Today has been a great day. Ever since I was last here I have wanted to visit the Imjin battlefield. In April 1951 the British 29 Brigade faced a huge Chinese attack. They were outnumbered 7 to 1 and were trying to cover an area that should have been held by at least the times their own number. If they failed to hold then Seoul would fall and two vital roads to the south would fall into Chinese hands, with potentially fatal consequences for UN forces throughout Korea. They held for three nights and, while they were ultimately forced back with the loss or capture of almost a whole battalion in the Glosters, they broke the Chinese attack, effectively destroying an entire army. Today we saw the battlefields under the expert guidance of Andrew Salmon. Andrew is a Seoul-based journalist who has written two books on the British forces in Korea. Both are superb and I recommend them to everybody. More than any other history book I have read, they bring home both the military situation and the personal experiences of soldiers and civilians in that terrible conflict. “To The Last Round” deals with the Imjin and “Scorched Earth, Black Snow covers the previous year.
I had contacted him for advice on visiting the battlefield and as it turns out he runs very reasonably priced tours. This morning, therefore, he picked us up from the hotel and drove us up there. It’s been a fascinating day, seeing all the major sites and hearing about the battle from a phenomenally knowledgeable man who is also a top notch bloke. He also took us for an excellent lunch at a little Korean restaurant, which included a run down of Korean drinks:
“There’s a rice spirit called soju: don’t touch that”
“Oh, you know soju? Do you want to get some of that?”
We’re now back in the hotel after a lovely final dinner with scouse, Anita and Ralph. Tomorrow and Friday we’re going to have a little couple time in Seoul before heading back to real life.
Gloster Crossing. The first point of contact with the enemy attack. 16 men destroyed a battalion-strength attack.
Castle Site. This hill had been used to defend the route south for centuries. The Chinese placed a machine gun in a bunker on the mound behind scouse. Lt Curtis, already wounded, attacked it single-handed from where I am standing to take the picture. He was killed within seconds but managed to throw a grenade into the bunker, destroying the gun and saving the company. He received the Victoria Cross, one of two Glosters so honoured for this battle.