The Royal Ulster Rifles in Korea


The Korean War (1950-1953) was the first major action for the United Nations following the UN’s formation in 1945. In June 1950, North Korea attacked South Korea. Twenty-one UN countries went to fight against North Korea. Later, the Chinese supported the North Koreans.

After a six-week journey on a troopship, the 1st Battalion The Royal Ulster Rifles arrived in Pusan, Korea in early November 1950, and joined 29 Independent Infantry Brigade Group. The Battalion was transported north to Uijongbu where, under the direct command of the Eighth United States Army, it was directed against North Korean guerrilla forces bypassed by the rapid progress north of the UN Forces.

On the last day of 1950, the Chinese attacked across the Imjin River. As the New Year started, the 50th Chinese Communist Army engaged UN Forces, focusing on 29 Brigade dispersed over a very wide front (12 miles). The Rifles held their position in their first major action on the night of 3-4 January at the Battle of Chaegunghyon (Happy Valley), just north of Seoul, before carrying out a tactical withdrawal. However, the Communist progress was halted, at least temporarily, and allowed the citizens of Seoul to evacuate. In this one night 157 men in the Rifles were killed, wounded or missing.

The Chinese Fifth Phase Campaign, the Battle of the Imjin River, began on 22 April 1951, with the goal of taking Seoul. By 25 April, the Brigade was ordered to withdraw as the Communist forces were threatening to encircle the whole Brigade. With virtually no cover and seriously outnumbered, the Rifles came under heavy fire as they withdrew to a blocking position. The Brigade was able to hold its position, despite fierce fighting, and neutralized the effectiveness of the 64th Chinese Communist Army. Although the enemy's offensive on this occasion had come within 5 miles of Seoul, the capital had been saved. The Rifles left Korea in October 1951.

During its year’s deployment in Korea, the Rifles lost 102 men killed in action. In addition, 207 soldiers were taken prisoner, 31 of whom died in captivity.