Operation COMMANDO - 1 RUR, Korea.

Thu, 10/04/1951
Hill 317 Maryang San
A view of Maryang San (Hill 317), after British bombardment with Napalm and rockets during Operation COMMANDO.© IWM (BF 10430)

During September 1951, the 1st Battalion The Royal Ulster Rifles remained on Line 'Wyoming' facing north-west. Across 2,000 yards of broken ground with low, scrub-covered hills, lay an enemy position. It was occupied by what was estimated to be a battalion, with supporting arms, centred on Hill 187.

From this feature, a sandy ridge known as the 'Brown Bastard' ran south-west to the valley of the River Samichon, while a similar, but wooded ridge, ran east almost into the 2nd Royal Canadian Regiment's area. Both the main features and the two ridges, forming a horse-shoe, were strongly held by enemy infantry in well camouflaged deep bunkers; an unknown number of 81 mm and 60 mm mortars were deployed in the re-entrants on the reverse slopes. But between the two main ridges and running south from 187 itself lay a narrow spur, ending in a conical hill about 1,000 yards from the main feature. This feature was an excellent OP, commanding the whole of the horse-shoe feature; it lay about 1,500 yards forward of D Company's position and was known as 'Point How'.

On 30 September, the UN announced an operation to severely limit any Chinese attempt to mount a winter offensive. The preliminary phases of the operation, known as Op COMMANDO, began on 1 October and on 3 October the main attack was launched by 28 British Commonwealth Brigade against a key Chinese position some five miles north on Kowang San (Hill 355) where the enemy overlooked 25 Canadian Brigade's right flank. 1 RUR was detached from 29 UK Brigade to come under operational command of 25 Brigade for the Canadian assault on Hill 187.

When 4 October dawned it was hot and misty. While patches of mist still filled the valleys, three rifle companies and Battalion HQ 1 RUR moved up to an assembly area 1,000 yards south-west of 'How' and settled down to await the Canadian attack. A Company 1 RUR had occupied and secured 'How' the night before. The mist lifted slowly from the 'Brown Bastard' 1,500 yards to the north and from Hill 187 itself. The air support was late, and it was not until just after 0900 hours that the first aircraft arrived over the target.

Once the artillery marked the enemy ridge with smoke, the aircraft circling overhead dived to attack with rockets and napalm. They pounded Hill 187 and the southern and eastern spurs until just before 1000 hours. Then the artillery barrage began and the Canadians advanced behind it. By 1200 hours their objectives were taken and 1 RUR was ordered to advance. Swiftly, but cautiously, the leading companies moved forward by bounds. All objectives were achieved by 1500 hours against little resistance. The Chinese on 187 had withdrawn once their flank was threatened by the capture of Kowang San. However, the Canadians on the right had met stiff resistance from determined groups of Chinese infantry covering that withdrawal. The Canadians were also unable to exploit into the valley running behind Hill 187 where they were again held up by resistance from delaying parties on the reverse slopes.

As dusk fell, 1 RUR continued digging in and constructing wire. The night was extremely noisy, but uneventful; soon after dawn, activity was observed in the hills across the valley in front, and, as the morning progressed, the enemy began to shell the Canadians, just to the right of A Company, with 155 mm air-burst rounds.

The recce parties of the Canadian Royal 22nd Regiment were on their way and by 1600 hours, 1 RUR had been relieved. Operation COMMANDO was the Battalion's last action in Korea. As darkness fell, the Battalion marched for the last time out of the line to an area beside Paekhak reservoir, three miles to the south-west. There, the following day, The Royal Norfolk Regiment relieved 1 RUR of its role in 29 Brigade and the Battalion began its move back to Hong Kong.