1st Commonwealth Division

The 1st Commonwealth Division was the name given, after July 1951, to Commonwealth land forces in the Korean War.[1] The division was a multinational unit that was part of British Commonwealth Forces Korea, and whilst British and Canadian Army units formed the bulk of the division, Australian infantry, New Zealand artillery and an Indian medical unit were also a part of the division. As with the US "KATUSA" programme, numerous South Korean troops were seconded to the Commonwealth division to make up numbers under a programme known as "KATCOM".

The unit was preceded by the 27th British Commonwealth Brigade, which was the initial parent formation of Commonwealth army units in Korea, and which arrived in Korea in August 1950. Its two British Infantry battalions were joined by the 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (3 RAR) in September, and by the 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI), in February 1951. The brigade was subsequently re-constituted as 28th Commonwealth Brigade in April 1951. In November 1950 the brigade was joined by 29th Independent Infantry Brigade, and in May 1951 by 25th Canadian Infantry Brigade.[2] In July 1951 these units were combined to form 1st Commonwealth Division. The Division was made up of 58% British forces, 22% Canadian forces, 14% Australian forces, 5% New Zealander forces, and 1% Indian forces.[3]

The 1st Commonwealth Division was part of the US I Corps, which also included the US 1st Cavalry Division, the US 3rd and 25th Infantry Divisions, and the ROK 1st Division. The division occupied the strategically important sector of front on the Jamestown Line, stretching from the Kimpo peninsula on the Yellow Sea coast to a point east of Kumhwa about 6.3 miles (10.1 km), and just 30 miles (48 km) from the South Korean capital, Seoul.[4]

It was deactivated in 1954 as part of the demobilisation of forces in Korea in the aftermath of the war, being reduced to a Commonwealth Brigade Group, and from May 1956 until its final withdrawal in August 1957 to a Commonwealth Contingent of battalion strength.[5]

1st Commonwealth Division
SSI of the 1st Commonwealth Division
Formation patch
Country United Kingdom
 New Zealand
 South Korea
Allegiance United Nations
Part ofUS I Corps
Garrison/HQJamestown Line
EngagementsKorean War
James Cassels
Michael West

1st Commonwealth Division Headquarters Staff

  • Commanding officers
  • Divisional Commander Royal Artillery (CRA)
    • Brigadier William Pike, July 1951 – 1952
    • Brigadier G. Gregson, 1952
  • Divisional Commander Royal Engineers (CRE)
    • Colonel ECW Myers, RE
  • Divisional Commander Royal Signals (CRSigs)
    • Lt Col AC Atkinson, Royal Sigs
  • Divisional Commander Royal Army Service Corps (CRASC)
    • Lt Col MGM Crosby, RASC
  • Assistant Director Medical Services (ADMS)
    • Col G Anderton, RAMC
  • Divisional Commander Royal Army Ordnance Corps (CRAOC)
    • Lt Col MR Maclean, RAOC
    • Lt Col GJH Atkinson, RNZAOC
  • Divisional Commander Royal Army Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (CREME)
    • Lt Col HG Good, REME

Order of battle

2RAR withdraw to DMZ Korea 1953 (AWM157687)
2RAR withdraw to the DMZ Korea 1953


  1. ^ Grey 1988, p. 88.
  2. ^ Grey 1988, pp. 68–87.
  3. ^ Grey, Jeffrey (1990). The Commonwealth Armies and the Korean War: An Alliance Study. War, Armed Forces and Society. Manchester University Press. p. 104. ISBN 9780719027703. Retrieved 16 February 2013.
  4. ^ Grey 1988, p. 135.
  5. ^ Grey 1988, p. 183.
  6. ^ Rottman, Gordon L (2002). Korean War Order of Battle: United States, United Nations, and Communist Ground, Naval, and Air Forces, 1950–1953. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 0275978354.
  7. ^ Dutton, John (2007). Korea 1950-53 Recounting Reme Involvement. Lulu.com. ISBN 0955675308.
  8. ^ Morris, Grant John (2012). Wagons of War: A History of 10 transport Company 1951–2011 (PDF). Massey University. pp. 7–19.
  9. ^ From September 1950 to July 1951 3rd RAR was part of 27th British Commonwealth Brigade
  10. ^ From November 1950 to July 1951,1stRNF was part of 29th Independent Infantry Brigade
  11. ^ From November 1950 to July 1951,1st Glosters was part of 29th Independent Infantry Brigade
  12. ^ From November 1950 to July 1951,1stRUR was part of 29th Independent Infantry Brigade


  • Grey, Jeffrey (1988). The Commonwealth Armies and the Korean War: An Alliance Study. Manchester: Manchester University Press. ISBN 0-7190-2770-5.
  • Rottman, Gordon L. (2002). Korean War Order of Battle: United States, United Nations, and Communist Ground, Naval, and Air Forces, 1950–1953. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishing. ISBN 9780313013324.
  • Smith, Alan H. (2012). Do Unto Others: Counter Bombardment in Australia's Military Campaigns. Newport: Big Sky Publishing. ISBN 9780987057440.
28th Commonwealth Infantry Brigade

The 28th Commonwealth Infantry Brigade was a Commonwealth formation of the 1st Commonwealth Division that served in Korea from 1952 to 1954.

Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders

The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders (Princess Louise's) was a line infantry regiment of the British Army that existed from 1881 until amalgamation into the Royal Regiment of Scotland on 28 March 2006.

The regiment was created under the Childers Reforms in 1881, as the Princess Louise's (Sutherland and Argyll Highlanders), by the amalgamation of the 91st (Argyllshire Highlanders) Regiment of Foot and 93rd (Sutherland Highlanders) Regiment of Foot, amended the following year to reverse the order of the "Argyll" and "Sutherland" sub-titles. The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders was expanded to fifteen battalions during the First World War (1914–1918) and nine during the Second World War (1939–1945). The 1st Battalion served in the 1st Commonwealth Division in the Korean War and gained a high public profile for its role in Aden during 1967.

As part of the restructuring of the British Army's infantry in 2006, the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders were amalgamated with the Royal Scots, the King's Own Scottish Borderers, the Royal Highland Fusiliers (Princess Margaret's Own Glasgow and Ayrshire Regiment), the Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) and the Highlanders (Seaforth, Gordons and Camerons) into the seven battalion strong Royal Regiment of Scotland. Following a further round of defence cuts announced in July 2012 the 5th Battalion was reduced to a single public duties company called Balaklava Company, 5th Battalion, Royal Regiment of Scotland, (Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders).

Australia in the Korean War

The military history of Australia during the Korean War was very eventful. Japan's defeat in World War II heralded the end to 35 years of Japanese occupation of the Korean Peninsula. The surrender of Japan to the Allied forces on 2 September 1945 led to the peninsula being subsequently divided into North and South Koreas, with the North being occupied by troops from the Soviet Union, and the South, below the 38th parallel, being occupied by troops from the United States.

The Soviet forces entered the Korean peninsula on 10 August 1945, followed a few weeks later by the American forces who entered through Incheon. US Army Lieutenant General John R. Hodge formally accepted the surrender of Japanese forces south of the 38th Parallel on 9 September 1945 at the Government House in Seoul.Although both rival factions tried initially to diplomatically reunite the divided nation, it was the Northern faction that eventually decided to try and do so with military force. Troops from the Soviet backed North Korean Army crossed the 38th parallel on 25 June 1950 beginning a civil war.

The invasion of South Korea came as a surprise to the United Nations. The same day the war had officially begun (25 June), the United Nations immediately drafted UNSC Resolution 82, which called for:

all hostilities to end and North Korea to withdraw to the 38th Parallel;

a UN Commission on Korea to be formed to monitor the situation and report to the Security Council;

all UN members to support the United Nations in achieving this, and refrain from providing assistance to the North Korean authorities.The Liberal government of Australia, led by Prime Minister Robert Menzies, immediately responded to the UN resolution by offering military assistance. 17,000 Australians served in the Korean War between 1950 and 1953, and they suffered 339 dead, and 1200 wounded.With the commitment of Australian forces to the Korean War, the Australian government called for 1000 men who had prior military experience in World War II to enlist in the army for three years, with one year of overseas service in Korea. They were called Korean Force or K-Force. A portion of the force were recruited in Great Britain. At the end of their enlistment, personnel recruited from the United Kingdom could elect to be discharged in Australia, or returned to the UK. Their previous military experience would facilitate rapid deployment to Korea.

Battle of the Samichon River

The Battle of the Samichon River (24–26 July 1953) was fought during the final days of the Korean War between United Nations (UN) forces—primarily Australian and American—and the Chinese People's Volunteer Army (PVA). The fighting took place on a key position on the Jamestown Line known as The Hook and saw the defending UN troops, including the 2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (2 RAR) from the 28th British Commonwealth Brigade and the US 7th Marine Regiment, fight off numerous assaults by the PVA 137th Division during two concerted night attacks, inflicting numerous casualties on the Chinese with heavy artillery and small arms fire. The action was part of a larger, divisional-sized Chinese attack against the US 1st Marine Division, with diversionary assaults mounted against the Australians. With the peace talks in Panmunjom reaching a conclusion, the Chinese had been eager to gain a last-minute victory over the UN forces and the battle was the last of the war before the official signing of the Korean Armistice.

During the action the Chinese had attempted to make a breakthrough to the Imjin River along the divisional boundary between the US 1st Marine Division and the 1st Commonwealth Division in order to turn the Marine division's flank. Yet with well-coordinated indirect fires from the divisional artillery, including 16th Field Regiment, Royal New Zealand Artillery, and support from British Centurion tanks of the 1st Royal Tank Regiment, 2 RAR successfully thwarted both assaults, holding The Hook. It was estimated that Chinese casualties numbered between 2,000 and 3,000 killed, with the majority of them inflicted by the New Zealand gunners. Meanwhile, on the left flank, US Marines had endured the brunt of the attack, repelling the Chinese onslaught with infantry and artillery. Only a few hours later the Armistice Agreement was signed, ultimately ending the war. Both sides subsequently withdrew 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) within 72 hours to create a 4-kilometre (2.5 mi) demilitarised zone.

British Commonwealth Forces Korea

British Commonwealth Forces Korea (BCFK) was the formal name of the Commonwealth army, naval and air units serving with the United Nations (UN) in the Korean War. BCFK included Australian, British, Canadian, Indian, and New Zealand. Some Commonwealth units and personnel served with United States and/or other UN formations, which were not part of BCFK.In 1950, Australian units based with the British Commonwealth Occupation Force (BCOF) in Japan were among the first UN personnel to be deployed in South Korea. After the administrative support role of BCOF in Japan to the fighting forces in Korea had been decided in November 1950, the title BCFK appeared. The position of BCFK Commander-in-Chief was always held by Australian Army officers, the first being Lieutenant General Sir Horace Robertson. Liaison between the Commonwealth C-in-C and the UN high command was provided by a subordinate headquarters in Tokyo.

By the time BCFK came into being, the Commonwealth armies had formed the 1st Commonwealth Division (in July 1951) and British and Canadian Army personnel predominated at the operational level in the Commonwealth land forces. Lieutenant General William Bridgeford took over from Robertson in October 1951, and he was later succeeded by Lieutenant General Henry Wells. Wells was succeeded by Lieutenant General Rudolph Bierwirth in 1954.

The Royal Navy usually had at least one aircraft carrier on station during the war. Five British carriers: Glory, Ocean, Theseus, Triumph, and Unicorn (a maintenance and aircraft transport carrier) served in the conflict. The Royal Australian Navy provided the carrier HMAS Sydney. The RN, RAN and Royal Canadian Navy also provided many other warships. The Royal New Zealand Navy deployed a number of Loch class frigates throughout the war.

The RN carriers provided the only British fighter planes to take part in the war. On 9 August 1952 a propeller-driven Sea Fury, piloted by Lieutenant Peter Carmichael of No. 802 Squadron, based on HMS Ocean, shot down a MiG-15 jet fighter, becoming one of only a handful of pilots of propeller planes to have shot down a jet.

The only front-line unit from a Commonwealth air force to serve under BCFK was Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) No. 77 Squadron, which initially flew P-51 Mustang fighters and later converted to Gloster Meteor jets. British and Canadian aircrews also served with the RAAF. The only Royal Air Force contribution was a wing of Short Sunderland flying boats based at Iwakuni in Japan.

Canada in the Korean War

The Canadian Forces were involved in the 1950–1953 Korean War and its aftermath. 26,000 Canadians participated on the side of the United Nations, and Canada sent eight destroyers. Canadian aircraft provided transport, supply and logistics. 516 Canadians died, 312 of which were from combat. After the war, Canadian troops remained for three years as military observers.

First Battle of Maryang-san

The First Battle of Maryang San (3–8 October 1951), also known as the Defensive Battle of Maliangshan (Chinese: 马良山防御战; pinyin: Mǎliáng Shān Fángyù Zhàn), was fought during the Korean War between United Nations (UN) forces—primarily Australian and British—and the Chinese communist People's Volunteer Army. The fighting occurred during a limited UN offensive by US I Corps, codenamed Operation Commando. This offensive ultimately pushed the Chinese back from the Imjin River to the Jamestown Line and destroyed elements of four Chinese armies following heavy fighting. The much smaller battle at Maryang San took place over a five-day period, and saw the 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (3 RAR) dislodge a numerically superior Chinese force from the tactically important Kowang-San (Hill 355) and Maryang San (Hill 317) features, in conjunction with other units of the 1st Commonwealth Division.

Using tactics first developed against the Japanese in New Guinea during the Second World War, the Australians gained the advantage of the high ground and assaulted the Chinese positions from unexpected directions. They then repelled repeated Chinese counterattacks aimed at re-capturing Maryang San, with both sides suffering heavy casualties before the Australians were finally relieved by a British battalion. However, with the peace-talks ongoing, these operations proved to be the last actions in the war of manoeuvre, which had lasted the previous sixteen months. It was replaced by a static war characterised by fixed defences reminiscent of the Western Front in 1915–17. A month later, the Chinese re-captured Maryang San during fierce fighting, and it was never re-gained. Today, the battle is widely regarded as one of the Australian Army's greatest accomplishments during the war.

Horatius Murray

General Sir Horatius Murray, (1903–1989) was a senior British Army officer who served with distinction during the Second World War and later in the Korean War.

James Cassels (British Army officer)

Field Marshal Sir Archibald James Halkett Cassels, (28 February 1907 – 13 December 1996) was a senior British Army officer who served as Chief of the General Staff (CGS), the professional head of the British Army, from 1965 to 1968. As a young man he was a first-class cricket player, initially playing in India for the Europeans against the Hindus in the Lahore Tournament and going on to play for a Punjab Governor's XI against Northern India team and for a Viceroy's XI against the Roshanara Club. He later played for the British Army cricket team against the RAF at The Oval and then played for the Egyptian national side against HM Martineau's XI in Alexandria.

Cassels served in the Second World War as commander of the 152nd Infantry Brigade, commanding the brigade during Operation Goodwood, Operation Totalize and Operation Veritable, before becoming General Officer Commanding 51st (Highland) Division in the closing stages of the war. He later commanded the 1st Commonwealth Division in the Korean War and was General Officer Commanding of the 1 (British) Corps before becoming director of operations in Malaya during the Malayan Emergency.

Cassels went on to be commander, Northern Army Group, then General Officer Commanding Eastern Command and then Commander-in-Chief (C-in-C) of the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR). As Chief of the General Staff, he advised the British government on the implementation of the 1966 Defence White Paper.

Jamestown Line

The Jamestown Line was a series of defensive positions occupied by United Nations forces in the Korean War. Following the end of the 1951 Chinese Spring Offensive and the UN May-June 1951 counteroffensive the war largely became one of attrition and trench warfare, fought along static defensive lines reminiscent of the First World War. As a consequence major UN ground operations from late spring—under the direction of Lieutenant General Matthew Ridgway—were primarily conducted to recapture or establish durable defensive lines, including the Wyoming, Missouri, Kansas and Jamestown Lines. The Jamestown Line stretched from the Imjin River near Munsan-ni then arched northeast 35 miles (56 km) in the strategically important sector of front from the Kimpo peninsula on the Yellow Sea coast to a point east of Kumhwa.The line was subsequently established during the UN counter-offensive between May and November 1951, just north of the 38th Parallel during Operation Commando (1951). Held by the US I Corps, this sector was just 30 miles (48 km) from the South Korean capital, Seoul. Five UN divisions of I Corps were used in its capture, including the US 1st Cavalry Division, the US 3rd and 25th Infantry Divisions, the South Korean 1st Division and the 1st Commonwealth Division. The Jamestown line was fought over almost continuously until the armistice on 27 July 1953; due to its strategic position it was the scene of much heavy fighting, including the Battle of the Samichon River just hours before the Armistice Agreement which ended the war.


KATCOM, or in full Korean Attached Commonwealth Division, refers to significant numbers of South Korean soldiers who, during the Korean War, were attached to the 1st Commonwealth Division, similar to the KATUSA system in the US Army.

The system took effect from May 1952. Korean troops were included within Commonwealth units as replacements simply to make up numbers during periods of troop rotation. Soldiers assigned as KATCOMs were given 16 weeks' standard basic training at the ROK Replacement Training Center with further specialist training on British and Canadian weaponry. On average, each British battalion received 94 Korean soldiers, making a total of 1,000 Koreans across the whole Commonwealth division.More broadly, KATCOM can also refer to Korean troops serving in other UN contingents, notably the Belgian and Dutch Contingents.

Michael West (British Army officer)

General Sir Michael Montgomerie Alston-Roberts-West, (27 October 1905 – 14 May 1978), better known as Sir Michael M.A.R. West, was a senior British Army officer who achieved high office in the 1960s. He served in the Second World War and the Korean War, where he commanded the 1st Commonwealth Division and later became General Officer Commanding-in-Chief (GOC-in-C) for Northern Command. West was a witty and unconventional soldier, with a taste for partying and jazz.

Operation Blaze

Operation Blaze (2 July 1952) was an Australian Army operation near Kangao-ri during the Korean War to capture a prisoner. The raid involved a company-sized attack from the newly arrived 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (1 RAR) on Chinese positions on Hill 227. Although the Australians were able to take some of the Chinese positions on the hill, they did not achieve all of their objectives and were eventually forced to withdraw after running out of ammunition.

Operation Commando

Operation Commando was an offensive undertaken by UN forces during the Korean War between 3–12 October 1951. The U.S. I Corps (including four U.S. Divisions, the 1st Commonwealth Division and the Republic of Korea Army (ROK) 1st Infantry Division) seized the Jamestown Line, destroying elements of the People's Volunteer Army (PVA) 42nd, 47th, 64th and 65th Armies. This prevented the PVA from interdicting the U.N. supply lines near Seoul.

The attack began on 3 October 1951 from the Wyoming Line, which had been extended during Operation Minden and ended on 12 October, with a few hills south of the line still in PVA hands. Seizing these hills required a follow-up operation—Operation Polecharge. As a result of this 6 miles (9.7 km) advance, the badly mauled U.S. 1st Cavalry Division was withdrawn to Japan for refitting.Commando and Polecharge were the last actions in the war of manoeuvre, which had lasted sixteen months. It was replaced by a static war, characterised by fixed defences, trench lines, bunkers, patrols, wiring parties and minefields reminiscent of the Western Front in 1915–17. Australian involvement in this operation is known by historians as the Battle of Maryang San.

Operation Minden

Operation Minden was an offensive undertaken by United Nations (UN) forces during the Korean War between 8–12 September 1951, as part of a general advance to extend the Wyoming Line. Operation Minden was the precursor to the much larger Operation Commando, which established the Jamestown Line.

Operation Polecharge

Operation Polecharge was an offensive undertaken by United Nations (UN) forces during the Korean War between 15–19 October 1951, following on from the successful Operation Commando which established the Jamestown Line.

Second Battle of Maryang-san

The Second Battle of Maryang San (5 November 1951) was fought during the Korean War, in which British forces, possessing a hill top and surrounding area, were overwhelmed by Chinese forces.

Second Battle of the Hook

The Second Battle of the Hook was a battle fought between 18 and 19 November 1952 during the Korean War between elements of United Nations troops consisting of British troops of the 1st Commonwealth Division and Chinese forces on a vital sector known as the "Hook" position which was the scene of much bitter fighting before and in the ensuing months. Attacking Chinese forces attempted to take the strategic position but were repelled by a combination of heavy firepower and effective counterattacks.

Australia in the Korean War
Australian units and formations
Battles involving Australian units
Order of battle

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