Battle of the Hook

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Third Battle of the Hook
Part of the Korean War
Men of the 1st Battalion, The Duke of Wellington's Regiment, have a smoke while waiting for dusk to fall before joining a patrol into no-man's land at The Hook.jpg
Soldiers of the British Duke of Wellington's Regiment during a lull in fighting at the Hook.
Date May 28–29, 1953
Location Near Kaesong, Korea
Result United Nations victory
  • Retention of original hill positions.[1]
Belligerents
 United Nations
 China
Commanders and leaders
United Kingdom Brigadier Joseph Kendrew China Unknown
Strength
1,500 [2] 6,500 [3]
Casualties and losses
24 killed
105 wounded
20 missing
c.1,050 killed
800 wounded [4]

The Third Battle of the Hook (Chinese: 坪村南山) was a battle of the Korean War that took place between a United Nations force, consisting mostly of British troops, supported on their flanks by American and Turkish units against a predominantly Chinese force.

Background[edit]

By 1953, elements of the United Nations forces were engaged in fierce fighting to prevent People's Volunteer Army forces from gaining ground, prior to a possible cease fire. This was to deny them additional bargaining power, during negotiations.

One such action took place at a feature called "the Hook", a crescent shaped ridge near Sami Creek, a tributary of the Imjin River near Kaesong. There had been two previous engagements at the Hook earlier in the Korean War when first the United States Marine Corps, and later the British Black Watch regiment, had successfully held the Hook against Chinese assaults. This ridge was a place of tactical importance in the Commonwealth sector: it was a potential attack point which the Chinese needed to take before assaulting Yong Dong, and opening up an invasion route to Seoul, the South Korean capital.

On 13 May 1953, the 1st Battalion the Duke of Wellington's Regiment (the "Dukes") were moved from its position on Yong Dong, to relieve the Black Watch, who had been defending The Hook.[5] During this period, the Black Watch had suffered 12 soldiers killed, 73 wounded and 20 missing. Over the next two weeks The Dukes were under constant sniper, mortar and artillery fire. This was then followed up in a major action over the 28-29 May following heavy initial Artillery and Mortar fire, after which the Chinese infantry attacked in force. Between 19 May and 29 May 'The Dukes' suffered 15 killed in action, 95 wounded and 32 missing. They were relieved by the Royal Fusiliers later in the day of 29 May. [6]

Battle[edit]

The Chinese forces charged the forward British positions once the bombardment ceased. The Dukes were outnumbered by 5 to 1. The fighting that ensued was bloody and akin to the battles that the 'Dukes' had fought during World War I. Artillery shells rained down on the Hook, from both the Chinese and UN forces. The Chinese launched a second attack but were cut down by heavy artillery fire from UN forces. Further attacks occurred during the day, but all were defeated in heavy fighting.

Successive Chinese assaults on the Hook position defended by the 1st Battalion, The Duke of Wellington's Regiment on the night of 28 May 1953. The fourth Chinese assault on the right flank of 1 battalion, the Duke of Wellington's was repulsed by the 1st Battalion, The King's Regiment, with the aid of artillery support.

Just 30 minutes into 29 May, the Chinese forces launched another attack, but they were again beaten back. The Dukes began advancing up the line of the original trenches to dislodge the remaining Chinese forces in the forward trenches. The 'Dukes' secured the Hook at 03:30. For their action they were awarded the Battle Honour "The Hook"

Chinese shelling[edit]

Between 19 May and 29 May, Chinese artillery fired over 20,000 shells onto the Hook position, and 11,000 of these shells were fired on the night of 28 May, with over 200 heavy calibre shells hitting the Hook positions in the one hour between 17:45 and 18:45.

United Nations shelling[edit]

37,818 shells of all calibres were fired by British artillery and the US Army I Corps artillery, including 155 mm, 8-inch, and 240 mm shells and 325 rockets from a US Rocket Battery.

Firing directly upon the enemy, the Centurions of C Squadron, 1st Royal Tank Regiment used 504 20-pdr shells (the tanks also fired 22,500 rounds from their machine guns). [7]

Aftermath[edit]

Chinese casualties were estimated at 1,050 killed and over 800 wounded. [8] Of these, 167 were actually counted. There were probably many others unseen, perhaps accounting for the casualty figure of approximately 2,000 published elsewhere.

The 'Dukes' suffered 3 officers and 17 other ranks killed, 2 officers and 84 other ranks wounded, with 20 men missing. There were other casualties from other supporting units listed below. In addition, there were a further 50 casualties from artillery and mortar attacks between 10 May and 28 May. [9]

Casualties from other supporting units:

  • 20th Field Regiment RA = 2 men killed, 4 wounded.
  • 61st Light Regiment RA = 1 man killed, 7 wounded.
  • 1st Battalion King's Regiment = 7 men wounded.
  • 1st Battalion Black Watch = 1 man wounded (attached to 1DWR)
  • KATCOMs = 1 man killed.
  • Total UN casualties = 24 killed, 105 wounded, 20 missing = 149 total.

For their action, the Duke of Wellington's Regiment was awarded the Battle Honour The Hook 1953. Later, the 1st Battalion's Headquarter Company was renamed "Hook Company". [10]

Shortly after on 2 June 1953, to mark the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II the division's artillery fired red, white and blue smoke shells onto the Chinese lines (a "feu de joie"), followed by a salute from Centurion tanks which fired HE shells onto a single target.[11]

The Hook was defended on a fourth occasion immediately prior to the armistice by two Australian battalions during the Battle of the Samichon River.

References[edit]

  1. ^ WO/308/53 The National Archives (TNA), London.
  2. ^ WO/308/53 TNA, London.
  3. ^ WO/308/53 TNA, London.
  4. ^ WO/308/53 TNA, London.
  5. ^ DWR War diary, sheet 1, 13 May 1953, National Archives
  6. ^ DWR War diary, report by LtCol F.R St P Bunbury, 29 May 1953, National Archives
  7. ^ WO/308/53 TNA, London.
  8. ^ WO/308/53 TNA, London.
  9. ^ WO/308/53 TNA, London.
  10. ^ WO/308/53 War Diary. TNA, London.
  11. ^ Sarson Centurion tank 1943-2003 p20

Further reading[edit]

1DWR War Diaries in WO 308/53, The National Archives, London

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 38°2′14″N 126°49′56″E / 38.03722°N 126.83222°E / 38.03722; 126.83222