Sixty years ago the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment was involved in one of its bloodiest battles ever.
It was during the Korean War and the Dukes were holding a vital ridge from Chinese forces supporting the North Koreans.
The Communist North Korea invaded the UN-backed South Korea in June 1950 and by the time the war finished in July 1953 the two sides were back to where they were before it started near the 38th Parallel, but this time with a 2.5-mile fortified buffer zone between the two Korean nations.
By the end of the Battle of the Hook the Dukes had lost three officers and 17 other ranks with two officers and 84 other ranks wounded with 20 men missing.
Chinese casualties were estimated at 1,050 killed and over 800 wounded
The Hook was a crescent-shaped ridge near Sami Creek, a tributary of the Imjin River near Kaesong. There had been two previous engagements at the Hook earlier in the Korean War when first the United States Marine Corps and later the British Black Watch regiment, had successfully held the Hook against Chinese assaults. This ridge was a place of tactical importance in the Commonwealth sector – it was a potential attack point which the Chinese needed to take before assaulting Yong Dong and opening up an invasion route to Seoul, the South Korean capital.
The 1st Battalion the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment were moved from its position on Yong Dong to relieve the Black Watch, who had been defending The Hook from May 12 to May 28. The Dukes had hardly settled into place when the Chinese attacked. During heavy initial artillery and mortar fire the Dukes suffered some 58 casualties.
The Chinese forces charged the forward British positions once the bombardment ceased. The Dukes were outnumbered by five to one and the fighting was akin to the battles that the Dukes’ had fought during World War One. Artillery shells rained down on the Hook from both the Chinese and United Nations forces. The Chinese launched a second attack but were cut down by heavy artillery fire from UN forces. Further attacks occurred during the day, but all were defeated in heavy fighting.
Successive Chinese assaults were launched on the Hook position defended by the 1st Battalion, The Duke of Wellington’s Regiment on the night of May 28, 1953. The fourth Chinese assault on the right flank of 1 battalion, the Duke of Wellington’s was repulsed by the 1st Battalion, The King’s Regiment, with the aid of artillery support. Just 30 minutes into May 29 the Chinese forces launched another attack, but they were again beaten back. The Dukes began advancing up the line of the original trenches to dislodge the remaining Chinese forces in the forward trenches.
The Dukes secured the Hook at 3.30am. For their action they were awarded the Battle Honour The Hook.