From the Imjin River to the Gloucester Valley Battle Monument

Discussion in 'Korea' started by Charley Fortnum, Apr 19, 2020.

  1. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    We made a last-minute plan to re-visit the Gloucester Valley Battle Monument today and managed a precursory exploration of the terrain from the Imjin River to the Glosters' final position on Hill 235, where the monument is located. We threw together a picnic, but the weather forecast deteriorated en route, and no sooner had we finished the last roll than the heavens opened. That said, the coming week is the sixty-ninth anniversary of the battle, so the photographs I took will be more or less correct in terms of foliage and atmospherics. Apologies for any errors: there was no planning and I was working only on my phone with photos of the maps from the official history.

    The first time we visited, a number of years ago, the site was simple, well-kept and small, but at some stage recently it has been expanded and renovated considerably; the original monument is now only one part of a larger memorial park that includes car-parking, a picnic area and commemorative sculptures; it really is most impressive, and, typically for South Korea, immaculately maintained. You can also tell that the veterans themselves have had some input, because the historical accounts on site are rather good in spite of their brevity (only one typo!). The engraved black marble bears some very fancy 'ghosted' photographs of the contemporary battalion, and every soldier who was present is listed by name and rank (see video). Unfortunately, they are too shiny to photograph well without repeated reflections of my groin, so I decided to spare you that dubious pleasure.

    Random note, but adjacent to the site is a sanctuary for injured birds of prey. It was closed, but from the steps of the memorial I could see an eagle stretching its wings.

    20200419_140709.jpg

    Here is an overview (not mine):


    Here are the details of the site in print:
    Gloucester Valley Battle Monument - Wikipedia

    And here is a sketch of the wider battle:
    Battle of the Imjin River - Wikipedia

    First the 'new' memorial park:

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    Now Gloster Bridge over the Seolmacheon (stream):

    20200419_140536.jpg 20200419_140448.jpg 20200419_141206.jpg

    The original memorial on the other side:

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    Finally, some sample of the terrain (hmm, ankles...):

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    Here's my best attempt at locating the Colonel Carne's dispositions at the start of the battle on a contemporary map. There is some lack of precision as the hills have been cut into and the roads have been straightened, widened and at some points re-routed. Each of these positions was evacuated, one by one and at considerable loss, as the battalion was concentrated on the HQ position of Hill 235 (shown below five days after the battle). A-Coy's peak is sometimes referred to as 'Castle Hill', but it certainly was not a castle. I think B-Coy was brought in closer to D-Coy, and the location I've marked here is early on in the fighting, but I'll have to get to a book to check whether that's right and, if so, when. I had mistakenly assumed that C-Troop, 170th Independent Mortar Battery was located with HQ-Coy, but it seems that they were initially in the hills across the road from the HQ and I missed the opportunity to take a look up there.

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    This man is standing on the A-Coy position and pointing back towards Hill 235. The road is Route 5Y, which takes roughly the same course as the modern road. The slopes to the right of the road will, I think, be C-Coy's position, with D-Coy's initial positions out of sight to the left of this image.

    A-Coy.jpg

    I had particular difficulty locating the ford over which the lead elements of Chinese 187 Division actually crossed under fire from Second Lieutenant Temple's fifteen-man ambush at 2200 on 22/4/51. The photograph here is taken from the northern bank, looking at the modern bridge, but the ford, I think, is/was located to the right of the bridge's location (as seen from the north). For what it's worth, this picture gives the approximate depth and width for the correct time of the year.

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    The road that now crosses the bridge (marked in red below) is new, but the original road leading north to the south river bank (marked in green) came through a cutting in the high bank that is now home to a military observation post (and hence inaccessible); it's also hard to photograph from the north bank. The green line across the river shows the exact point at which the water is the shallowest.

    KakaoTalk_Photo_2020-04-19-17-22-33.jpeg

    And, just for good measure, a few miles away we stopped at another much older memorial: a pagoda constructed for a scholar who left the government to write poetry and paint several, hundred years ago. The shop, run by a veteran attendant, sells hard-tack, MREs and C-Rations to nostalgic hikers.

    There was also a heavy artillery 'battery' (a guess) a few hundred metres from the site. I counted eight guns, partially concealed in sheltered bunkers facing north. A number of the roads through the valleys in this area are also pre-rigged with explosives behind concrete supports at strategic points. Their detonation, would, presumably, block the route to tanks and heavy vehicles if the North should attack once more.

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    Last edited: Jun 15, 2020
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  2. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    Somebody else has done an excellent job of recording the major sites here:

     
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  3. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

    Thanks for posting these images CF. A bit like when we were discussing the Falklands a while back, the Korean War is another area of reading I need to undertake. I have a set of medals to a soldier of the King's Regiment who served in Korea, but the war from a British point of view is of course dominated by the Glosters at Imjin.

    The King's (see photo below) were heavily involved at a position called The Hook I believe and attacking the enemy at the Warsaw Caves. As I say, I need to have a good read up.

    Korea Liverpools front copy.jpg
     
  4. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    I have only dipped into the second (first chronologically, but second to be published) of these two, but they've been excellently reviewed:

    https://www.amazon.co.uk/Last-Round-British-Stand-Imjin-ebook/dp/B007TV0QB6/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&qid=1587297692&refinements=p_lbr_books_authors_browse-bin:Andrew+Salmon&s=books&sr=1-1

    https://www.amazon.co.uk/Scorched-Earth-Black-Snow-Korean-ebook/dp/B0077FAXIU/ref=sr_1_2?dchild=1&qid=1587297692&refinements=p_lbr_books_authors_browse-bin:Andrew+Salmon&s=books&sr=1-2

    I have the impression that the first was a modest publishing success and did quite well financially, too.

    (Obviously you don't want the Kindle editions)
     
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  5. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

    Thanks, I will put these on my list, which thankfully is not as long as it once was.
     
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  6. Tolbooth

    Tolbooth Patron Patron

    Thanks Charley, good to see - especially the ford over the Imjin. On Fri 20th April my dad (8th Hussars) got stuck there in his Daimler Dingo when the engine flooded. Here's his rendition of the event. Please note he kept his pipe lit ! As he put it "stuck in the middle of the Imjin with water in my injin"
    In the  Imjin.JPG
     
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  7. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    A great clue, but to make use of it I need to know whether he was travelling headed South or North when he got stuck.

    Of course, South is more likely, but for all I know he could have crossed northwards and later returned.

    If he was headed South, that would suggest that the northern side of the ford was on the site of the current bridge and the southern side is by the cutting, where I have marked it.

    A better quality satellite image reveals that there was a cutting that led down to the water on both banks. Now marked in green. The route would, thus, be the same regardless of which way he was travelling.

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    Last edited: Apr 20, 2020
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  8. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    Request: does anybody here have copies of the Glosters' War Diaries for the battle (or any of their time in Korea)?

    With the National Archives being currently out of commission, I can't get them.

    I'm willing to offer the Royal Ulster Rifles diaries in exchange--they're quite good.

    As you can see from the simplified map above, they were positioned five miles east of the Glosters and also had a bloody time of things.
     
  9. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    Right!

    Consider this location fully documented. I have mosquito bites, a sunburnt nose and crossed the equivalent of an A-Road bridge on foot, but I've got the lot for Gloster Crossing, and most enjoyable it was, too!

    First, as I suspected and detailed above, the ford is slightly (several hundred yards) further upstream than the modern bridge. The photograph that I took last time was an equal distance downstream of the modern bridge.

    The line is very easily seen with the elevation offered by the modern bridge. The chinese crossed from roughly north to south (right to left in this picture).

    SmartSelect_20200614-185651_Gallery.jpg 20200614_190617.jpg

    Now you have the crossing point, you can follow it north to the Chinese entry point to the river (first below) and south to the Glosters ambush site on the south bank (second and third below, marked with '!'):

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    This image of the local fishermen in waders gives a good idea of the depth:

    SmartSelect_20200614-185452_Gallery.jpg

    That was the easy part.

    The actual location of the Glosters is currently inaccessible as it is home to a modern army observation point, but with a bit of bushwhacking I got to a point with the same elevation on the other side of the cutting through the hillside. It is, therefore, a bit further away from the ford, but shows that a Bren firing down would be inundated with exposed targets. It's telling, perhaps, that the sixteen men from C-Coy who fought here withdrew without loss only when their ammunition ran out. Note the old white building on the north bank as a handy reference point when comparing photos. The cutting through the north riverbank, through which the Chinese would have descended to cross, is slightly to the east (right) of that building in all images.

    SmartSelect_20200614-184850_Gallery.jpg

    The next few shots show the old road down through the cutting in the (high) riverbank to the ford. It is closed whenever being used by the army, but fortunately open today. I'm not making any definite claims, but there were several couples in cars, parked up by the river, conspicuously not emerging on a stunningly beautiful day.

    SmartSelect_20200614-192929_Gallery.jpg

    Left of the road as the cutting ends (Glosters atop this):

    SmartSelect_20200614-185005_Gallery.jpg

    Right of the cutting at the same point:

    SmartSelect_20200614-185025_Gallery.jpg

    Both sides of the cutting are composed of this:

    SmartSelect_20200614-185422_Gallery.jpg

    I here turned 180⁰ to see what the Chinese who made the shore would have seen:

    SmartSelect_20200614-185043_Gallery.jpg

    The final track down to the water's edge (left for the ford, right for the modern bridge). It forks (just about visible?) You could run from here (left at the fork) to the ford's edge in c.60 seconds:

    SmartSelect_20200614-185058_Gallery.jpg

    A glance right at the fork (a reverse shot of the matching fourth and fifth images in this post):

    SmartSelect_20200614-185158_Gallery.jpg

    The ford itself. The ripples are made by largish rocks which almost reach the surface:

    SmartSelect_20200614-185141_Gallery.jpg

    Here's another 180⁰ to see the view of the high bank the Glosters were on from the riverbank. The modern army fortification is right of their position, I think.

    SmartSelect_20200614-195736_Gallery.jpg

    The north bank of the ford here:

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    This version shows the broader and more shallow cutting that the Chinese must have used on the north bank:

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    And this, for good measure, is the paddy field beside the road on the north bank that leads to the cutting. Here I startled a crane as big as an albatross.

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    Last edited: Jun 15, 2020
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  10. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Well-Known Member

    Charley,

    For this prose you deserve to be a diplomat:
    Then of course you could be in HM Diplomatic Service.
     
  11. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    And I was wandering around snapping away with a camera. They may well have been on edge!

    And here's the dramatic prose that inspired the three trips I've made to the sites now. It's from Farrah-Hockley's The Edge of the Sword. By this point he has explained how the original cart track through the cutting had been widened and strengthened by Sappers and the road surface had also been regraded and covered with steel-mesh matting. He estimates that the raised banks through which the cutting passed were between 20 and 40ft high, which sounds about right. Most seriously, the ford itself was indicated by a line of marker buoys (fifty gallon drums) which would inevitably be found.

    Colonel Carne and Henry (Intelligence Officer) and the author had spotted Chinese scouts on the north bank earlier in the day, called down mortar fire on them and requested an ambush party to be sent there from C-Coy after dark. 7 Platoon was selected.

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    Last edited: Jun 15, 2020
  12. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    Wonderful: an interview with (then) Lieutenant Guy Temple, the officer in charge of the 7 Platoon ambush:

    Temple, Guy (Oral history)

    Plenty of new information:
    • Orders for the patrol were received at 16:30; patrol to be in position at 22:00
    • American Intelligence reported a patrol might cross and Colonel Carne hoped to capture a prisoner to gain more information.
    • Temple was originally ordered to withdraw if more than 30 enemy crossed. As the situation evolved, the objective clearly changed.
    • Temple had a hunch that he was going to encounter far more than a patrol and fortunately elected to go massively equipped for the task: 3 Brens with 4,000 rounds each, extra mortar ammunition and six grenades per man. And, recall, that they withdrew only when the ammunition had all but run out.
    • They arrived at the river by Oxford Carrier.
    • They found ROK slit trenches already dug on the bank and occupied them.
    • Despite it being a moonlit night, visibility was unsatisfactory and figures were not clear mid-crossing until para-illuminating flares were put up (the Verey light Temple tried was a dud). Throughout the engagement, the enemy could only be seen when flares were up.
    • 40 to 50 Chinese were seen in the water at first illumination. These withdrew in response to gunfire but were soon replaced at approximately 'battalion-strength'.
    • Defensive fire was requested and a single battery responded. The first shoot landed too far north, so the subsequent two were brought in 100 yds each until the third was spot on.
    • Temple estimated his own positions as being at a height of 20-25 ft, which means the artillery rounds were coming over awfully close in order to drop into the river.
    • The initial salvo of defensive fire sent the Chinese back, but they soon returned in approximately brigade strength (2,000 to 3,000 men).
    • This immediately prompted a second defensive fire request that brought in the whole 24 guns from 45 Field Regt (The code being 'Mike Target').
    • Ammunition expenditure was prodigious. The Bren gun tips were glowing pink in the night. Temple estimates casualties inflicted on the enemy as more than 200.
    • The final spur for withdrawal was when they could clearly hear approaching Chinese voices on their own south bank. They withdrew 'at the double', running the half mile back to A-Coy positions and then marched on to C-Coy positions, very near battalion HQ.
    • The actual engagement lasted only about 30 mins.
    • Two South Korean policemen were attached to the group.
    See also Temple's brief memoir attached.
     

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Jul 7, 2020
  13. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    Completely unbeknownst to me, the Official History contains a contemporary photograph of Glosters returning back from the north bank to the south some days before the battle, and passing through 'the cutting' photographed above. This images depicts the left shoulder, from which the ambush was sprung--and I can't believe what a difference the defoliation makes! In addition, the gradient down to the river has clearly increased since 1951; what is now solid (grassy) land used to be ill-defined slush and mud. It's also clear that the shoulder has been partially rebuilt and secured since the war; from this picture, I would judge that it could be assaulted from the right flank if enough firepower (and likely grenades) could be brought to bear on the defenders--I'm not surprised that the Glosters didn't hang about when they heard voices on their own bank!

    I add a picture of Carne as it is the next in the book and I like his confident look.

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    Last edited: Jul 8, 2020
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  14. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    Last edited: Jul 9, 2020

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