Military history

Scorched Earth, Black Snow: Britain and Australia in the Korean War, 1950

Scorched Earth, Black Snow: Britain and Australia in the Korean War, 1950

In late summer 1950, under-equipped, under-gunned British and Australian troops joined United Nations forces defending a South Korea reeling from invasion by the communist North. As the tide turned, 27th Infantry Brigade – 1st Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, 1st Middlesex and 3rd Royal Australian Regiment – spearheaded the counterattack into North Korea, decimating North Korea’s army. Meanwhile, the elite 41 Commando, Royal Marines was raiding deep behind enemy lines. With victory imminent, men expected to be ‘home by Christmas’. It was not to be. In a shock onslaught launched out of Manchurian blizzards, Mao’s legions stormed south. Fighting for survival, 27th Brigade broke free of a closing trap before holding open the route for US units escaping a massive ambush. Then, as rearguard, it covered broken UN forces and desperate refugees fleeing through an apocalyptic winter warscape of devastated villages, blown bridges and burning cities. And on the war’s most harrowing battleground, 41 Commando braved ‘Hellfire Valley’ to reinforce besieged US marines surrounded amid North Korea’s most hostile mountains. What followed – the breakout from Chosin Reservoir to the sea - remains the most epic fighting withdrawal of modern history. Though Korea remains the biggest, bloodiest, most brutal war fought by British troops since World War II, the story of their central role in the conflict’s most terrible months has never been fully told. Far more than mere battlefield history, Andrew Salmon’s book draws on interviews with some 90 veterans and survivors to pain an unforgettable portrait of an immense human tragedy.

Introduction: Distant Holocaust, Forgotten Men

Part One: Triumph

Prologue: Strangers in the Night

Chapter 1. Thunder in the East

Chapter 2. Under Korean Skies

Chapter 3. Into the Inferno

Chapter 4. Turned Tide and New Allies

Chapter 5. Behind Enemy Lines

Chapter 6. Dust Clouds and Burning Towns

Chapter 7. At the Tip of the Spear

Part Two: Tragedy

Chapter 8. North Wind

Chapter 9. Scorched Earth

Chapter 10. White Hell

Chapter 11. Black Snow

Chapter 12. Dark Christmas

Appendix: Where are They Now?

Acknowledgements and Sources

Glossary

Notes