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British Battles

British Battles

Korea, 1951

The aftermath of Imjin

Honours and awards

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Although UN and ROK forces were heavily defeated at Imjin River, they did manage to delay the invading troops so that the bulk of their forces could move south to regroup. The bravery of the Glosters was widely saluted and gained official recognition. The men of the regiment won a large number of medals. The Victoria Cross was awarded to both Lieutenant-Colonel Carne and Lieutenant Curtis: Carne for his inspired leadership and Curtis for a charge on a hill occupied by the Chinese that resulted in his death.

For more on the actions of Carne and Curtis, link to the Victoria CrossExternal website - link opens in a new window reference website.

Criticisms of the leadership

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Nevertheless, there was some criticism of the conduct of the battle. Within the UN, there was some feeling that the American and British leaderships had been wrong to leave the Glosters in such a vulnerable position. In addition, less than two weeks after the battle, Rhee Syngman, the South Korean leader, was reported to have publicly criticised both British troops in Korea and the Australian, Canadian, New Zealand and British governments.

Rhee's alleged comments were probably intended to blame those governments for the recent dismissal of General MacArthur as military commander of UN and ROK forces; MacArthur, like Rhee, had wanted to push the Chinese completely out of the Korean peninsular. The comments may also have been coloured, however, by the fact that the British had been experiencing failure on the battlefield. This incident resulted in a storm of protest in Britain and a denial was issued on behalf of the South Korean government the following day.

'The Manchurian Candidate'?

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Many of the survivors of the Battle of Imjin River became prisoners-of-war of the Chinese. Among them was Carne who, after his release, gave evidence of Chinese attempts to brainwash him. Carne alleged that, between January 1952 and August 1953, the Chinese had singled him out as the most senior British officer in captivity. He had been kept in solitary confinement and subjected to a softening-up process involving the use of drugs, the aim of which, he claimed, was to make his brain 'like a sponge' capable of accepting any kind of information put into it.

In March 1953, during the period leading up to armistice, Carne was apparently given details of China's proposals for a Korean settlement. The Foreign Office did not know what to make of this bizarre story and was extremely sceptical about it. Carne's claim does fit in, however, with known experiments in brainwashing techniques carried out by the Chinese on prisoners-of-war in Korea.

The end of the Korean WarGo to next topic