Korean War: The Spine-Tingling Heroism Of The British Who Fought For Their Lives

Corporal Jim Lucock described himself as an ordinary man who just wanted to stay alive. But in war it doesn’t matter how much you want to live so one day he was ordered to destroy a series of tunnels dug by the enemy. British troops faced many of these missions, the odds, however, were against them.

Jim remembered the unit was slowly moving forward when one of his man stopped, looked at him and said he believed he was stood on a mine. Another one made a point saying it can’t be so and that he should keep on moving, so the man removed his foot and it went up. He died immediately, just like the guy behind Corporal Jim. He was also hit and he stayed unconscious for a few hours. Some of the 36 pieces of shrapnel that hit him are still in his left leg today.

During the Korean War, which went on for three years, more British soldiers were killed than in the Falklands, Iraq and Afghanistan all together. Prisoners of war were constantly tortured, while the Third World War was on the verge of breaking out and still, after 60 years there hasn’t been a peace agreement between the sides.

Kim Jong-Un of North Korea, was reported this month for the execution of his corrupted uncle. But very few know anything about what happened there in the 50s, when Britain joined the U.S. to fight against communist Mao Tse Tung and his China.

Three quarters of the British troops were inexperienced teenagers who each went to serve during their compulsory two years of national service. Over 100,000 troops were engaged in the conflict, the Mail Online reports.

Although regulations stated that nobody under 19 should fight in the war, the front lines were filled by 18-year-olds who had no clue what they were doing there. All they knew ‘was that we were fighting the reds,’ recalled one of them.

It was so cold that if a hand touched metal, it remained stuck to it. While Americans wore fur-lined parkas with hoods, the British froze to death in army-issue string vests and several layers. They didn’t have sleeping bags for a month so all they could do, was huddle together to stay alive. They never took their clothes off so they wouldn’t freeze. They got filthy and covered in bugs and fleas, recalled Lieutenant Terry Moore, of the Ulster Rifles.

When they started living in ‘hutches’, they first faced the attack of the rats, with one biting off a chunk of Kingsman Brian Hough’s face as he slept. During the summer came the mosquitoes. Food consisted of American tinned beans and chocolate.

For Jim Lucock the Korean War was always a waste of time, but … ‘But then I went back years later to South Korea and saw a country with children well fed, people well educated, well dressed. Unlike in North Korea. So if what I did made those people in South Korea happy, then my time there was worthwhile after all,’ he said.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE