SCORCHED EARTH,

                   BLACK SNOW

 

                    Britain and Australia in the Korean War, 195o

 

A vivid, moving – and sometimes shocking  – work on the most terrible months of Britain’s biggest, bloodiest and most brutal post-1945 war.

Based on diaries, notebooks, letters and interviews with 90 survivors, the story unfolds in the words of those who were there.

From commando raids 230 miles behind enemy lines, to desperate breakout battles through the ‘human wave;’ from hand-to-hand fighting to sniper-versus-sniper duels; this is the soldiers’ though-the-gun-sight view of combat.

Yet it is no ‘Boy’s Own’ account. Sixty years after the war, its brutalizing effect – the shooting of wounded enemy on the battlefield; the gunning down of POWs; the burning of towns; the murder of civilians – on British and Australian soldiers is finally revealed.

Scorched Earth, Black Snow covers 27th Commonwealth Brigade and 41 Commando, Royal Marines in the UN’s 1950 defence ofSouth Korea.

British soldiers went into action at a week’s notice. Under-manned and under-equipped, they lacked armour, artillery, transport and winter clothing. Yet in a barren, alien land, they undertook some of the war’s most critical missions:  27th Brigade won a South Korean Presidential Unit Citation; 41 Commando a US Presidential Unit Citation.

But beyond the glory, this would be one of the most apocalyptic wars of mankind’s bloodiest century. The first phrase of the title refers to the UN policy of laying waste North Korean villages, crops, and communications; the second to napalm strikes that turned white snow black.

1950 marked the only invasion the free world ever mounted against a communist state during the Cold War, when the UN counter-invadedNorth Korea. Veterans were in the eye of the storm at a pivotal moment in the 20th century: The momentChinabecame a superpower as Mao unleashed his legions against the UN. That intervention resulted in the greatest reversal of fortune in modern military history.

More Britons fell inKoreathan in the Falklands,Iraqand Afghan conflicts combined; theUSsuffered worse defeats in two months inNorth Koreathan anything encountered in a decade inVietnam. Today, however, the Korean War is virtually forgotten.

Scorched Earth, Black Snow breathes life back into the conflict’s most dramatic and traumatic months. Not simply a work of combat history, it incorporates the views of allied reporters and Korean civilians as well as British and Australian fighting men: All bear eyewitness testament to a monumental human tragedy.

You will not easily forget it.

          TO THE LAST ROUND

The Epic British Stand on the Imjin River, Korea 1951

 

  • A full account of the bloodiest, most desperate battle fought by British soldiers since World War II has never been published – until now.
  • In April 1951, a British brigade faced a Chinese army. When the smoke cleared, an entire British battalion had been wiped out.
  • Over two years, on three continents, the author interviewed veterans from all brigade units. As this legendary tragedy unfolds, the reader experiences the carnage through the eyes of the men who survived.
  • We meet them as they prepare to deploy; share their first impressions of Korea; struggle with them through the frozen winter retreat; stand alongside them in the tremendous clash on the Imjin; and some we join in the grim North Korean POW camps. Then, 50 years later, we meet them again as they struggle to exorcise the ghosts of war. This is their story.

In June 1950, the Cold War turned hot: communist North Korea invaded the capitalist South. Under the banner of the United Nations, US troops deployed. Britain’s 29th Infantry Brigade – the Gloster, Royal Northumberland Fusilier and Royal Ulster Rifle battalions, supported by tanks of the 8th Hussars – landed in November to join the fight.

The war appeared won. UN forces were dashing for the Chinese border. 29th Brigade prepared to mop up.

Then: catastrophe. Out of the wintry north, Red China stormed south. Through apocalyptic landscapes of burning cities and corpse-strewn wastelands, UN forces and a million refugees were propelled into a 200-mile retreat. In a murderous rearguard action outside Seoul, the Ulster Rifles narrowly escaped annihilation as they fought to stem the Chinese flood while UN units retreated.

Spring 1951. The war hung in the balance. The front was silent. Reinforced by a crack battalion of Belgian volunteers, 29th Brigade dug in along the Imjin River. Their position anchored the American flank and covered a key invasion route to Seoul.

On the night of 22nd April, 1951, the greatest offensive of the Korean War was unleashed. As a third of a million men surged into the attack along a 40-mile front, China’s entire 63rd Army descended on 29th Brigade’s scattered strong points.

One by one, the companies were swamped under midnight “human wave” assaults. Hand-to-hand combat raged. Artillery fired, point-blank, over open sights. Outnumbered 7-1, 29th Brigade clung to its line, but by 25th April, was cut off. The order was given: Break out! In a death ride down a valley swarming with enemy, the infantry and tanks battled for their lives.

But for one battalion, surrounded miles inside enemy territory, it was too late. In a last stand on a smoking hilltop, the Glosters fought back-to-back. Only when their ammunition was exhausted did they try to break free. Just 63 men escaped the trap.

Dramatic, traumatic, moving and inspirational, this is the story of a band of men who held the line, defied an army and astonished the world.

Purchase To the Last Round: The Epic British Stand on the Imjin River, Korea 1951