Battle Honour KOREA 1950-51

Event
Sunday, 7 October, 1951
RUR Prisoners of War in POW Camp No 1- North Korea (© Image Copyright, Collection of The Royal Ulster Rifles).

The theatre distinction KOREA 1950-51 is emblazoned on The Regimental Colours of The Royal Irish Regiment.

The Korean War (1950-1953) was the first major action for the United Nations following the UN’s formation in 1945. In June 1950, North Korea attacked South Korea. Twenty-one UN countries went to fight against North Korea. Later, the Chinese supported the North Koreans.

After a six-week journey on a troopship, the 1st Battalion The Royal Ulster Rifles arrived in Pusan, Korea in early November 1950, and joined 29 Independent Infantry Brigade Group. The Battalion was transported north to Uijongbu where, under the direct command of the Eighth United States Army, it was directed against North Korean guerrilla forces bypassed by the rapid progress north of the UN Forces.

On the last day of 1950, the Chinese attacked across the Imjin River. As the New Year started, the 50th Chinese Communist Army engaged UN Forces, focusing on 29 Brigade dispersed over a very wide front (12 miles). The Rifles held their position in their first major action on the night of 3-4 January at the Battle of Chaegunghyon (Happy Valley), just north of Seoul, before carrying out a tactical withdrawal. However, the Communist progress was halted, at least temporarily, and allowed the citizens of Seoul to evacuate. In this one night 157 men in the Rifles were killed, wounded or missing.

The Chinese Fifth Phase Campaign, the Battle of the Imjin River, began on 22 April 1951, with the goal of taking Seoul. By 25 April, the Brigade was ordered to withdraw as the Communist forces were threatening to encircle the whole Brigade. With virtually no cover and seriously outnumbered, the Rifles came under heavy fire as they withdrew to a blocking position. The Brigade was able to hold its position, despite fierce fighting, and neutralized the effectiveness of the 64th Chinese Communist Army. Although the enemy's offensive on this occasion had come within 5 miles of Seoul, the capital had been saved.

The 1st Battalion The Royal Ulster Rifles (1 RUR) was relieved in Korea by 1 Royal Norfolks at the beginning of October 1951. Once B and S Companies handed over their vehicles, heavy equipment and support weapons on 6 October, they moved south in transport, crossed the River Imjin and arrived at Britannia Camp, some five miles north of Uijongbu. The rest of the Battalion followed the next day, having completed the handover in the morning and, just after midday, 1 RUR handed over command to 1 Royal Norfolks.

It was the end. Three very happy days were spent in Britannia Camp before, on 11 October, the Battalion entrained at Uijongbu for Pusan. It was there, twelve months before, that 1 RUR had first entered the Korean War. Eleven days later, the Troopship Empire Halladale sailed for Hong Kong, and as the mountainous coastline of 'The Land of the Morning Calm' faded into the distance, the Riflemen lining the rails watched it go with a curious mixture of feelings. Many thoughts were with those comrades still being held as POWs in Chinese and North Korean prison camps. Among them was one future Major General and Colonel of The Royal Irish Rangers - Captain J H S Majury.

During its year’s deployment in Korea, the Rifles lost 102 men killed in action. In addition, 207 soldiers were taken prisoner, 31 of whom died in captivity. For 1 RUR's actions in the Korean War theatre, The Royal Ulster Rifles was awarded the distinction KOREA 1950-51. It was not just Riflemen who fought with the Battalion in Korea. During the summer of 1951, the 1st Battalion The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers provided the continuation training for drafts to the Rifles in Korea, to which were added fifty volunteer Inniskillings. The Royal Irish Fusiliers produced in total 9 officers and 457 other ranks and of these six were killed, 13 wounded and 36 taken prisoner. This reinforcement was due to the successful flexibility of the North Irish Brigade's organisation.

To read about 1 RUR in the Korean War, please click on:

1 RUR arrive in KOREA

1 RUR withdraw south of River Taedong

Christmas in Korea

1 RUR withdraws after Battle of Chaegunghyon

1 RUR move to positions north of Pyongtaek

1 RUR advance

Deception and rest on the River Han

On the River Imjin

Chinese attack 1 RUR on Hill 194

Battle of River Imjin

Move to Kimpo

Move to River Han

Return to the IMJIN

1 RUR attack Chinese on Hill 187

Operation COMMANDO - last action in Korea

For a general account of events concerning the RUR in Korea, please click on Korea 1950-51.