The Korean War Victoria Cross
and George Cross
THE VICTORIA CROSS
Major Kenneth Muir
The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders (Princess
On 23rd September, 1950, "B" and "C" Companies of
the 1st Battalion The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders attacked an
enemy-held feature, Hill 282, and by 0800 hrs. had consolidated upon
Some difficulty was experienced in evacuating the wounded from the
position and demands were made for stretcher-bearing parties to be
sent forward by the Battalion. At this juncture the position came
under mortar and shell fire.
At approximately 0900 hrs. a stretcher-bearing party arrived
and with it came the Battalion Second-in-Command, Major K. Muir. He
proceeded to organize the evacuation of the casualties.
At approximately 0930 hrs. small parties of the enemy started
to infiltrate on the left flank, necessitating the reinforcing of
the forward platoon. For the next hour this infiltration increased,
as did the shelling and mortaring, causing further casualties within
the two companies.
By 1100 hrs. casualties were moderately severe and some
difficulty was being experienced in holding the enemy. In addition,
due to reinforcing the left flank and to providing personnel to
assist with the wounded, both companies were so inextricably mixed
that it was obvious that they must come under a unified command.
Major Muir, although only visiting the position, automatically took
over command and with complete disregard for his own personal safety
started to move around the forward elements, cheering on and
encouraging the men to greater efforts despite the fact that
ammunition was running low. He was continually under enemy fire,
and, despite entreaties from officers and men alike, refused to take
An air-strike against the enemy was arranged and air
recognition panels were put out on the ground. At approximately 1215
hrs. the air-strike came in, but unfortunately the aircraft hit the
companies' position instead of that of the enemy. The main defensive
position was hit with fire bombs and machine-gun fire, causing more
casualties and necessitating the withdrawal of the remaining troops
to a position some fifty feet below the crest. There is no doubt
that a complete retreat from the hill would have been fully
justified at this time. Only some thirty fighting men remained and
ammunition was extremely low. Major Muir, however, realized that the
enemy had not taken immediate advantage of the unfortunate incident
and that the crest was still unoccupied although under fire.
With the assistance of the three remaining officers, he
immediately formed a small force of some thirty all ranks and
personally led a counter-attack on the crest. To appreciate fully
the implication of this, it is necessary to realize how demoralizing
the effect of the air-strike had been and it was entirely due to the
courage, determination and splendid example of this officer that
such a counter-attack was possible. All ranks responded
magnificently and the crest was retaken.
From this moment on, Major Muir's actions were beyond all
possible praise. He was determined that the wounded would have
adequate time to be taken out and he was just as determined that the
enemy would not take the crest. Grossly outnumbered and under heavy
automatic fire, Major Muir moved about his small force,
redistributing fast diminishing ammunition, and when the ammunition
for his own weapon was spent he took over a 2-inch mortar, winch he
used with very great effect against the enemy. While fixing the
mortar he was still shouting encouragements and advice to his men,
and for a further five minutes the enemy were held. Finally, Major
Muir was hit with two bursts of automatic fire which mortally
wounded him, but even then he retained consciousness and was still
as determined to fight on. His last words were: "The Gooks will
never drive the Argylls off this hill."
The effect of his splendid leadership on the men was nothing short
of amazing and it was entirely due to his magnificent courage and
example and the spirit which he imbued in those about him that all
wounded were evacuated from the hill, and, as was subsequently
discovered, very heavy casualties inflicted on the enemy in the
defence of the crest.—London Gazette, 5th January, 1951.
THE VICTORIA CROSS
Lieutenant-Colonel James Power Carne, D.S.O.
The Gloucestershire Regiment.
On the night 22nd/23rd April, 1951,
Lieutenant-Colonel Carne's battalion, 1 Glosters, was heavily
attacked and the enemy on the Imjin River were repulsed, having
suffered heavy casualties. On 23rd, 24th and 25th April, 1951, the
Battalion was heavily and incessantly engaged by vastly superior
numbers of enemy, who repeatedly launched mass attacks, but were
stopped at close quarters.
During the 24th and 25th April, 1951, the Battalion was
completely cut off from the rest of the Brigade, but remained a
fighting entity, in face of almost continual onslaughts from an
enemy who were determined, at all costs and regardless of
casualties, to over-run it. Throughout, Lieutenant-Colonel Carne's
manner remained coolness itself, and on the wireless, the only
communication he still had with Brigade, he repeatedly assured the
Brigade Commander that all was well with his Battalion, that they
could hold on and that everyone was in good heart.
Throughout the entire engagement, Lieutenant-Colonel Came,
showing a complete disregard for his own safety, moved among the
whole Battalion under very heavy mortar and machine-gun fire,
inspiring the utmost confidence and the will to resist, amongst his
On two separate occasions, armed with a rifle and grenades,
he personally led assault parties which drove back the enemy and
saved important situations.
Lieutenant-Colonel Carne's example of courage, coolness and
leadership was felt not only in his own Battalion, but throughout
the whole Brigade.
He fully realized that his flanks had been turned, but he
also knew that the abandonment of his position would clear the way
for the enemy to make a major break-through and this would have
endangered the Corps.
When at last it was apparent that his Battalion would not be
relieved and on orders from higher authority, he organized his
Battalion into small, officer-led parties, who then broke out,
whilst he himself in charge of a small party fought his way out, but
was captured within 24 hours.
Lieutenant-Colonel Carne showed powers of leadership which
can seldom have been surpassed in the history of our Army.
He inspired his officers and men to fight beyond the normal
limits of human endurance, in spite of overwhelming odds and
ever-increasing casualties, shortage of ammunition and of
water.—London Gazette, 27th October, 1953.
THE VICTORIA CROSS
Lieutenant Philip Kenneth Edward Curtis
The Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry, attached The Gloucestershire
During the first phase of the Battle of the
Imjin River on the night of 22nd/23rd April, 1951, "A" Company, 1
Glosters, was heavily attacked by a large enemy force. By dawn on
23rd April, the enemy had secured a footing on the "Castle Hill"
site in very close proximity to No. 2 Platoon's position. The
Company Commander ordered No.1 Platoon, under the command of
Lieutenant Curtis, to carry out a counter-attack with a view to
dislodging the enemy from the position. Under the covering fire of
medium machine guns, the counter-attack, gallantly led by Lieutenant
Curtis, gained initial success, but was eventually held up by heavy
fire and grenades. Enemy from just below the crest of the hill were
rushed to reinforce the position and a fierce fire-fight developed,
grenades also being freely used by both sides in this close-quarter
engagement. Lieutenant Curtis ordered some of his men to give him
covering fire while he himself rushed the main position of
resistance; in this charge Lieutenant Curtis was severely wounded by
a grenade. Several of his men crawled out and pulled him back under
cover, but, recovering himself, Lieutenant Curtis insisted on making
a second attempt. Breaking free from the men who wished to restrain
him, he made another desperate charge, hurling grenades as he went,
but was killed by a burst of fire when within a few yards of his
Although the immediate objective of this counter-attack was
not achieved, it had yet a great effect on the subsequent course of
the battle; for although the enemy had gained a footing on a
position vital to the defence of the whole company area, this
success had resulted in such furious reaction that they made no
further effort to exploit their success in this immediate area; had
they done so, the eventual withdrawal of the company might well have
Lieutenant Curtis's conduct was magnificent throughout this bitter
battle.—London Gazette, 1st December, 1953.
THE VICTORIA CROSS
14471590 Private William Speakman Black
Watch (Royal Highland Regiment), attached to the 1st Battalion The
King's Own Scottish Borderers
From 0400 hrs., 4th November, 1951, the
defensive positions held by 1st Battalion The King's Own Scottish
Borderers were continuously subjected to heavy and accurate enemy
shell and mortar fire. At 1545 hrs., this fire became intense and
continued thus for the next two hours, considerably damaging the
defences and wounding a number of men.
At 1645 hrs. the enemy in their hundreds advanced in wave
upon wave against the King's Own Scottish Borderers' positions, and
by 1745 hrs. fierce hand-to-hand fighting was taking place on every
Private Speakman, a member of "B" Company, Headquarters,
learning that the section holding the left shoulder of the company's
position had been seriously depleted by casualties, had had its
N.C.Os. wounded and was being over-run, decided on his own
initiative to drive the enemy off the position and keep them off it.
To effect this he collected quickly a large pile of grenades and a
party of six men. Then, displaying complete disregard for his own
personal safety, he led his party in a series of grenade charges
against the enemy; and continued doing so as each successive wave of
enemy reached the crest of the hill. The force and determination of
his charges broke up each successive enemy onslaught and resulted in
an ever-mounting pile of enemy dead.
Having led some ten charges, through withering enemy
machine-gun and mortar fire, Private Speakman was eventually
severely wounded in the leg. Undaunted by his wounds, he continued
to lead charge after charge against the enemy, and it was only after
a direct order from his superior officer that he agreed to pause for
a first field dressing to be applied to his wounds. Having had his
wounds bandaged, Private Speakman immediately rejoined his comrades
and led them again and again forward in a series of grenade charges,
up to the time of the withdrawal of his company at 2100 hrs.
At the critical moment of the withdrawal, amidst an inferno
of enemy machine-gun and mortar fire, as well as grenades, Private
Speakman led a final charge to clear the crest of the hill and hold
it, whilst the remainder of his company withdrew. Encouraging his
gallant but by now sadly depleted party, he assailed the enemy with
showers of grenades and kept them at bay sufficiently long for his
company to effect its withdrawal.
Under the stress and strain of this battle, Private
Speakman's outstanding powers of leadership were revealed, and he so
dominated the situation that he inspired his comrades to stand firm
and fight the enemy to a standstill.
His great gallantry and utter contempt for his own personal
safety were an inspiration to all his comrades. He was, by his
heroic actions, personally responsible for causing enormous losses
to the enemy, assisting his company to maintain their position for
some four hours and saving the lives of many of his comrades when
they were forced to withdraw from their position.
Private Speakman's heroism under intense fire throughout the
operation and when painfully wounded was beyond praise and is
deserving of supreme recognition.—London Gazette, 28th December,
22105517 Fusilier Derek Godfrey Kinne The
Royal Northumberland Fusiliers
In August, 1950, Fusilier Kinne volunteered
for service in Korea. He joined the 1st Battalion The Royal
Northumberland Fusiliers, and was captured by Chinese Communist
forces on 25th April, 1951, the last day of the Imjin River battle.
From then on he had only two objects in mind: firstly to escape, and
secondly by his contempt for his captors and their behaviour, and
his utter disregard for the treatment meted out to him, to raise the
morale of his fellow-prisoners. The treatment which he received
during his period of captivity is summarized in the succeeding
Fusilier Kinne escaped for the first time within 24 hours of
capture, but was retaken a few days later while attempting to regain
our own lines. Eventually he rejoined a large group of prisoners
being marched north to prison camps, and despite the hardships of
this march, which lasted a month, rapidly emerged as a man of
outstanding leadership and very high morale. His conduct was a fine
example to all his fellow-prisoners.
In July, 1952, Fusilier Kinne, who was by now well known to his
captors, was accused by them of being non-co-operative and was
brutally interrogated about the other P.W. who had uncooperative
views. As a result of his refusal to inform on his comrades, and for
striking back at a Chinese officer who assaulted him, he was twice
severely beaten up and tied up for periods of 12 and 24 hours, being
made to stand on tip-toe with a running noose round his neck which
would throttle him if he attempted to relax in any way.
He escaped on 27th July, but was recaptured two days later.
He was again beaten up very severely, and placed in handcuffs (which
could be and frequently were tightened so as to restrict
circulation), from which he was not released until 16th October,
1952, a period of 81 days.
He was accused of insincerity, a hostile attitude towards the
Chinese, "sabotage" of compulsory political study, escape, and of
being reactionary. From 15th to 20th August he was confined in a
very small box cell, where he was made to sit to attention all day,
being periodically beaten, prodded with bayonets, kicked and spat
upon by the guards, and denied any washing facilities.
On 2oth August, 1952, he was made to stand to attention for seven
hours and when he complained was beaten by the Chinese guard
commander with the butt of a submachine gun, which eventually went
off and killed the guard commander. For this Fusilier Kinne was
beaten senseless with belts and bayonets, stripped of his clothes,
and thrown into a dank rat-infested hole until 19th September. He
was frequently taken out and beaten, including once (on 16th
September) with pieces of planking until he was unconscious.
On 16th October Fusilier Kinne was tried by a Chinese military
court for escape and for being a reactionary and hostile to the
Chinese, and was sentenced to twelve months' solitary confinement.
This was increased to eighteen months when he complained at his
trial of denial of medical attention, including that for a severe
double hernia which he had sustained in June, 1952, while training
On 5th December, 1952, he was transferred to a special penal
company. His last award of solitary confinement was on 2nd June,
1953, when he was sentenced for defying Chinese orders and wearing a
rosette in celebration of Coronation Day.
He was eventually exchanged at Panmunjom on 10th August,
1953. As late as 8th and 9th August he was threatened with
non-repatriation for demanding an interview with the International
Red Cross Representatives who were visiting prisoner-of-war camps.
Fusilier Kinne was during the course of his periods of
solitary confinement kept in no less than seven different places of
imprisonment, including a security police gaol, under conditions of
the most extreme degradation and increasing brutality. Every
possible method both physical and mental was employed by his captors
to break his spirit, a task which proved utterly beyond their
powers. Latterly he must have been fully aware that every time he
flaunted his captors and showed openly his detestation of themselves
and their methods he was risking his life. He was in fact several
times threatened with death or non-repatriation. Nevertheless he was
always determined to show that he was prepared neither to be
intimidated nor cowed by brutal treatment at die hands of a
His powers of resistance and his determination to oppose and
fight the enemy to the maximum were beyond praise. His example was
an inspiration to all ranks who came into contact with him.—London
Gazette, 13th April, 1954.
Lieutenant Terrence Edward Waters The
West Yorkshire Regiment (The Prince of Wales's Own), attached The
Gloucestershire Regiment (Posthumous)
Lieutenant Waters was captured subsequent to
the Battle of the Imjin River, 22nd-25th April, 1951. By this time
he had sustained a serious wound in the top of the head and yet
another most painful wound in the arm as a result of this action.
On the journey to Pyongyang with other captives, he set a
magnificent example of courage and fortitude in remaining with
wounded other ranks on the march, whom he felt it his duty to care
for to the best of his ability.
Subsequently, after a journey of immense hardship and
privation, the party arrived at an area west of Pyongyang adjacent
to P.W. Camp 12 and known generally as "The Caves," in which they
were held captive. They found themselves imprisoned in a tunnel
driven into the side of a hill through which a stream of water
flowed continuously, flooding a great deal of the floor in which
were packed a great number of South Korean and European prisoners of
war in rags, filthy, crawling with lice. In this cavern a number
died daily from wounds, sickness, or merely malnutrition: they fed
on two small meals of boiled maize daily. Of medical attention there
Lieutenant Waters appreciated that few, if any, of his
numbers would survive these conditions, in view of their weakness
and the absolute lack of attention for their wounds. Alter a visit
from a North Korean Political Officer, who attempted to persuade
them to volunteer to join a prisoner-of-war group known as "Peace
Fighters" (that is, active participants in the propaganda movement
against their own side) with a promise of better food, of medical
treatment and other amenities as a reward for such activity—an offer
that was refused unanimously—he decided to order his men to pretend
to accede to the offer in an effort to save their lives. This he
did, giving the necessary instructions to the senior other rank with
the British party, Sergeant Hoper, that the men would go upon his
order without fail.
Whilst realizing that this act would save the lives of his
party, he refused to go himself, aware that the task of maintaining
British prestige was vested in him.
Realizing that they had failed to subvert an officer with the
British party, the North Koreans now made a series of concerted
efforts to persuade Lieutenant Waters to save himself by joining the
camp. This he steadfastly refused to do. He died a short time after.
He was a young, inexperienced officer, comparatively recently
commissioned from the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, yet he set
an example of the highest gallantry.— London Gazette, 13th April,