Chapter 8



Service Details

Jack Gerke was wounded at the Battle of Maryang San but remained onduty and refused medical treatment until after the position had been handed over to theKOSB (King's Own Scottish Borderers). He is a veteran of World War 2 having servedwith 2/16 Infantry Battalion from its inception, with service in Syria, The Middle East,PNG and Borneo. He rose through the ranks from Private to Major. Recalled to the"colours" at the outbreak of the Korean War he served as OC C Company 3Battalion, OC Headquarters and Support Company RAR, in all significant battles of theperiod, including the Battle of Kapyong. After his duty in Korea he was posted as OC 1Reinforcement Holding Unit (1 RHU) at Hiro in Japan. He is in "active "retirement at Willetton Western Australia. He is married and spends much time with hiswife, children and grandchildren. For 15 years he was State President (WA) of the Koreanwar veterans association (KSEAFA) and a member of the National Executive. He stillparticipates in most of their activities with a strong bias towards their welfare. Jackwas awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) (Immediate) for bravery and leadershipat the Battle of Maryang San and admitted to the Order of Australia (AM) (1976) forservice to veterans.


As the Officer Commanding C Company, 3 Battalion, Royal AustralianRegiment (3RAR) I was to witness and become involved in six days of bitter fightingagainst the Chinese Communist Forces (CCF) in Korea. Operation Commando and the battles ofHill 355 and Hill317. The battles raged between the 3rd and 8th October 1951. It was theaim of the United Nations Commander, General Van Fleet (USA), to capture a number of veryprominent features then held by the Chinese (CCF), prior to a cease fire and before anArmed Truce Agreement could be negotiated at Panmanjon.

3 Battalion Royal Australian Regiment was one of the three Battalionsof the 28th British Commonwealth Brigade, the other two being the 1st Battalion The KingsOwn Scottish Borderers (KOSB) and 1st Battalion Kings Shropshire Light Infantry (KSLI).Brigadier George Taylor (United Kingdom) was the Brigade Commander. The BritishCommonwealth Division consisted of the 25th, 28th and 29th Brigades under the command ofLieutenant General James "Gentleman Jim" Cassels (later Field Marshal Sir James)and was part of 1 Corps. The 16th Field Artillery Regiment (New Zealand) and the 8th RoyalIrish Hussars Tank Regiment supported the 28th Brigade with artillery and tanks availablefrom within the Division and the Corps, if the necessity arose. Operation Commando was thecode name given to the operation throughout the Corps front, but the actual battle by 3Battalion RAR was called the Battle of Maryang San (Hill 317) which was the place name ofthe Battalion's final objective.

Before Maryang San could be assaulted and captured by the Australiansthere were a number of heavily defended features, held by the Chinese, that had to betaken before the final attack on Maryang San could take place. The Australians objective,"Maryang San", was considered to be the most vital and difficult of the wholeCorps front as it was the most northern feature that had to be taken from behind theenemy's lines. On the 2 October 1951 the Battalion moved forward to the Start Line (SL) inreadiness for attacks on a number of features on the following day by A, B and DCompanies. C Company was to be held in reserve but had the defensive task of protectingthe Battalion's flank and its Headquarters. Initially, the men of C Company were bitterlydisappointed that they were the reserve company, but, at that time did not realise what animportant role they were to play before the operation was over. I gave orders to digdefensive positions, check ammunition and supplies and to be ready to move at the shortestpossible notice. I had a feeling we would be committed early if the battle went wrong.

The Commanding Officer of 3 Battalion RAR was Lieutenant Colonel Frank(Francis) Hassett (later General Sir Francis and Chief of the General Staff Australia) whohad taken command late in July 1951, only two months prior to Operation Commando. He was aregular soldier with a brilliant World War 2 record of achievement and early promotion. Hewas most efficient, cool under pressure and planned every attack by his Company's down tothe minutest detail. It was his meticulous attention to detail and preparation that madethe Battle of Maryang San the most successful of any attack by the Australians in thethree year Korean War. He constantly moved around his companies meeting and talking to allof his troops. Morale was high because of this. He instilled confidence into all of us

The main Brigade attack on Day 1, 3 October 1951 was the assault onHill 355 (Little Gibraltar, Kowang San) by 1 Battalion the King's Own ScottishBorderers (1 KOSB). 1 Battalion the King's Shropshire Light Infantry (1 KSLI) were toattack and capture Hill 208 with the Australians, 3 Battalion Royal Australian Regiment (3RAR) given Hill 199 as their objective. At 0300 hours (3 am) B Company RAR were the firstto move out towards their objective (Hill 199) which was approximately 3 kilometres away.A Company was to follow B Company 30 minutes later. A heavy dank mist hung low over thevalley and along the route taken which assisted the Companies, as the Chinese were totallyunaware of the forthcoming attack. A very swift encounter with the enemy saw B Company incontrol of Hill 199 by 0800 hours (8 am) with 3 Australian casualties to 5 Chinese dead,10 wounded and one (1) taken prisoner. The KSLI had taken Hill 208. By mid morning ACompany 3 Battalion RAR had taken over from B Company on Hill 199. The KOSB were beingheld up by heavy defensive fire coming from two positions on a spur on Hill 220, NorthEast of the main objective, Hill 355, known as "Little Gibraltar" by theAmericans and Kowang San by the Koreans.. By dusk they had consolidated on the lowerslopes of Hill 355.

D Company RAR had taken up positions on Hill 238 on which the TacticalHeadquarters of Colonel Hassett's had been located. From this position the CO could viewthe surrounding country that 3 Battalion would be attacking on 4 October. As OfficerCommanding (OC) C Company I had been at Tactical Headquarters (Tac HQ) throughout the dayin case we were needed to move forward if the operation did not go according to plan. Fromthe C Company position the troops could hear the artillery and mortar fire and theconstant chatter of machine gun and small arms fire of both our own troops and that of theenemy, but could not see the actual battles taking place. Brigadier George Taylor orderedColonel Hassett to support the attack by the KOSB on Hill 355 (Little Gibraltar) byassaulting and capturing the two enemy positions on Hill 220. It was from these twopositions that withering fire from the enemy was preventing the KOSB assault on Hill 355.Late in the afternoon of 3 October Colonel Hassett turned to me and said;

"The job is yours Gerke. Look at my map here and get a goodpicture of the ground that you will have to move over."

Pointing to a position on the map he said ;

"I suggest that you use this as your Start Line (SL)".

He further advised that a Section of Medium Machine Guns (MMGs)(Vickers) under Sergeant Jack Morrison and a Forward Observation Officer (FOO) from the 16New Zealand Field Artillery would be moving with me.

I returned to the C Company's position and briefed the PlatoonCommanders on the Order of March emphasizing that there would be no lights and the Marchwas to be executed in total silence to maintain surprise. At 0400 hours (4 am) on themorning of the 4 October (the second day of the battle) I led C Company to a position just600 metres short of the first enemy emplacement on Hill 220. The valley before us, coveredwith a heavy mist, had to be crossed before we could make the assault on the first of thetwo emplacements on Hill 220. The troops rested. The MMGs were set up in positions to giveus covering fire should the mist lift. Under the command of Lieutenant Arthur"Bushy" Pembroke, 9 Platoon moved around selecting positions to protect the MMGsand to give support fire to 7 Platoon under the command of Lieutenant "Maurie"Pears who would be making the assault on the first emplacements held by the Chinese (CCF)on Hill 220, 8 Platoon under the command of Lieutenant Russ McWilliam and CompanyHeadquarters. As the light of dawn was about to break Hill 220 with Little Gibraltar (Hill355) in the background were clearly visible over the low hanging mist.

Maurie Pears was able to take a good compass bearing of his Platoon'sroute across the valley as his 7 Platoon would be in the lead followed by CompanyHeadquarters and 8 Platoon. The leading Section of 7 Platoon moved off at 0600 hours (6am), quickly and quietly as possible, silently praying that the mist would not lift, as ifit did they would be caught out in the open on the valley floor. There was a slight pausein the movement forward when a runner from 7 Platoon reported to me that 7 Platoon was nowin a position immediately below the first emplacement of the Chinese (CCF) on Hill 220 andwere spreading out for the attack. The forward Section moved out above the mist and wereonly 30 metres from the enemy's position. Private Jimmy Burnett of Queensland, carrying aBren Gun fired from the hip as one of the Chinese appeared whilst the others in theforward section fired automatic weapons and threw grenades into the Chinese trenches andbunkers killing and wounding a large number of the enemy. However the Chinese on thesecond emplacement on Hill 220 were quick to respond and brought extremely heavy fire downon the Australians attacking the first emplacement and mortar fire fell on No 3 Section of7 Platoon, wounding the Platoon Sergeant and the remainder of the section (5). A largenumber of Chinese were killed in their bunkers and weapon pits with the remainder escapingby fleeing down the rear slopes of Hill 355 to the North. Five were taken Prisoners ofWar.

"Russ" McWilliam arrived with 8 Platoon and finished offclearing out the bunkers and weapon pits. I instructed him to consolidate the positionjust captured but to be ready to move forward to support 7 Platoon who were pushingupwards to the second enemy emplacement on Hill 220. A message was sent back to ArthurPembroke to bring his 9 Platoon forward to that held by Russ McWilliam. The MMGs were toremain in their current position and to continue to find opportunity targets on theescaping Chinese which was being continually carried out. Corporal J.H. "Jim"McFadzean (Signaler Headquarters Company) notified Colonel Hassett at Tac HQ that CCompany had captured the first enemy emplacement on Hill 220 at 0900 hours and were nowassaulting the enemy's second emplacement. A repeat performance, by the platoon with BrenGunner Jimmy Burnett of 7 Platoon in the fore and again firing from the hip forced theChinese to stay in their pits with their heads down. Again the grenade throwers playedhavoc with the enemy in the trenches and bunkers. The quick movement of the two forwardSections of 7 Platoon took the Chinese by complete surprise and the arrival of 9 Platoonon the first objective allowed 8 Platoon to give valuable support fire to 7 Platoon. Itwas all too much for the Chinese and those who could fled down the rear slopes of LittleGibraltar. The NZ Fire Control Officer (FOO) called down artillery fire on the escapingenemy with great effect and coupled with accurate fire from the MMGs produced excellentresults. By 1100 hours 4 October the second enemy emplacement had been captured. Hill 220was ours.

9 Platoon now moved forward to consolidate the second emplacement onHill 220. 7 Platoon continued to probe forward along the spur line of Kowang San (Hill355) to flush out the enemy and to estimate their strength. The bagpipes of 1 BattalionKOSB could be heard coming from the valley below. By 1600 hours (4 PM) all the enemy hadbeen cleared from Little Gibraltar. Kowang San was ours. The Company Sergeant Major,Arthur Stanley had attended to the wounded, seen that the Prisoners of War (POWs) had beenescorted to the rear and collected the weapons and ammunition from our dead and woundedand reissued it to those remaining in 7 and 8 Platoons. Colonel Hassett was advised of theC Company success. He gave orders to hold the ground that we now occupied. Once the KOSBarrived we were to hand over Hill 355 to them, remain on Hill 220 and prepare for an enemycounter attack that night. On the morning of the 5 October we were to hand over all ourremaining positions to the KOSB by 0800 hours and return to our original defensivepositions which we had held prior to the 3 October.

Whilst C Company was attacking Hill 220 and Hill 355 the remainingthree companies of 3 Battalion RAR were engaging the enemy and/or consolidating the groundalready won.

Once back in the battalion's defensive position, rations and ammunitionwere issued to bring it up to sustainable levels. The troops were instructed to wash andshave, rest as much as possible under the circumstances but be ready to move at a momentsnotice. While they were all together it was explained to them that their success was dueto the excellent manner in which they had moved to the Start Line, their rapid and ongoingassault on the respective targets and their unflinching courage in the face of adetermined enemy who considerably outnumbered them. The final result being the occupationof Little Gibraltar which had been denied to all previous United Nations Forces which hadattempted to capture it. The congratulations of our commanding officer Colonel Hassett wasalso passed onto the men of C Company. With the Company Signaler, "Jim"McFadzean, I reported to the CO at the Battalion Tactical Headquarters and remained therethroughout 5 October.

Meanwhile A, B and D Companies were engaging the enemy and were havinggood success in drawing off the Chinese from a number of features leading up to the mainobjective, Hill 317 (Maryang San). Heavy casualties were being inflicted on the enemy,large numbers being wounded and taken prisoner. However, our casualties were mounting andsome Platoons which originally had 24 to 30 men were down to 15 or 20. The Chineseartillery and mortar fire which was extremely accurate was also severely restricting themovement of 3 Battalion troops.

Major "Basil" Hardiman, Officer commanding (OC) D Company andPlatoon Commander, Lieutenant "Geoff" Leary had both been wounded in the attackand the capture of a feature, under Hill 317, code named Victor. Both were evacuated.Another attack on a feature code named Uniform was planned and when executed, the waywould be open for an assault on feature Baldy which would open the way for the finalattack on Maryang San, which was the main objective of Operation Commando. Casualties onboth sides were considerable.

The attack on Uniform was led by Lieutenant L.G."Algie"Clark, Platoon Commander, 11 Platoon D Company with assistance and support from 6 Platoonof B Company. Heavy fighting raged but the Chinese finally capitulated and Uniform wasours. It had been planned for D Company to assault Baldy and the final objective, MaryangSan but it soon became obvious that neither B nor D Companies were in any condition tocarry out such a major assault and A Company was fully occupied on Hill 199. As I wasalready at Tactical Headquarters Colonel Hassett turned to me and in a similar manner ofthe 3 October said ;

"Gerke, the job of assaulting the main objective is yours. Move your Company to the rear slope of the D Company's position and as soon as Uniform is consolidated, push the Chinese off Baldy then carry on and take Maryang San".

It all sounded so simple. The CO further advised that he would attendto what support fire as required. I had my orders which were now to be executed. Theforward Platoon of C Company was to take Baldy and the remainder of the Platoons includingHeadquarters would move through them for the final assault on Hill 317, Maryang San, whichwas another 400 yards above and to the West. D Company would then relieve the C Companymen on Baldy which would permit them to follow up and support the advancing Platoons. OnceC Company was in position on the rear slope of D Company, 8 Platoon C Company, led by"Russ" McWilliam attacked Baldy after the CO had brought down 15 minutes ofconcentrated artillery and mortar fire on the enemy positions. Russ McWilliam, with twoSections forward, attacked the Chinese on Baldy to find many already dead or in a dazedcondition as a result of the pounding from artillery and mortars. He counted 12 enemy deadand captured 7 prisoners. "Maurie" Pears, with his severely depleted 7 Platoon,moved through Baldy, followed by Company Headquarters with Arthur Pembroke of 9 Platoonbringing up the rear. When the artillery and mortar fire had been lifted from Baldy it wasthen directed at Maryang San (317) for approximately 15 minutes which allowed C Company tocrawl within striking distance of its objective. When the artillery and mortar fire ceased7 Platoon scrambled up the steep slopes of 317 to find it clear of enemy troops.

The move forward from the D Company position had commenced at 1430hours (2.30pm) and C Company was consolidating its position on Maryang San at 1730 hours(5.30pm). Russ McWilliam, with 8 Platoon, had been relieved on Baldy and joined the restof C Company on Maryang San. Maryang San was ours. The Battalion platoons and sections hadbeen deployed like chess pieces with masterful results. Colonel Hassett was notified thatthe objective had been taken. He must have had some doubts about our ability to hold theobjective without reinforcements, which were not available. He ordered me to see that afeature called Sierra located some 300 metres to our North was cleared of any Chinese atfirst light on the morning of 6 October.

The Chinese had commenced bringing down concentrated artillery andmortar fire on C Company's positions on Maryang San as we were attempting to establishfighting pits in the expectations of a counter attack. The Chinese fire power causednumerous casualties amongst C Company troops which were attended to and evacuated underthe command of Arthur Stanley our Company Sergeant Major who in battle must act for thecompany in all re-supply and evacuation matters. All during the night he brought upsupplies and ammunition under the most difficult and hazardous conditions. A platoon fromA Company and the Pioneer Platoon (which had assisted in bringing up the supplies andammunition} and a Section of Medium Vickers Machine Guns (MMGs) under Sergeant JackMorrison also took up positions on Maryang San before darkness set in. It was a greatrelief to have their support. Sentries were placed out from our forward positions, the FOOlaid down Defensive Fire Tasks for the Kiwi Artillery with Jack Morrison continuallyre-positioning his Vickers to gain the maximum efficiency before anyone tried to snatch afew hours rest. Arthur Pembroke with 9 Platoon was to attack the Sierra feature which wasa heavily wooded knoll about 300 metres along the spur running North from the top ofMaryang San.

At first light I moved around the various posts held by the sectionsand platoons and finally took up a position from where I would be able to see the attackby 9 Platoon on the Sierra feature. Pembroke had discussed with me, his Platoon Sergeant"Micky" Newell and his three Section Leaders what action would be undertaken inassaulting the Sierra feature. A light mist made movement difficult and it was decidedthat Corporal "Danny" Powell would go forward and try to obtain some informationabout the positions and strength of the Chinese before the attack on the knoll actuallybegan. He reported back that some of the Chinese were preparing their breakfast, someattending to their weapons and others at ablutions. It was decided that two sections, oneon either side of the spur would crawl down as close as possible to the enemy and on agiven signal by Danny Powell they would all throw grenades onto the enemy positions andimmediately follow up with an assault on the pits with as much small arms fire that theycould muster. The attack was a complete success with many Chinese being blown to pieces,others seriously wounded. The Chinese who were not taken prisoners and were capable ofescaping the blood curdling Australians fled down the spur to a feature called The Hinge.

The young platoon signaler had given me a running commentary of theattack by 9 Platoon and I relayed this back to Colonel Hassett at Battalion TacticalHeadquarters (Tac HQ). Pembroke called for assistance with the Chinese wounded andprisoners and the removal of a fatal Australian casualty, Lance Corporal W.J.Yeo, who hadbeen shot through the head. The ever reliable Arthur Stanley already had assistance underway when he heard of the grenade attack on the enemy's positions. 9 Platoon cleared theSierra feature of the enemy dead then prepared defensive positions to the approaches, but,not before heavy artillery and mortar shelling fell on their positions and on the entirearea of Hill 317. Colonel Hassett with his Tac HQ moved up onto Maryang San immediatelyafter the successful attack on the Sierra feature by 9 Platoon. This attack had overcomethe possibility of a build up of the Chinese forces for a counter attack on 317.Throughout the day of 6 October the CCF continually bombarded Hill 317 and the Sierrafeature with heavy artillery and mortar fire. During the same day Colonel Hassett had alengthy discussion with Brigadier Taylor about the general situation in the Brigade area.

The Northumberland Fusiliers had failed in two attempts to capturetheir objective, Hill 217. This was due to the Chinese heavy artillery and mortars andsupport located on "The Hinge" and its rear slopes. Colonel Hassett decided touse B Company to attack The Hinge using feature Sierra and 9 Platoon as the secured StartLine for the attack. This tactic would divide the enemy's artillery and mortars as theNorthumberland Fusiliers would again attack Hill 217 but receive no fire from the enemy'spositions on The Hinge as they would be completely occupied in repelling the attack beingmade by B Company RAR. By first light on the morning of 7 October B Company was inposition next to 9 Platoon and under cover of a fine mist moved off for the assault on TheHinge. The Hinge had been subjected to heavy bombardment in preparation of the attack. TheChinese were well dug in, prepared and waiting for the Australian attack.

In the initial attack led by Lieutenant J.C."Jim" Hughes of 4Platoon and Major H.W."Wings" Nicholls, the OC of B Company, there were 12serious Australian casualties. It was four hours of continuous fighting before the Chinesewere driven off The Hinge leaving behind hundreds of dead and wounded. The Chinese werenot giving up easily. They kept bringing up reinforcements with repeated counter attackssupported by heavy concentrations of artillery and mortar fire onto The Hinge, Sierra andMaryang San throughout the battle but the Australian held on and The Hinge was finallyours. Russ McWilliam with 8 Platoon, C Company, rushed forward to thicken up B Company asdid Jack Morrison with his Vickers MMGs. The Anti Tank Platoon under Captain"Arthur" Rofe, became riflemen and were brought forward to strengthen thedefences on Sierra, lightly held by 9 Platoon which was now only 23 strong.

By late afternoon The Hinge began to look like an Australian defensiveposition but old enemy emplacements had to be utilized owing to the constant enemy counterattacks coupled with artillery and mortar fire onto the position. Sierra and Hill 317 alsotook heavy pounding from the Chinese.

Later in the afternoon, the shelling eased off and attacks by theChinese became sporadic which allowed ammunition and supplies, which were runningdangerously low to be brought forward. Captain Arthur Dodderell worked tirelesslythroughout the day bringing forward much needed ammunition and supplies. He was second incommand (2/IC) B Company and on each trip that he made, which was over 4 kilometres, hewas required to move through the thickest of enemy bombardments with his South KoreanPorters, a number of whom became fatal casualties. The porters carried the heavy loads ontheir backs on the ubiquitous "A frames". They would unload at The Hinge, pickedup the wounded and make their way back again to the supply point to reload and startagain. They did this constantly throughout the battle. Around dusk of 7 October the battleappeared to fade away. All was quiet for several hours. At 2000 hours (8 PM) sharp, allhell broke loose. The sky suddenly became a great arc of light and an unimaginableconcentration of artillery and mortar fire rained down on The Hinge, Sierra and MaryangSan which lasted for 30 minutes. On cessation of mortar and artillery fire the Chineseattacked B Company, on The Hinge, in massive numbers. 8 Platoon C Company, the MMGs on TheHinge and 9 Platoon C Company and the Anti Tank Platoon on Sierra took the full force ofthe attack. The attacking Chinese were mowed down in their hundreds from the witheringfire of the Australian defenders. Those Chinese following, literally ran over the bodiesof their fallen comrades to meet a similar fate. Three times during the night the Chineseregrouped and made similar attacks. The Australians took heavy punishment and casualties,but they proved that they were just as capable and determined of defending their positionsas they were in capturing them. They were not to be moved, nor were they. In the earlyhours of the morning 8 October it became quiet but nerve tingling with the occasionalshell coming in to keep us on our toes and to prevent us from getting any sleep. Furtherdrops of ammunition were made by our South Korean porters in the pitch blackness of thenight and our wounded were carried out.

The night of the 7/8 October had been most demanding of every man in 3Battalion RAR and particularly those on and around Maryang San. After six days of attackand defend it was a great problem for most of us to stay awake.

On the morning of the 8 October we allowed the Chinese to come forwardto carry out their dead which numbered in the hundreds. They had taken a hiding from theAustralians with the major part of their force being killed or wounded. During the Chineseattacks on the Australian defenders the artillery and mortar fire brought down on theAustralians was the greatest concentration of fire power by the Chinese during the entireKorea War. The NZ 16 Field Artillery Regiment had fired over 50,000 rounds in support ofOperation Commando. After the battle I walked around all of our positions and spoke to themen holding our defensive positions on Maryang San, The Hinge and Sierra and particularlyMaurie Pears, Russ McWilliam, Bushy Pembroke and the of men 7, 8 and 9 Platoons andHeadquarters before we were relieved by the KSOB on 8 October. They had carried out everytask that they had been given. They were a credit to their Company, their Battalion andAustralia and I was proud to be one of them. Their courage and bravery has no equal.

Names after 40 years readily come to mind and I often think of ArthurStanley, Russ McWilliam, Jim McFadzean, Mark Young, Joe Vezgoff, Ralph Warhurst, StanBombell, Jimmy Burnett, Jack Morrison, Maurie Pears, Frank Hassett, Jim Shelton, BillKeys, Bushy Pembroke, Peter Wesley and Bill Rowlinson. There are of course dozens ofothers who, when the going was tough and we were in the thick of battle, showed me thetrue Australian spirit of camaraderie, mateship and esprit de corps coupled with a deepand genuine concern for their fellow man which has been maintained to this day. Sadly ourranks are fast thinning.

Review by "Frank" Hassett

Jack Gerke's outline of his company's activities duringOperation Commando brings back a flood of memories to me of that gallant battalion"Old Faithful" which I had the honour to command. I recall principally thecourageous men who took part in our many battles and tests of spirit. Courage and teamworkare key factors in my recollections of this operation for without these qualities in allranks we could not possibly have succeeded in the face of such strong and determinedopposition. Courage is the principal requirement of the front line soldier. Without it,other military talent is of little consequence. Charlie Company, as did the other riflecompanies, displayed great courage. Teamwork within the battalion was high at all levels.

Without commenting further on Kapyong or the Hook, both magnificentoperations which have been the subjects of other articles, Maryang San is now recognizedas a brilliant six day battalion battle, our biggest since World War 2. It won praise fromother British and American units and men of wide battle experience, such as Major General,later Field Marshall Cassels, the British Divisional Commander and General Van Fleet, theUnited States Supreme Commander in Korea. Years later, Field Marshal Cassels, in a letterto Major General Morrison, then Colonel Commandant of the Royal Australian Regiment,described Maryang San as one of the finest battalion attacks in British history. Our ownLieutenant General Coates, when Chief of the General Staff, described it as a classicexample of a battalion in attack against superior forces and commended it for further Armystudy.

The question has been asked as to why it took so many years for MaryangSan to gain its current recognition. There were, of course, Australian reports writtensoon after the battle, in particular by the Director of Infantry, then Colonel Daly. Therewere some glowing newspaper tributes, but the war went on with little public interest. Onereason for the delay was that the Maryang San battle by 3 RAR was subsumed historicallyinto the overall brigade battle "Kowang San". The main reason, however, was thatmilitary history should be based on research by a trained historian and not on anecdotalevidence alone. The major role played by 3RAR did not emerge in post war military writingsuntil Dr. Robert O'Neill's official history " Australia in the KoreanWar" produced in 1985. To this point, an authoritative basis, in an historical sense,for establishing 3RAR's performance in the battles for Kowang San and Maryang San didnot exist. Following O'Neill's official history we saw the emergence of BobBreen's monograph, "The Battle of Maryang San" and other writings, leadingto the widespread recognition of Maryang San that now exists.

There are a number of reasons why Maryang San was so successful but atthe top of the list is the quality of the Australian soldiers involved. These were fit,well trained and confident men. Confident in themselves, their mates and their leaders.Orders were obeyed without question or hesitation. This was very important at the timebecause issues hung precariously in the balance and undue hesitation would have beendisastrous. Across the battlefield there were numerous incidences of aggressive initiativeby individuals turning potential disaster into success. Sadly there were many casualties,inevitable in war. But as one leader went down, another, without hesitation took hisplace. Many wounded, where there wounds permitted, ignored them to stay in the fight.These are the soldierly qualities that win battles.

Once the battalion had bested the numerically superior Chinese in theinitial engagements, they maintained that supremacy to the very end. Even on the sixth andlast day of the battle, when men were physically and emotionally exhausted and companieswere less than half strength, after an enemy barrage that could be likened to Alemein,they fought off three heavy Chinese counter attacks. There was never a whisper ofwithdrawal or retreat. The hard pressed forward troops knew that, if it became necessary,those a little further back, the depleted reserve company built up by odds and sods, wouldcome forward to their assistance. Win or lose it would be a battalion team effort.

There are strong links between teamwork and courage, A soldier fightsbetter as a member of a team, a team that will come to his aid whenever he is in trouble.He gains strength from them and they from him. The battalion team begins with the section.3 RAR at Maryang San was strong at the Non Commissioned Officer (NCO) and senior soldierlevel. Either in attack or defence, on any occasion, there was leadership strength withinthe sections. Young soldiers, new to battle, responded well to the example set by theirjunior leaders who were often, once casualties began to hit, themselves private soldiers.

A similar situation existed within the platoon teams. Maryang San wasvery much a series of platoon battles fought with skill and courage under the leadershipof the platoon commanders, sometimes junior subalterns and sometimes NCOs. One mustexercise caution in singling out individuals for special mention, when there were so manyinstances of individual courage throughout the battalion. But who could forget the sightof Bill Rowlinson, already wounded racing into the attack? Or Maurie Pears (7 Platoon)with his half strength platoon - the first into action and the first to take both 355 and317. There were twelve rifle platoons in the battalion and I could comment highly on allof them as teams of warriors courageously led.

The company commander, with his Company Sergeant Major (CSM) and smallsupport group, builds the company team. All the rifle company commanders at Maryang San,"Jim" Shelton (A Company), "Wings" Nicholls (B Company),"Jack" Gerke (C Company), "Basil" Hardiman and "Jim" Young(D Company) when he took over from the wounded Hardiman and Maloney, did excellent work.There was strong team spirit in all companies. "Jack" Gerke, with his CharlieCompany, had the most favorable opportunity to shine, and shine he did, brilliantly. I canstill remember his instant comprehension of a requirement and his ability and forcefulnessin carrying out any task, no matter how dangerous or complicated. His CSM, Arthur Stanley,still commands the admiration and respect he earned at Maryang San.

Supporting the rifle companies were the specialist platoons, themortars, the medium machine guns (MMGs), the anti tank platoon, the signals and theassault pioneers. Good teams within themselves and all essential to the battalion team.The Anti Tank Platoon and the Assault Pioneer Platoon fought courageously as much neededrifle platoons. The signalers worked in the open through heavy shelling to keepcommunication open. The MMGs were usually well forward and often in firing positions aboveground, extremely vulnerable to both shelling and ground attack. The mortars gave theirvaluable support, their commander Rene Lemercier, moving well forward with TacticalHeadquarters as did Reg Saunders, commanding the MMG Platoon.

Re-supply and casualty evacuation, in that rough, broken terraincarried out under shelling and sniper fire, was a difficult and dangerous task. Heroicstuff to say the least. It was a task well done and reflected great credit on the companysecond in commands (2I/Cs) and their men. Two of the 2I/Cs, Lee Greville and Alec Preece,were later successful battalion commanders in Vietnam. A third 2I/C Arthur Doddrell won aMilitary Cross for his efforts in supporting the hard pressed Bravo Company on the"Hinge". The battalion 2I/C John Carey and his team ensured that the battaliongot more than it's fair share of re-supply. The replacement 2IC "Bill"Finlayson became a legend in this regard. The Quarter Master (QM) "Reg" Whalley,not caught up in the front line fight, was so caring, he would give anything, includinghis life, to serve the battalion. Our outstanding medical officer "Doc" Barnesworked forward of his RAP, rightly in this case, despite the shelling.

Leading the battalion team was, of course, the battalion headquarters.I often reflect on the quality of its members. "Bill" Keys, as Adjutant, wasjust as effective then as his post war achievements are now. "Pete" Scott, amasterly intelligence officer, so cool in times of pressure and later a successfulbattalion commander in Vietnam as was the Assistant Adjutant, the unflappable andwhimsical "Lou" Brumfield. Where, I sometimes think, could one find a better RSMthan George Chin?

I thought I would not mention further individuals by name. To do soopens much more of a Pandora's box. There are just too many high calibre warriorsinvolved.

It is important to remember that 3RAR did not fight this battle alone,though in the final analysis they did take all three brigade objectives. There were otherunits involved, notably in 3RAR's case the magnificent New Zealand Field Regiment andthe superb 8th Irish Hussars. There was also highly efficient fire and logistical supportgiven by brigade and division headquarters. Not the least, support by the Korean porters,who despite heavy shelling and sniping carried their "A" frames forward withsupplies and ammunition and with solicitude, brought out many casualties.

Masterminding all of this was "Big Jim" Cassells thedivisional commander and later Sir James Cassells, Chief of the Imperial General Staff ofthe British army. He kept a wise and knowledgeable eye on the Maryang San battle. When, onthe evening of the sixth day of the battle, I spoke to the Brigade Commander, GeorgeTaylor, and said that we had taken some 120 casualties and that the battalion was "out on its feet" from fatigue we were relieved the very next morning by theKing's Own Scottish Borderers (KOSB - Kosbies). This relief meant a reshuffle of thefront line units. The KOSB was a front line unit and not a reserve. To effect our relief,Cassells had to side slip both Canadian and British battalions. It takes a forceful andexperienced commander to reorganize the need and act so swiftly.

I had taken a big risk in attacking from a flank with a long nightapproach in rough terrain. Only a good confident battalion, a "military team",with determined brave soldiers could do this successfully.

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