Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Battle of the Hook, Black Watch,Korea 1952

I was reading up on the Korean War and the Battle of the Hook, Korea, 1952 in which my father took part as a member of the Black Watch.

My father, like many soldiers, just wouldn't talk about it and the only way that I was ever able to gain any information about it was to get him drunk, normally rum & pep [peppermint], and join together little bits of info that he let loose. You never know, in those types of situations, whether all these things happened to him personally or happened to other people and he related them as happened to him. That aside it was still interesting listening to him and his cronies about those days. I'll relate what I can, but, obviously, there is some stuff which I will keep to myself; for obvious reasons.

Corp. George Mitchell

On the way out to Korea the Black Watch boarded a ship which took them out there. My father, being the type of man he was, realised that the sailors were entitled to their daily grog and, as was his want, ingratiated himself with the sailors to get his 'share'. One day, in the Med, as they headed towards the Suez canal, he got so drunk he fell overboard and the ship had to stop and return for him. The omens for him weren't too good.

After the Black Watch landed in Korea they were met by an American army band who were playing jazz tunes. The band major [if that is what they were called], after looking at the disembarking Scottish soldiers, enquired of them: "Where are your niggers?" [I know but that's what it was like in those days]. It was politely explained to them that the term 'Black' in Black Watch was a description of their tartan.
Anyway, they proceeded up to their positions on the Hook on the 14th of November, 1952 taking over from the battered US 7th marines. The positions the Black Watch took over were considered inadequate by The Black Watch's C.O., Lieutenant Colonel David Rose. So he ordered the men to start digging and improve the trenches. As usual with men, they complained, but his foresight enabled many of his men to survive when they were overrun.

Rose (right), in command of 1 BW in Korea, accompanies General Collins, the US Army Chief of Staff, during the latter's visit to the Battalion Command Post on The Hook.

During one of the Chinese attacks on the Black Watch's lines my father, who was in charge of a Bren gun post-which was positioned in front of the lines-and was meant to mow down as many Chinese as possible then pick up the gun and return, post haste, to their lines, set up and continue firing. [Not being infantry I don't know about this and just assume that this was the case. Maybe someone will be able to confirm or deny that.] Anyway, as someone once said: "Never let the truth get in the way of a good story." While stationed at his post the call for chow was made and my father and his mate left their post to get fed. While waiting in line a Chinese mortar attack happened. After the attack was over my father and his friend rushed back down to their post, stopped, took one look at the Bren gun which was completely bent over, because of a direct hit, and rushed back to their lines. When the fight was over they went back down and took a photograph of it. We have it somewhere and if I find it I shall post it on here. The most interesting point, from my perspective, is if chow hadn't been called my father and his mate wouldn't have been here and neither would I.
Another incident happened when my father was blown up by a mortar. he told me that the only thing that he remembers about that was flying through the air. When he groggily woke up he felt this terrific wind blowing past his head all down his body. He then realised that he couldn't move his arms or legs but managed to move his head to one side and realised that he was several hundred feet in the air strapped to a helicopter. In those days it wasn't the fantastic helicopters that we have nowadays but a 'Whirlybird' helicopter. He told me that he 'shit himself'. Whether he actually did or was just an expression; I don't know but I can fully understand his shock.
He was later found to be suffering from shell shock and was sent back to help with the stores. Bad move for the army. Anyone who has served in the military knows that if it wasn't nailed down it was stolen. My father had a field day. He told me that the only thing that wasn't worth stealing was petrol. The sides of the roads were crammed full of Jerrycans. All you needed to do if your vehicle needed petrol was to pull over to the side of the road, grab what you needed and fling the empty cans at the back of the pile. One day he met an American stores sergeant who told him that it was possible to make alcohol out of chewing gum and would be happy to supply him with as many boxes of chewing gum as he needed in exchange for the winter clothing that the Black Watch had. The American uniforms, though wonderfully smart, were no use for the winters in Korea that were similar to the winters we have in Scotland. However, he had to arrange his own transport. this stumped my father until one day a couple of lorries from the RASC arrived at the camp stores and out jumped a corporal whom he knew from back home. After reaching a deal with him my father's venture in the distillation of chewing gum business was up and running. he was so successful that he was even selling it back to the Yanks. I think he was sorry when the Black Watch had to leave Korea.

It wasn't all mud and guts and as Pathe portrayed there was some fun.

On the left, Private Jim McHale and on the right Corporal Kim Man Kyogh of South Korea

On the extreme right is 2nd Lieutenant A T Baillie, the Platoon Commander. On the extreme left is Sergeant Atholl Bluck, the Platoon Sergeant.

George Mitchell acting as 'God knows what'


  1. I remember the Sioux helicopters from the opening sequence to MASH. The RAF used to have them at Tern Hill ( Shropshire) in the 70's until they were replaced by the Gazelle. I got to sit in the Sioux when I visited a friend at Tern Hill and we used to re enact the Mash films. Jumping out and rushing about. Until the ground crew came out to see what we were getting up to. I was only 10 ;)
    The Korean war also had the Sikorsky H19 for longer flights to the offshore hospital ships. The RAF had the same aircraft and called it The Whirlwind. That was later replaced by the Wessex and then The Sea King for search and rescue.

  2. When on exercise with the army [RAMC] I got the chance to stand on the ground and bring a Puma down with all the control movements. When he landed safely, and being full of admiration for myself, I went up to him and asked him how I did. He replied that I did fine but he had ignored my directions as he wasn't going to put his life in the hands of a medic. Fair point but I felt somewhat deflated.
    I have the DVD 'Mash', it was, and still is, hilarious.
    I remember there used to be a TV programme in the 60s called the 'Whirlybirds' which had a similar helicopter.

  3. When I was in training we had to marshal the instructor who was on his bicycle. He'd happily ride into walls etc if you weren't quick enough to turn him. Then he'd walk over and give you a thick ear lol
    Probably not allowed to do that these days ;)
    My favourite aircraft to marshal was the Phantom. The see offs involved a 'liney dance' between the two marshallers. Swinging arms as the pilot checked his speed brakes, air lift ducts, rudder etc. I'll have to see if there are any good vids on youtube.

  4. I was in the RAF. Nothing very exciting. Engineer. Which covers a multitude of sins lol

  5. Cool, a brylcreem boy. I was in the ATC as a kid and got to fire my first weapon: an Enfield .303. We were taking for a glider ride at Turnberry and the pilot even allowed me hold the controls while he flew the glider right up to the point where he said that I had been flying it myself for a couple of minutes. I absolutely panicked and never went back to it again. I was sorry I didn't last there.

  6. A space cadet ? Cool.
    I missed out on the .303. Wee bit before my time ;)

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  9. Something weird going on with the comments. I don't think it has posted then it posts twice. I remove one of the posts and both get deleted lol

  10. You want to leave that funny stuff alone. I thought you RAF boys got high enough.

  11. RM,

    Prior to our chat on renewables:

  12. I didn't get very high in the RAF Ged. Us ground crew waved the pilots off on their tally ho's before heading to the tea bar.
    It's the Army where the grunts do all the fighting ;)

    That's a wacky link. The Masdar City thing is a big gated eco city for the elite. Run by windmills and solar panels. Aye dream on. Built by slaves from Bangladesh etc on £60 a month if they get paid.
    Sad to see the SNP getting involved with this green rubbish.

  13. RM,

    I'm not denying the uselessness of it or the elite who will use it, but that doesn't detract from the fact that we can sell it to them and keep our citizens in work.

  14. We're not selling it to them Ged. Seimens etc have all the contracts although it has a UK architect.
    It's just sad that the elite only see the future as an us and them concept. Large gated communities and in this case the residents selected by their government. No cronyism there then ;) Plus being that part of the world the University will have students segregated by sex. AS will turn a blind eye to this discrimination of course. And I don't see any mention of where the investment is coming from which means it's from taxpayers as usual. AS 'fighting climate change' again. Note.. you can't fight climate change. Not sure how many times they need telling. It will change whether humans roam the earth or not. Ice ages will come and go. Tropical periods will come and go.

  15. RM,

    I've done a lot of reading about the changes in weather throughout the Earth's history, I should really get a life, and I suspect that the pro-renewable programme is to keep the Greens on board. Not that I disagree with the Greens. I remember the clouds of coal smoke pouring out of chimneys. The Clean Air Act was a milestone in the fight against pollution.

  16. I agree with the clean air act etc. That's just sensible.
    I think the global warming scam is more of a tax raising power rather than keeping greens on board. Governments and power companies 'invest' in windmills etc and pay for it via higher energy bills and taxes. So they use us to create fake jobs. The power companies must invest 7% ( maybe higher now) in renewables and to pay for the billions of investment they raise energy bills. I remember one year my company nearly failed to meet it's target and was due to be fined by the govt (sic) so sent out millions of free low energy lightbulbs to it's customers to meet the target.

  17. RM,

    I'm not disagreeing with you on the tax scam, because that is what it is. You and I both know that the tax put upon these alternative energy supplies are just a way of making the nuclear industry more economically viable.
    Not too sure how we started off talking about my father's time in Korea to discussing wind turbines but it is still fun ;-)

  18. Korea and windmills probably have something in common somewhere :)
    Nuclear has been around for decades but the green scam is relatively new. At least nuclear provides useful energy ( 30% of our needs compared to 0.2 - 8% from the 3,600 windmills).
    It's planned to spend £20Bn a year for the next 40yrs on green things which would be enough to keep us energy safe from coal, nuclear and gas.
    We're quite happy to import nuclear energy from France to keep the lights on and this will increase as our coal and nuclear plants are de commissioned.

  19. The importation of France's nuclear energy will, after independence, only be for England. the Scots won't need it.
    I wonder if the extra tax is put on their electricity because of the distance that the electricity has to travel to its customers, or, does this grid charge only apply to the Scots.

  20. "The importation of France's nuclear energy will, after independence, only be for England. the Scots won't need it"

    I wish that were true Ged but after reading the latest report from The Institution of Civil Engineers ( 80,000 members) we'll actually be worse off than England due to our 100% renewables plan.
    We're a net exporter of electricity at the moment but this will reduce rapidly as our coal and nuclear plants are de commissioned. There will be no more coal plants according to the SNP ( unless carbon capture is ever revived - billion pound waste of money) and definitely no more nuclear according to the SNP so that leaves windmills, wave, solar panels, hydro and gas powered plant.
    Assume zero from windmills as they require 100% back up from other plant when it's not windy so that leaves gas,wave, solar and hydro.
    Hydro has 70 power plants in the UK and combined they provide less electricity than one coal plant.

    So that leaves gas,wave and solar.
    We're not going to use shale gas because greenies think it's too polluting. North Sea gas is supposed to be running out so that leaves imported gas from Putin's Russia.
    Wave power has produced nothing yet and 50 years of 'study' is ongoing.
    Solar has collapsed due to the halving of the feed in tariff subsidy.
    So I think you will agree that we will be the major importers of French nuclear electricity and gas from Russia.
    Putin likes to turn off his gas ( see Ukraine) unless he gets what he wants.
    Scary future indeed.
    Buy a woodburner ?

  21. FYI Ged. Here's the approx UK energy sources for the last 24 hours..

    Coal... 46.2%

    Nuclear... 15.5%

    Wind.... 1.9%

    Gas..... 32%

    Others ( oil/hydro etc).....5%

    So that's about 60% of UK energy from coal and nuclear.

    source :

  22. Hi came across this picture of your father and wonder if he served in Berlin. Have amazing picture of him and my father outside blue church, when looked at picture realised it is the same picture. Glad to know who this guys was after all these years. Like you an army brat, joined the army (female) and married a guy in the Army Air Corps and my whole life was then following Siouxs, Gazelles etc. all over the world.

  23. Not only did my father serve serve in Berlin but my sister and I were born there also. I would assume that the dates were from 1955-6 to about 1957-8. However, having said that I am not too sure. I have a fair collection of photographs of my father, off duty, with us in Berlin but I don't seem to remember the one you are talking about. I would be interested in seeing it.

  24. I have scanned the picture and wonder how to get it to you and yes it is the same image. I have made a blog page and added the photo as a way of getting it to you. Look for Friends of BW.
    Hope I have done it right.

  25. Try this