It has often been said of both faith and war, that greater love hath no man than the one who lays down his life for his friends. For the world slowly getting over the devastation of global war, the Korean War reminded all that sacrifices must be made by all generations.
Many of the young men who enlisted to fight in Korea were too young to contribute during World War II but observed carefully the example set for them during that great war and the need for conspicuous gallantry and sacrificial fighting would not be missed by this generation. In 1951, Lieut. Philip Curtis would undertake not one, but two one-man charges on a well defended Chinese bunker that was raining devastating machine-gun fire down upon his men.
With his last breath just as machine-gun fire from that bunker took his life, he launched the grenade from his hand that fell perfectly into the bunker and destroyed the enemy position. His men would stand in awe at what they had just witnessed and Lieut. Philip Curtis would be awarded the Victoria Cross.
The Battle of Imjin
Philip Curtis was born in Plymouth, Devon in 1926 which meant he would just miss out on the fighting during World War 2. He no doubt watched the sacrifice of a nation and the men who marched off into war never to return knowing full well what awaited him when it was his turn.
In 1946, Curtis joined the Duke of Cornwell’s Light Infantry where he would eventually become commissioned as a Lieutenant. And while the first few years of his military service were somewhat uneventful, the North Korean invasion of South Korea in June 1950 would place an entirely new generation of warriors in harm’s way.
Unafraid to fight, this generation of the British Army was looking forward to proving their worth.
The Korean War was a remarkable seesaw battle during the early years of the war. Just as it seemed the North Koreans would push the South Koreans off the peninsula, the Allies broke out of the Pusan Perimeter and took the fight all the way to the Yalu River.
Just when it seemed Allied victory was inevitable, hundreds of thousands of Chinese soldiers came screaming across the border. As the war started to become more stagnant, there was a vicious fight for every hill and every bunker before the war settled at the 38th parallel.
But it would be in April of 1951, close to the IMjin River in Korea, that Lieut. Philip Curtis would give his life fighting to take one such bunker. The Chinese conducted a spring offensive that aimed to retake the city of Seoul from the allies which put Lieut. Curtis’s unit which was attached to the 1st Battalion of the Gloucestershire Regiment right in the crosshairs.
Overwhelmingly outnumbered, the Gloucestershire Regiment would make a heroic standard Hill 235 as they endured wave after wave of Chinese assault.
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