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Monday, 20 December 2010

Korea December 1950 - the great Bug Out

In December 1950 Korea was experiencing some of the lowest winter temperatures ever. As the British 29th Brigade bivvied on bleak hill positions, the night time temperature dropped to -38C. As ever, winter clothing and equipment was sub-standard; 'Finnish pattern' winter boots that had been in store since 1919 disintegrated almost as soon as they were issued, wind smocks were not waterproof and rifles and machine guns had to be dried of all traces of oil and grease, which froze and jammed the weapons - they would only work completely 'dry' under those conditions. Rice straw in the tents and dugouts, lining tank hulls and crammed into clothing helped stave off frostbite. Engines needed to be run every twenty minutes. As if the cold wasn't enough, the lads of the Glosters, the Ulster Rifles and the Northumberland Fusiliers, not forgetting the Hussars and 45 RA, were put in the line to rearguard the US 8th Army; beaten, panicked and in full retreat in what became known as the Great Bug Out.  

The septics were in full flight and burning and destroying everything they couldn't carry. Demoralised further by the death of their 8th Army commander, General Walker, in a traffic accident, morale was shot and chaos and defeatism ruled. The British 29th Brigade was one of the few units that could be relied upon, but as Christmas approached, the Chinese advance appeared unstoppable. Men like my father, who had been on almost constant active service since 1939, wondered whether they'd make it this time. It seemed unlikely. 


Anonymous said...

Ask an American about this. They'll carefully explain how they dun saved ur ass in dubya-dubya 2.

Anonymous said...

Great story - and one seldom told. Radders, you have piqued my interest - what happened to your Father and his mates?

Coney Island

Chris said...

You'd think a tale like that - of outnumbered, under-equipped, 'poor bloody infantry' staving off the red horde while the mighty Yanks head for the hills - would be part of our national mythology. But the only place I've heard that story even mentioned in popular media was on M*A*S*H.

Heaven forbid that we Brits should have pride in what our forefathers achieved.

Edward Spalton said...

I was talking to an older friend the other day and how one's perceptions changed with the years. As a National Serviceman, he could recall feeling very disappointed that the Korean war was over before he had a chance to take part.

He laughed ruefully and said he supposed it did prove that you got a bit wiser as you got older.

It is this idealism and altruism of youth which is used and abused by all sorts of political causes.

Funnily enough I remembered seeing an American film about the Korean war at the time.(we were not regular cinema goers so it stuck in the memory). There was a bit at the end where the Royal Marines turned up to relieve the beleaguered Yanks. With benefit of long hindsight, I think it was probably tacked on for British audiences - but it made everybody cheer at the end - just before the National Anthem.

David C said...

We are all looking forward to the next episode.

Jeff Wood said...

David is quite right.

I know enough about Korea to understand it was a damned tough scrap, and all detail is welcome.

Raedwald said...

Thanks all for the kind comments .. yes, we have both Happy Valley and the British army's epic stand on the Imjin River to come. You'll have guessed that the old man did make it through, but it's a tale well worth the telling.

Safety in Anonymity said...

Wonderful, Raedwald.

And such a pleasant change from all the deconstruction and hatred we endure from the professional Demoralizers. ie. the commies and mozzies who've been softening us up for their final takeover.

Anonymous said...

Go to the Wikipedia entry on the Korean War. Search for the word "British".

Sadly, the Septics are doing what they always do: re-writing history to erase everyone else.

Safety in Anonymity said...

Who are your Septics, Anonymous 10:50? That there re-inscription is a commie habit - the Marxist Deconstructionists teach it as something academically viable. "I say it is; therefore it is. Make it so."

Anonymous said...

Just a friendly reminder, the US also saved your ass in WWI