part in the campaign.

We received our first rocket attacks during this period. They madeholes bigger than a 3 ton truck and a noise like a thousand trains. Fortunately theysprayed around a bit and no-one was hurt, but they left an indelible stamp on ourmemories. The Commanding Officer again visited us forward and walked the line. We proudly?displayed an enormous rocket hole close to our platoon positions. The visit raised ourmorale but the continued exposure was getting to us all. The enemy was still active andprobing the positions prior to mounting their final offensive against 317. Our platoonposition was on the top of a ridge overlooking the great valley to the right and behind317. We looked over the valley every day and noticed in the far distance some signs andbuildings which we couldn't decipher by field glasses. We were all a bit troppo andanxious to get off our exposed positions. We badgered the Intelligence Officer, Lieutenant"Peter" Scott, for permission to patrol forward and identify the area. Aftermuch consideration approval was reluctantly given and we headed off down the slope insingle file some two hours before first light to gain the protection of darkness.Unfortunately my assessment was way out and by first light we were still only half waydown the mountain and facing many miles in open country across the valley in full view ofthe enemy. Discretion got the better part of valour and I aborted the patrol. I got a bitof a ribbing from Peter as a result of this but the platoon agreed I had made the rightdecision.

Afterwards I wondered what they would have done if I insisted we pressforward. I'm glad I never found out! Field Marshal Slim used to quote that "courage is like small change in the pocket. We all have some and the brave, more thanothers, some spend it more quickly but when it is all spent there is none left." Wehad all spent our small change over the last month and we were "broke". Time togo to the bank and a spell in reserve.


Events afterwards were hectic but never quite the same as Commando. Wepatrolled again and again in the Arctic cold, frostbite and metal burn taking its toll.Patrolling at night is an eerie experience, and very demanding on the infantryman. We wereall battle weary but standing up well. We lived for Rest and Recuperation (R&R) leaveand eventual rotation. I never ceased to be amazed at the tenacity and durability of theplatoon after all they had been through..


Reserve was taken after each period of action in the line. It was anecessary relief from stress and exposure to the enemy. No soldier can seal off thepressure forever without blowing up. It was a time to recharge our emotional batteries,run flat by many weeks of contact. Every effort was made to make our life morecomfortable. There were Red Cross parcels, letters from home, extra beer and hot rations.The Other Ranks', Non Commissioned Officers' and Officers' Messes playedlong and late. "Bushy" throwing up all over the Commanding Officer's leg,"Roy" Pugh and the "piccolo song" shocking the US Marine mess,"Basil" Hardiman and the "Bastard from the Bush" and frequent visitsto the rear supply messes to catch up with my Subaltern mate Ansell Goodall. Chewing glassand fire eating. We all had a thousand party tricks to keep up our spirits before thereturn to action. Danny Mantello ran the Starting Price (SP) Book (with a blind eye fromFather "Joe") and Max Corbett? ran the "two up" swy game (Captain"Rene" Lemercier pretending he wasn't there?) Rene became a Barrister whenhe left the Army. I hope there is a statute of limitations on swy. Reserve was also a timefor contemplation and self recrimination. Did I do the right thing in action? If I hadacted sooner, would the casualties have been less? Did I cause Jack's death? Whatwill I do next time? What will I do if one of the men cracks up again? Will I have theguts to call down our own artillery if we are over-run? How many times can we all be luckyand survive? Who'll cop it next.? We all had our own private Hell to contend with,Private or Sergeant, Subaltern or senior officer.

Early in the piece we were visited by the Minister for the Army"Jos" Francis. There was a great parade planned with all the accompanying fuss.No one was too keen to give up their reserve time for such a function and there was muchgrumbling in the ranks . There was a lot of booze floating around and the soldiers werenot in the mood to stand in the sun and listen to a politician who had recently failed toannounce some service benefits we all thought were due to us. The atmosphere was electric.Arthur Stanley was well attuned to the mood and stood close to the ranks muttering allsorts of retribution if we didn't behave. The Minister started his address, somewhatpedantic and totally boring. I don't know what votes he hoped to get from us.

" I've come a long way to see you Boys " he announcedwith pride.

" How f.... far do you think we have come " echoed a voicefrom the rear. The reply was met with a muttered cheer from the ranks. Afterwards I wasinwardly proud of the misbehavior. It showed we still had a bit of fight left in us. Ihope it didn't embarrass the Commanding Officer too much. Later when the officialparty had recovered from its shock and retired to the Officers' Mess we found thatsomeone had stolen the "Scotch" laid aside for the Ministers visit. A doublewhammy. Politicians and Soldiers don't make a good mix.

Captain Brian Poananga, New Zealand, was a tough Maori officer . Afellow Duntroon graduate and college boxer, he agreed to take part in an exhibition toentertain the troops in reserve on the Lozenge. We were yet to meet the enemy. Brian was aheavy weight and put up against a fellow Kiwi who was a professional before he joined theArmy. It was a great spectacle but Brian was outclassed and was thumped out. I'vealways admired Brian for this sacrifice to unit morale. It was a brave effort. We were tomeet again in Papua New Guinea when Brian was New Zealand High Commissioner.

Major "Bill" Finlayson Officer Commanding Support Company andBattle 2nd in command was another legend in his own way. He had an infectious good humourwhich saved the day on many an occasion. Somehow Bill and the Commanding Officer had gottheir heads together to get some timber and large fuel heaters to be able to erecttemporary Recreation Rooms for all the messes whilst we were in reserve. They had no luckin normal requisitions and I was foolish enough to boast that with a bit of luck you couldfool the Americans into making a special issue from Seoul. To my horror they called mybluff and gave me a three day leave pass to Seoul where I had visited when wounded, plussome requisitions and a Battalion stamp. I hitched a ride to Kimpo with an American reccepilot and booked into the British transit mess. From there I graduated, with two bottlesof Scotch and an official jeep and headed towards the United States Army (Corps) Supplybase. I managed to find " Sgt Bilko " and negotiated some trucks of planks andbuilding timber plus some large space heaters. I rushed back to the Battalion with thebooty fully expecting the American Military Police to road block at any time. I had signedfor the goods " Lt Ned Kelly 3 RAR " which at the time I thought a pretty smartand original idea. It was only after the war during reparations that I learnt thathundreds of " Ned Kelly's" of various ranks and units had purchasedmillions of dollars of equipment from the United States of America who were now demandingpayment.! On my return to the Battalion the success of the operation was greeted with amagnificent party to celebrate the construction of our new accommodation for all thediggers. Lieutenant George Zwolanski, a Polish veteran, and I put on a wrestling match"Foreign Legion" style from which we both retired with honour but much bruisingcolliding with nearly wrecking our newly acquired space heater.

The battalion was supported by Korean porters, some Republic Of KoreaArmy Liaison Officers and a large number of young boy camp followers who did the washingand cleaning up in reserve. The courage and resourcefulness of this group is legend. Theporters and Liaison Officers carried to the front line in all battle conditions, oftenexposed under enemy fire. Always there when needed and never complaining. The Houseboyswere wonderful young men, full of cheer and hope for the future. Rhubarb is now inAustralia and a successful business man, Kim is in Korea and runs a transport business.Nothing would be too good for them..


I was relieved as 7 Platoon Commander on Dog/George outpost. A positionon the battalion flank overlooked by Chinese positions on "John" Point 227. Fromthe intensity of this posting and during my final reserve before rotation I was appointedMortar Platoon Commander under Major "Bill" Finlayson Officer Commanding SupportCompany. Mortars was a great job, challenging and tiring and much more comfortable thanthe line platoon,. It was a sad departure from the platoon and I was to miss theircompany. The mortarmen, however, were all ex frontliners and the Mortar FireController's took their turn with the forward companies. They were a great bunch -"Misu", "Don", "Harry", "Blue". Theresponsibilities were heavy, supporting forward patrol operations and defensive fire. Daysand nights were spent in registration and fire on call. Somehow over the last few months Ihad acquired a Carbine and two pearl handled Colt 45's, both in shoulder holsters. Webuilt a small range not far from our Mortar position and practised being "Quick DrawMcGraw".

We were always curious as to what was behind Point 227, Matthew, Mark,Luke and John (moving to the east). I applied for an aerial reconnaissance with the LightAircraft Squadron which was manned with "Austers", a curious little rubber bandhigh wing canvas monoplane which served the purpose. We cruised up and down the front lineand behind the enemy positions observing and registering targets for future patrol use. Wecould not see any indication of enemy occupation whatsoever. They were all livingunderground or under cover. We had found out earlier from the January raid that there wasat least a battalion dug in on the Matthew ridge line. The mortars now knew what theirtargets looked like when support was called for.

I had to take my turn as duty officer in the Battalion Command Post,during the nights, with the signaler and company picquets. They were long nights of radiostatic and reports from forward sentries and supporting arms. I was filled withtrepidation that I would fail to make the correct decision in the CommandingOfficer's absence. The major task was coordinating fire support for the patrols.. Ifelt for the platoon patrols (including my old platoon) moving through unknown ground, inno man's land, in the dark, unaware of the enemy positions and the old and newminefields. Cold , weary and apprehensive, there is no place so lonely as the patrol atnight. Patrolling in Korea was to claim many casualties over the months to follow . It isthe ultimate test for the infantryman.


It was very tough in the line in both winter and summer. Doc Barnes hadhis hands full in action and out. He was a gem. Battalions in action can't survivewithout good Regimental Medical Officers, devoted Padres, Sallies or Everyman and thelikes. 3 Battalion was blessed in this regard.

Holes in the ground don't make healthy homes! In the summer wewere pestered with flies, mites, rashes and diarrhoea. A special favourite was the villagecucumber which could be picked on patrol. The villages had long since deserted their homesand were living in hideouts or refugee camps.) Unfortunately this refreshing vegetable wascoated with many centuries of nightsoil and whilst the cool comfort of a chew after a longday in the hot sun was heaven, the subsequent agonizing cramps of the trots was hard totake. Winter was just as tough. Frostbite and metal burn, especially on patrol at night,was fearsome. The cold at times would freeze a cup of coffee in the open and you had toshave in the bottom of the hutchie to prevent the water freezing on your face. Not quitethe Antarctic but bad enough for soldiers from the Sunshine Country. We had a fewIslanders serving with us. I doubt if they ever acclimatized. Every time we came back intothe line into new positions we faced dirty hutchies and weapon pits left over from theprevious occupants. It took days to clean them up and bring them to our Battalionstandard. Our first task was always a spring clean. Not all our allies shared the samehygiene standards as the Australians. If you were unlucky you would pick up lice in yourhead and crutch. Some of the hutchies and pits were filthy and infested with rats and hadto be shoveled clean as we moved in.

The treatment for all complaints was simple, Aspirin for a pain,No9's for the trots, mistadtussim for a cough, barbasol shaving cream for a rash orfrostbite and wash your head and crutch in DDT to get rid of the bities. Somehow wesurvived but many have suffered for years afterwards. The liver is never the same after aDDT bath. For all this the Digger received the basic soldier's wage, a bottle of beerin reserve for which he paid and a thankless return home. Years later, weary and older anda lot sicker he had to battle with a much younger bureaucracy for welfare. You don'twander why in the nineteen nineties, some of them get a bit niggly when 15 year olds leavehome and get a pension because they can't get on with Mum and Dad.

We were in the line on Xmas eve 1951. It was relatively peaceful. TheChinese crept up to our wire and left banners and Xmas presents to greet us at firstlight. We had heard some activity but chose to ignore it until first light. We all admiredthis daring Chinese gesture - propaganda as it was.


When young men are faced with death and injury, in War, they tend toget a bit wild when they come out of action. Who knows if they will make it home after thenext engagement? Known by the diggers under a variety of rude synonyms, but formally Restand Recuperation, R&R was a period of leave (in peace and quiet?) in Japan. We allprayed we would be around for this, a week of debauchery and wild parties. My first nightended in a back room bar in Shinjiuku, rolled and wallet stolen. The Japanese Police weresympathetic but didn't lose any sleep over it. A subaltern mate, Lieutenant BrianFalvey, helped out and we shared his cash for the rest of the leave. Another night wefound ourselves in a Tattoo bar along the Ginza. Thanks to another mate, Lieutenant JimStewart, I left without " Dear Mum " on my arm. The Maronouchi Hotel had neverseen the likes of Aussie subalterns on R&R. The owner of this quite luxurious Hotelused to sit on a large chair in the foyer supervising the staff. Strangely enough when Ivisited Tokyo some 30 years later he was still there in the same position. We purchased asmall snake from a Japanese herbalist and amused the Americans with many stories about the"Australian one eyed trouser snake " and its activities. One night we celebratedin an off limits nightclub " The Showboat ", out of uniform, as AustralianConsular officials. Some of us were picked up by the Military Police and dragged off tothe shop. They missed the rest of us, hiding under tables and behind very disturbedJapanese gentlemen, so we trotted off to the station to plead for our mates release with avariety of fanciful stories designed to melt the heart of any hard copper. Not so. Therest of us were booked as well and on return to 3 Battalion I found myself before theCommanding Officer again to answer an American Delinquency Report. Shame. Everybodylaughed except me. The Commanding Officer was very understanding. Perhaps some of theCompany Commanders had similar reports???

On my final weekend I left the Maronouchi and booked into the OfficersClub at Ito near Tokyo. (Ito was for Commonwealth Officers and Fuji was for Americans, theauthorities wisely deciding that a mix was undesirable.) It was a magnificent convertedmansion formerly the estate of a Japanese Baron? Private Golf course with caddies,luxurious rooms and close to the hot springs famous throughout Japan. Some Army nurseswere also on R&R there with us. I palled up with one. We had a great time and on thelast night decided to break the monotony and visit these famous Ito baths. We were wellbriefed for this occasion by the staff and informed that it was customary to bath nude.This was 1952 and not 1992, well before the pill, unisex and sexual equality and nudebathing was a gigantic step, even full of Scotch. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. Weweren't about to bring shame upon our Nation. Off we went, with an agreed plan. Whenwe reached the baths we would strip in the separate rooms (separated by a Tatami partition) and then on cue we would run out together into the bathing area and jump in. Thus hidingour altogethers under the water! The best laid plans of mice and men always go astray. Weburst out on cue only to see a full size Olympic Pool with an empty stretch of about 10yards to the security of the water (filled with fully costumed Japanese!!!). Surroundingthe baths were public stands (stacked with fully dressed Parents, friends and Grandparentsmost of them wearing spectacles). We stood there in our nude splendour, in horror andshock, whilst hundreds of bespectacled Japanese stared at us from the balconies. Thechatter had been replaced by a deadly silence. We strode (quickly) hand in hand to thewater with as much dignity as the remaining hand could muster, jumped in and as soon asthe chatter recommenced, (the Japanese are remarkably well mannered) we cringed back tothe change rooms like mongrels at a dog show. It was a long , long walk. Death row must bemuch the same.

The menu on R&R was the same every day, Asahi for Breakfast,Daiquiris for lunch and Scotch for tea. Dinner was for serious drinking. There were plentyof pickings between meals. The Australian base was run by Lieutenant Frank Guest who was agood friend to all transients. I still owe him for a pair of shoes I lost. We were glad toget back to Korea for a rest!


A well named , isolated , absolute DOG of a position. After a period inreserve, following Commando, we took up a position on the right flank of the battalionnext to the US 3rd Rock of the Marne Division. Lieutenant Bob Marshall was theUS liaison officer and I was the Australian. Major "Blanc" White anotheroutstanding officer from my Duntroon days, was our new company commander taking over fromJack Gerke. We got on well with the Americans. 7 and 8 Platoons were located together onthis small knoll, under the shadow of the enemy on "John", basically an outpostposition. The battalion layout was a tactical nightmare, too much space between companiesand not enough men . The dead ground could only be covered by supporting fire. Everyonewas uneasy about the dispositions but none more than us. Our position was overlooked bythe enemy and unsupported by our own battalion small arms. The nearest enemy trench wasabout twenty yards from us, unmanned by day but active at night. We had some sort ofunholy truce with the enemy. They left us alone and we left them alone except whenbattalion patrols passed through us and the wire. We made no attempt at concealment, itwas simply not possible as the enemy on John looked down on us. It was nervous also forour re-supply, departing patrols and visitors, as they had to walk fully exposed over along distance to reach us. Altogether a "dog" of a post. The trench latrineswere in full view of the enemy and they permitted us use of them provided we waved paperin the air as we left our trenches. Under the circumstances most of our activity bothcolonic and digestive was at night. Only once was the truce broken without cause. Someenthusiastic Chinese hero manning the day shift on John shot off Jack Gordon's nosewhilst he was reading outside his bunker. He was later patched up successfully inAustralia. The platoon went berserk at this breach of the truce and we poured small armsand fire support onto the Chinese position., some standing and hurling abuse as well asshots. For a short while the enemy returned the fire (perhaps expecting an assault ?) butafter a while it all calmed down. The pure frenzy of our response must have made themthink as they did not snipe again.

On 25/26 January 1952, soon before I was to be re-posted to theMortars, we were to secure John as a base for a platoon raid forward by Tiny Hone'sPlatoon from another company. In preparation we had made a reconnaissance of the area,with a few other desperates, the night before to ascertain enemy strengths. There wasbright moonlight and the ground was covered in crisp white snow. There was no cover and itwas impossible to conceal our movements. Noise as the ice cracked was inevitable. Everystep sounded like a horse chewing wheat. We stood out like udders on a bull. Fortunatelythere was no reaction to our probe. Either the enemy were asleep or they deliberately didnot react. In retrospect they probably observed and took little notice of those crazyAustralians crawling around in the snow instead of sleeping peacefully under ground. Myexperience had been that the Chinese were always tactically patient, preferring to reactrather than initiate. They were good counter punchers. I reported personally to theCommanding Officer that there was no reaction from the enemy and that John, 227, did notappear to be strongly occupied. We foresaw little difficulty in occupying it the nextnight and reported accordingly . I was right and I was wrong. "John" was clearbut in position behind was the main defensive line. I had in my mind that the CommandingOfficer was not particularly keen on the operation but he was being pressed from above?What would we achieve? If it was heavily occupied we would get a bloody nose; if itwasn't we would have to battle to hold it. Another bloody nose. The Armistice was notfar off. No doubt there was a good Divisional reason.

However firm plans were made to attack "the Apostles" andafter last light the next night 7 Platoon snaked up the mountain, following the emptytrench lines, to the Observation Post on the top of "John". We knew the areawell, from frequent incursions, but the risk of booby traps and enemy patrols was alwaysthere. The Observation Post was empty but showed signs of recent occupation. Weestablished the firm base without opposition and called Tiny's platoon forward. Whenthey reached the next knoll on "Luke", all Hell broke loose. The enemy wasstanding too, apparently reinforced from "Mark" and "Matthew" andready to repel the advance. Opposition was strong and casualties high. Our firm base andre-supply was being mortared and shelled heavily with accurate registration and a numberwere wounded and killed in action. Our bunker suffered a direct hit and collapsed (some ofus were partially buried) and there were further casualties. In the meantime heavycasualties were flowing back from "Tiny's" platoon. I was on radio directto the Commanding Officer who constantly monitored the position, prior to coming forward.I could feel from the tone of his voice that he was deeply concerned at the casualtiesincurred and the strength of the opposition. As the situation deteriorated the CommandingOfficer ordered the operation aborted. Tiny was to withdraw through our firm base and wewere to abandon "John". We managed to hang on and cover Tiny's withdrawalbut the enemy were pressing hard against us and there was much confusion. It is at thesetimes that the best in men comes out. In the Observation Post with me was Karl Schmidt,the Platoon ratbag, another "Foreign Legionnaire" and man of mystery. He wasalways a problem on the outpost, throwing grenades at night to stir up the enemy andmaking rude and obvious gestures of contempt towards our friendly enemy observing us from"John" each day. However on this occasion he was left with me to cover ourplatoons rapid withdrawal down the trench line to the comparative safety of our Outpost.He was told to run for the bottom whilst I covered with the remaining grenades " Notf... likely " was his reply. "You p... off and I'll follow ". It wasnot the time for general discussion or an interpretation of lawful commands. In the end weboth stumbled down together, hastily I might add, one on one fire and movement. Theaftermath was a sad one, shell fire followed the withdrawal and Arthur Stanley, again inthe thick of it was with the Stretcher bearers trying to retrieve the wounded. StretcherBearer "Bruce" Harkness was killed. A veteran of every company action, it was asad loss and a shock. Somehow we all thought he was invincible. In many ways this raid wasworse than 355 or 317. You had nothing to show for it afterwards.


The Battalion and Company tactics were the province of our seniorofficers, Hassett and Gerke, and have been covered many times before in manuals andtactical exercises. Not much has been said about Platoon tactics, yet, in the wordsof Sir Thomas Daly

"the battle is fought out on the ground by platoons and sectionsand it is on them that we are dependent for success. Every man should know the objectiveand know how it is to be attained, because leaders become casualties and anyone may becalled upon to assume command - be it section, platoon or company - and to maintain themomentum of attack".

Platoon tactics are fundamentally different in emphasis, they are minortactics, in that simplicity, speed of reaction and determination are emphasized above allelse - head down and tail up. Platoons don't have time, in the heat of battle, tochange plans or vary thrusts. Their tactics are limited to fire and movement and thesimplest of tasks in support of the battalion objectives. Lord Admiral Nelson probablyhit the button when he directed "Forget the manoevres - just go at them!".Good advice for junior leaders.


The platoon, in Korea, relied on the expertise of the CommandingOfficer and his staff and the Company Commander in pointing them the right way, givingthem support and an achievable objective, on the 2nd in command for looking after A and Bechelons and the Company Sergeant Major for battle re-supply and evacuation. From then ontheir job is to get on with it as quickly as possible, trust in God and go with guts.

Operation Commando proved that the courage and determination of theleading section determined success or failure. Had they faltered, the whole company (andperhaps battalion) would have propped.

Even a bad plan will sometimes succeed if pursued with determination.

Speed was the essence of our platoon success in battle. You can'tallow time for the enemy to react to your thrust. Well trained, well led men, who nevergive in, are invincible. Our platoon success, also, depended not so much on what force wewere but what the enemy thought we had. Why else would he have withdrawn in the face ofhis overwhelming superiority. In the absence of your own overwhelming superiority,deception (surprise) is therefore vital. In some ways it is like a no limit Pokergame, deception or bluffing can win the pot in spite of poor cards. A show of strength anddetermination can convince the enemy he has lost.

To be effective, Platoon Commanders and all junior leaders mustbe trusted and well forward so that they can influence, not only the battle but the moraleof the men thus supporting and building the "mateship" necessary for success."Frank" Hassett, a legendary young commander of 33 years, was always forwardwith the men in times of need and always an example. He was the driving force behind 3Battalion morale and will to win. Closer to home, for C Company, it was Jack Gerke andArthur Stanley. Similarly, neither the Platoon Commander nor the Section Commander canlead from behind.

The men must trust their leaders to look after their best interests.They must win this trust and the men will follow. Badges of rank alone won't do it.How the Platoon Commander wins this trust is his problem, but caring is a good start.

Good leadership creates and maintains good morale("mateship"). Good morale wins battles. Leadership at all levels therefore isthe one single secret of platoon success. Each man at each level must display thequalities of leadership, whether it is the section commander to his men or the Bren gunnerto the rest of the section or even between two forward scouts. Leadership is not theprerogative of the Commissioned and Non Commissioned ranks. It belongs to everyfighting individual. Leadership is the foundation of morale - good morale will achieve theimpossible. I can never forget "Jim" Burnett and his single momentous effect onplatoon and battalion success. Leadership is the magic that wins wars and lifts soldiersto unbelievable heights of performance. We all must win it and then hold onto it. Othersmust believe in you and you must believe in others.


They fly faster in formation than individually.

The leader goose falls back when it is tired and is replaced by another.


When one gets tired and can't continue the others land so that hecan rest.

They honk at each other all the time so that they all understandwhat's going on.

And if something threatens them when resting they all attack together.

and finally

I learnt many things about battle in Korea, principal of which is"the team ("mateship") is everything". No individual no matter howbrilliant can achieve any thing by himself. Korea taught me to care for my men and theywill care for me. They were as close to family as I ever got. They proved to be myinvestment in the future and I was repaid a hundredfold.

I learnt also about humility and how much I had yet to learn aboutsoldiering and soldiers


On my last night in Korea I had withdrawn to B echelon for re-postingthe next day to Reinforcement Holding Unit Kure and Divisional Battle School Haramura nearHiroshima, Japan. I was comfortably knocking off a bottle with Reg Whalley when I receiveda call from the Commanding Officer to come back to Battalion Headquarters for a game ofPoker with the Kiwi gunners. To my undying shame, I gave some lame excuse and declined.Truth is, that I was too cautious to risk a stray shell. Japan was too close. As acompensatory gesture, I have never knocked back a game of Poker since!

In retrospect I have many proud memories of Korea and some misgivings,the principle one being my own unworthiness of the magnificence of the men I served with.I cringe inwardly when I think of my behaviour and mistakes. To my everlasting regret Ihave seen little of them since that time. My own life has been a fortunate one. The fateshave treated me kindly with a lot of luck and a wonderful wife and family. I wonder howthose men who deserved so much have fared. Regrettably, on return to their Homeland theirsacrifices were forgotten conveniently by the general Australian public, their Nationnever ever awarded them the honour or rewards they deserved. Some of us were trained andqualified to absorb the emotional blows of battle, to find a vocation in Civvy street andto set our new lives in order. Not so, many of the front line diggers. They absorbed themany scars of battle, pumped up by victory and defeat and supported by an understandingArmy system. They then returned to the peace time world stunned by the changes they mustaccept and often without adequate recognition of their sacrifice. The blow to personalesteem is devastating. Not everyone can handle it. Adequate public recognition and thankson return to Australia would have helped but it was denied them. They returned home to a"So What!" society, forgotten heroes, to lick their wounds and put their livestogether again. This is the real tragedy of War. Not only death, wounds or tacticaldefeat, but the damage to the spirit of those who participate and the inability to adjustto the future.

Somehow, perhaps in our own solitude, we all think of those times, with3 RAR in Korea. Horse Goggin firing the mortar without base-plate or bipod, Jack Morrisonpassing the bottle to cool the Vickers, Jim Burnett blasting from the hip, MarkYoung's poker table games, Jim McFadzean in Jack Gerke's wake loaded down withwireless, Joe Vezgoff and Dutchy Holland acting the fool on the Lozenge, finding a pieceof ham in the ham and beans, Reg Whalley and his rum issue, trading a bottle with theYanks, frost bite and the universal panacea Barbasol, the madness that was R&R, thewild parties in reserve, the short arm, the loneliness of patrol , frozen corpses exposedby the thaw, the courage of the Korean bearers, the despair of the Korean refugees, theChinese bugles and whistles, the sour taste of defeat and the exhilaration of success, thefear of death or cowardice, the massive trauma of shrapnel or gunshot wounds, ArthurStanley and the courageous stretcher bearers under fire, "Doc" Barnes , Padre"Joe" Phillips and the wounded, our fallen comrades.

"Frank " Hassett and the men of 3 Battalion blazed a path ofglory for those who followed. The Commanding Officer and all commanders by theirinspirational leadership, courage and example and the others by their grim determinationto succeed.

The story of Commando will long endure in Infantry and regimentalhistory.

Age and sickness may dim the lives of those who participated butnothing can take away the pride of their achievements on those eventful days.

Many of us drew life long inspiration from the sacrifices of ourcolleagues.




                 SEARCH SITE                  
     Principal Infantry Weapons     
                   Guest Book                   

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


© Australian Album ©