Searchlight Shadows, and Bayonets
In No Man's Land

5/1161 John E. Lewis, Assault Pioneers
Korea: 1951 - 1952

When the Korean War settled down to static positions, both sides dug in on the high ground and hills, and patrolled the valleys in the no man's land between, which were liberally sown with minefields and barbed-wire entanglements by both sides. The mines and wire were laid at night, at considerable risk to those who laid them, because when either side heard the sound of work in no man's land they'd call in a mortar or artillery strike on the spot, or hose it down with machine gun fire. All part of the defensive and harassing fire that went on all night, every night.

Our Vickers machine guns would be firing all night. As soon as one fired a belt and stopped, another would start chattering. They often would fire up to seventy thousand rounds in a night, firing D.F. tasks and hosing down dead ground to deny the enemy using it.

Our positions of course didn't face straight north and south, they followed the contours of the hills, which ran in all directions. Therefore the Searchlights back on the Kansas Line weren't always shining on-our backs. Depending on the shapes and direction of the hills hills and spurs faced, we often had the search lights shining across either flank,and because of the deep re entrants and gullies which, in the first months of the static war were still covered with brush and small trees, we had a lot of very heavy shadows intersected with beams of light. It wasn't the easiest job to pick out which shadows were natural and which ones were waiting to shoot you when you got nice and close, in fact it was ideal ambush country. Later on of course the massed artillery and mortar fire of both sides destroyed most of the brush and trees, but the steep ridges still caused heavy shadows and problems, for troops patrolling in no man's land.

The following incident occurred while we were attached to B. Company on the 214 position across the Bowling Alley from Feature 355.

We were patrolling out in front of our positions in no man's land, with deep shadows and patches of light here and there, and with scrub and the odd tree just to make visibility difficult. It was cold well down below zero, probably thirty five or forty minus, when suddenly out of a patch of deep shadow a Chinese soldier materialized. He had a Russian rifle and long cruciform bayonet, and was thrusting it straight at my face.

In pure reflex action I jerked my head to the right, and at the same time brought the Bren Gun barrel up and to the left in a parry while at the same time thrust the butt of the Bren forward in a butt stroke. I felt my Bren barrel hit his rifle and at the same time his bayonet scraped the left side of my head.

Just at that moment, a burst of automatic fire broke out on both sides, and my enemy threw his rifle up in the air and went over backwards.

The firing only lasted a few seconds, only three of four, probably. It had been a three man patrol, probably a recce job that we had walked into, and our Owen gunners had taken them all out without any losses.

I never did get to find out just how effective my butt stroke had been, as some one had well and truly stitched the unlucky Chinese soldier up. As for me, if my reflexes hadn't been mighty fast I'd have worn that bayonet right in the eye. As it was, it made a minor scratch from the corner of my left eye to just above my ear, and that was all.

I suppose my guardian angel was saving me for the future.

As always in moments of close combat everything seems to go into slow motion and every movement seems to take forever. Probably too much of an adrenaline push. Anyway, we never made any other contacts that night and perhaps it was just as well, as I'd pretty well used up my ration of luck for that night.

John Lewis 1997,

                 SEARCH SITE                  
     Principal Infantry Weapons     
                   Guest Book                   

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

© Australian Album ©