Reg and His Mates at Work
MK note: The words on this page are by Owen "Reg" Kitchener (#41), rearranged and
slightly edited (the words, not Reg) by me from his emails. He picked the music too. MK.
a copy of a painting by Terence Cuneo. It is proudly on display
WOs & Sergeants Mess at the Royal Regiment of Artillery Depot in Woolwich, London.
The painting was commissioned by Lieutenant Colonel G. D. S. Truell, M. B. E., after he became Commanding Officer of 45 Field Regiment, Royal Artillery. At the time of the action depicted in the painting, he was Captain Truell and in command of the four guns of B Troop, 70 Battery of that Regiment. He is the last man in right foreground of the painting. He is wearing a red rose in his cap because the depicted action took place on Saint George's Day, 23 Apr 1951.
I am the Detachment Commander of the number one gun and am standing to the left of the group manning our gun. You may notice that my right hand is bandaged up (from an injury received the previous day, the story of which event I may tell you later on).
The Chinese are about two hundred yards away and on the hills where the smoke is rising from the targets of our Battery. Captain Truell, using his binoculars, has seen a group of Chinese setting up to fire a machine gun; and, he is pointing them out to his Detachment Commanders. He gave an order for Sergeant Ted Southern, Detachment Commander of the number two gun, to take out that bothersome Chinese weapon. Ted's gun took the machine gun out with its first shot - at 200 yards! This was partly because his gun, like the rest of the guns in our troop, was directing open sight fire at the Chinese.
Although they may be hard to make out in this small copy of the painting, in the original you can easily see Sergeant Major Dennis Reed marching a captured Chinese infantryman, with his hands in the air, into our gun position. You may be able to make them out - they are just beyond the two men on my left.
Dennis had led a patrol around our gun position and had found his man loaded down with grenades and carrying, in a bag, enough rice to keep him going for a week. The well-armed prisoner also had a land mine strapped to his chest!
To the right of our gun and at about the vertical middle of the painting, a (very welcome) group of Northumberland Fusiliers are coming down the re-entrant to assist us. In this copy of the painting, you may be able to make them out as the stick-like figures in the light spot just this side of the abandoned hut at the right edge of the painting.
Some of the NFs have been injured and have gone down as the result of a 2" mortar explosion which is depicted as being the red splash to the left of the nearby hut.
The artist, Terence Cuneo, was given a number of facts and photographs to work with. Many of those facts were passed to him by my Bombardier (a Corporal) whom you see in our gun's layer seat. That lad, who spent his full 22 years of service in our Regiment, told the artist, for instance, about the fact of my bandaged hand and that I was the only soldier in the pictured group to have been issued a number Mk5 Sten Gun. You may notice that my weapon is on the ground just behind Captain Truell.
There is really a lot in this painting, including some events which may not have all happened at the same exact time and, also, a few minor details which are in error - of course, a painting is not a photograph and this painting does capture some of the real events of that very special Saint George's Day.
Here is a map to help me explain the rest of the story.
At the top right hand corner of the map, note the road which passes between Hill 152 on the left and Hill 257 on the right. Hill 152 was the position of W Coy of the 1st Royal Northumberland Fusiliers. Hill 257, plus the adjoining hills, was the position of X and Z Companies of that Fusilier Battalion.
In between the two hills and on the road were the A & B Troops of 70 Battery, 45 Field Regiment, Royal Artillery.
Shortly after 0200 hrs on 23 Apr 1951, X Coy of the NFs was ordered to withdraw after one of its platoons was overrun by the Chinese and, thereby, the holding of a mile long ridge was rendered impossible. They fell back through our gun position and, at 0230 hrs, our Battery was ordered to be 100% Stand-To because we were most of what remained as the front line in our area.
As the Chinese worked their way between the X Coy and Z Coy positions, they ran across the exposed gun area which was manned by our B Troop 70 Battery and by the A Troop 11th (Sphinx) LAA Battery (40mm AA guns) of our Royal Artillery Regiment. By 0300 hrs, all our guns were furiously directing open sight fire (direct fire at point blank range) against an enemy which had advanced to within a hundred yards of our guns.
Our withering fire forced the Chinese to withdraw into the hills. From there, they maintained a persistent sniping at us and continually directed 2" mortar fire at our position. We kept on engaging them with direct fire as is depicted in the painting. Finally, we were able to drive them off.
As we limbered up to pull out of our position rather than to be surrounded by the rapidly advancing Chinese, a 2" mortar bomb hit amongst our troop's supporting Bren gunners. Gunners Cruikshanks, Camp, and Hewitt were killed. Gunner Mudd of my detachment was wounded.
There were more casualties during the rest of that three day battle on April 23, 24, and 25 of 1951 and, all in all, it was a hectic three days. Reg.
Map and Photo Index
Reg and His Mates A Gun and Roses
"Can Do" Photo Album