Hill 355 Changing Hands Peaceably
MK comments (07 Nov 2002): Well, Owen "Reg" Kitchener (#41) has sent me a photo from a recent edition of The Morning Calm - a publication of The British Korean Veterans Association. Here is that photo:
CEREMONY TO THE 1ST BATTALION
OF THE WELCH REGIMENT BY THE U.S. ARMY
HILL 355 - APRIL 1952
Some of us in the Bunker love to pin down dates, identify units, and tell a story or two whenever we find an opening. This page turned out to be a great opportunity for all three of those endeavors.
First, Sherwin "Arc" Arculis (#6) furnished this excerpt (cropped by me) from the 15th Inf Rgt Logs (marked "Secret" when first printed):
"The relief of the 15th Inf Rgt began on 18 April 1952 ............ At 191300I April, elements of the 1st Welch Rgt of 1st Commonwealth Division assumed responsibility for the positions of Co G, Co E and the left platoon of Co F on Line Jamestown, and of the remaining elements of the GEF Bn in the reserve position.
<Merv: Co G was on 355, Co E was next to it and down the hill to its right, and Co F was next to E Co and farther on down the hill.>
"At 192030I April, the remaining elements of the 29th Brigade of the 1st Commonwealth Division assumed responsibility of that sector of Line Jamestown which was occupied by 2nd Bn and K company of 3rd Bn, 15th Inf Rgt ......."
Reg remembered, of course, that Charley Haynes (#49) was in the 1st Bn of The Welch Regiment and would be just the man to give us the what, when, and where. That he did. He sent me some links to the poop, including the Photo Pages from the In Korea with The Welch Regiment where I found this photo and text (both slightly edited):
"Moving back into the Line on the l8th April, 1st Welch took over Hill 355
from troops of the 2nd Bn of the 15th Inf Rgt. This gave the
1st Welch Bn an opportunity to show the Chinese a Welsh Dragon, namely the red
one displayed prominently on the Battalion Battle Flag.
"The take over of Hill 355 from the Americans was marked by a simple ceremony as the Stars and Stripes were lowered by U.S. Sergeant B. Miller, and the Red Dragon of Cadwallader was raised by CSM Ralph Cude of Swansea."
Then, Charley told us:
"No! I am not in the group sloping arms with those silly Lee Enfield rifles. While that was going on, I was taking over a 'Bunker' from a Battle weary 'Yank' on the far side of the hill, the side towards Nori. I was 'amongst the muck and bullets' as they used to say in the dark days up the sharp end. :-)
"Being one of the first of our section to arrive at this new position, I stumbled into the dark interior of that apparently empty 'Bunker' while loaded down with my silly rifle, my kit, and the two wireless sets I carried.
"My spirits were lifted momentarily when I saw, in the little light there was close to the entrance, what at the time appeared to be a discarded .45 pistol hanging on a makeshift bunk bed.
"Thinking I had 'scored one' over my mates, who at that time were seeking out their own sleeping quarters elsewhere, I dropped part of my load and reached out to take my prize. Before I had actually taken possession of this new addition to my personal armoury, a voice from the dark interior said, with a distinct American drawl, 'Hi Buddy, what outfit are you with?'
"Fortunately, I had not quite grasped this piece of artillery, an item that was much prized amongst our troops, but have oft wondered what that guy's reaction would have been had I done so.
"I think the timely withdrawal of my hand avoided a damaging blow to Anglo-American relations. Regards, Charley."
I replied to Charley, with a copy to Arc and Reg, thusly:
"Thanks so much for this mail. I hope you don't mind that
I'm passing it along to two of our cohorts and that your .45 tale is going
somewhere in the IBB.
"The .45 Colt was held in no particular esteem by me, although I recognized that it might have come in handy if I had ever had an aroused Chinese trooper charging at me - to stop a charge was the .45's forte and I'm sure you and your compadres on the SHARPER end could have put one to good use.
"I chanced to come across a 9mm Canadian-made Browning pistol that caused me to get rid of my .45 cannon - too bad you weren't on the "dull" end at the time, or it would have been yours.
"The 9mm packed a pretty good wallop also and seemed to hit whatever I pointed it at, including pheasants (pheasants, not peasants). I managed to hang on to the 9mm long after Korea and until the claws of the tropics gathered it in. Merv."
Then, Arc said to the other three of us:
"Charlie, yours is a good story and one for the bunker methinks. I had a .45 which I had gotten to Seoul for chrome plating. I somehow lost it in the hassle associated with Kelly. No real loss.
"I finally learned to shoot the .45 and have a Springfield 1911A1 version. It has been tuned up, re-sighted, and re-sprung, and is the most accurate handgun in my collection. It is, for sure, more accurate than my 9mm, and has significantly more stopping power.
"The only thing close to my .45 is a Beretta .40, which, with the right ammo, has almost the same foot-pounds of energy as the .45 with more capacity for a slightly smaller and lighter gun. Arc."
Then, luckily for us, Reg got in his add-ons:
"Lads, I acquired my .45 Calibre pistol from a Sergeant in the 65th Infantry (Puerto Rican) Regiment. It cost me a bottle of Scotch, and you will notice in some of my pics that I am carrying it - I always liked big pieces of hardware. I owned a Desert Eagle .44 Calibre pistol when I was on the firearms team. Now, THAT was a monster, a bit more potent than the Colt.
"Well, well, now I hear On Top of Old Smokey when I go to this page, and it takes my memory back to 3 Oct 1951. If you remember what I said at my entry into the Bunker, you know that I will never forget that morning.
"When dawn came and the mist cleared away as we dropped the first bombs down the barrels of our 4.2" Mobile Mortars, there was Hill 355 looming in front of us. Looking up at it with our phosphorus bombs bursting on its top, we also were looking into the jaws of the CCF.
"Then, some bright spark starts to sing his own words to the tune I am hearing now: 'on top of three five five, C Troop's burning Gooks'.
"We were soiling ourselves out there in the open waiting for the return fire. Then, we heard the Piper of the King's Own Scottish Borderers and watched those brave lads as they went up the hill. Yes, some battle that was, taking Hill 355 for the first time. Reg."
Between the times from when the Commonwealth troops first took Hill 355 and then turned it over to the 7th Inf Rgt and the 15th Inf Rgt (both of the 3rd Inf Div) until the 15th handed it back on 18 Apr 1952, there were many interesting doings on 355. You will find tales of those doings by browsing in the "Can Do" Photo Album.
For that "first time" story, visit Getting 355 and 317 - Maps and Story, another page for which Reg furnished the doings.
Map and Photo Index
A Gun and Roses IBB Page Five
"Can Do" Photo Album