THROUGH THE ARCHIVES: From the News Letter of May 1951

Royal Ulster Rifles pay heavy price in Korean War

Thursday, 6th May 2021, 11:38 am
Veterans attend re-dedication of the Korean war Memorial at the Belfast City Hall Hall in April 2010.  The 1st Battalion of the Royal Ulster Rifles were the first unit from England to join the United Nations force in Korea when they landed at Pusan on November 5, 1950 . They soon joined the advance to Pyongyang and were then involved in the defence of Seoul in January 1951. Picture: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Veterans attend re-dedication of the Korean war Memorial at the Belfast City Hall Hall in April 2010. The 1st Battalion of the Royal Ulster Rifles were the first unit from England to join the United Nations force in Korea when they landed at Pusan on November 5, 1950 . They soon joined the advance to Pyongyang and were then involved in the defence of Seoul in January 1951. Picture: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

“The Royal Ulster Rifles, who sailed from Liverpool on October 2 last year [1950] for Korea, and went into action in the middle of November, have suffered heavily in the see-saw battles that have since taken place,” declared an editorial published by the News Letter during this week in May 1951 reflecting on the Korean War.

“Very soon after their arrival General MacArthur began the offensive which took his troops to the border of Manchuria and which was to bring the war to a swift end. Unfortunately the Chinese crossed the border in force, and in January the United Nations forces were driven south of the 38th parallel.

“It was in this battle that the Rifles suffered their first severe losses. Reports that the battalion had been wiped out were exaggerated, but the toll was heavy, and later in the month the War Office issued a list of 136 casualties - three officers wounded and five missing, eleven men killed, 45 wounded and 72 missing.”

Lord Eames says a prayer as veterans attend re-dedication of the Korean War Memorial at the Belfast City Hall Hall in April 2010. The 1st Battalion of the Royal Ulster Rifles were the first unit from England to join the United Nations force in Korea when they landed at Pusan on November 5, 1950 . They soon joined the advance to Pyongyang and were then involved in the defence of Seoul in January 1951. Picture: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

The editorial continued: “Since then the United Nations forces have driven the Communists north of the parallel, but once more they are on the defensive and again the Rifles have suffered heavily.

“The latest casualty list contains 108 names, and 45 were reported on the previous day.

“These with the January figures make a total of 289, to which must be added the considerable number of men reported as casualties from time to time in other and shorter lists.”

There were hopes that some of the men missing in action might still make their way their way back to United Nations lines.

The News Letter editorial concluded: “But relatives of those who are in enemy hands will be glad to read Mr Shinwell’s [Emmanuel/Manny the Minister of Defence] statement yesterday that, though there is no news of operations by the International Red Cross behind the Communist lines, men who have escaped from the Chinese report that on the whole they have been well treated.

“The War Secretary’s replies in Parliament to questions about the despatch of goods and raw materials to China were unconvincing, and if British and other United Nations troops continue to suffer severe casualties British policy on the question of exports to China trill have to be reviewed.”