The Battle of Kapyong, 23–25 April 1951
In late April 1951 three Chinese army groups launched the Fifth Phase Offensive...
North east of Seoul, 19th Chinese Corps destroyed 6th South Korean Division leaving the road to Kapyong open. The route was quickly blocked by 27th Commonwealth Brigade. The heights overlooking the road on either side were occupied by 3rd Battalion Royal Australian Regiment (3RAR) on the right and 2nd Battalion Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry (2PPCLI) on the left. In support behind these two battalions, which would bear the brunt of the attack, was 1st Battalion the Middlesex Regiment (1MR), one company of United States (US) tanks, two US mortar companies and 16th Field Regiment, Royal New Zealand Artillery. This force of 2800 men was facing the Chinese 118th Division with 10,600 men.
To block the valley through which the road to Kapyong ran the Brigade needed to hold a long front. A continuous line was not possible so the infantry companies of both 3RAR and 2PPCLI deployed an all-round defence several hundred metres apart from each other. Each fought its own small battle.
The night of 23/24 April was clear and cold, with snow on north-facing slopes. At 9.30pm, 118th Division, having decided to deal with the Australians first, drove back the US tanks supporting B Company 3RAR. By midnight two Chinese battalions assaulted B and A Companies. The attack continued until dawn, while C and D Companies were subject to probes as the Chinese tried to locate the extent of the Australian position. Meanwhile, the third Chinese battalion of 354th Regiment went around the left of the Australians and attacked Battalion Headquarters (BHQ) on the low ground by the Kapyong River.
The BHQ was withdrawn before dawn. The Battalion commander Lieutenant Colonel Bruce Ferguson then ordered B Company to pull back to the protection of other companies. As this was done, daylight allowed the New Zealand artillery to fire on the massed Chinese infantry now assaulting D and C companies.
By midday, threatened with encirclement, and with a second Chinese Regiment now deploying to attack it, 3RAR was withdrawn from its exposed position. All other companies fell back through D Company which was the last to leave. By 7.30pm 3RAR was deployed safely within the 1MR position. The Australians had lost 32 dead, 59 wounded and three captured.
The following night the 2PPCLI became the focus of Chinese attention. The Canadians held on until dawn on 25 April when the Chinese, having lost over 2,000 men to the Australians and the Canadians, called off their attempt to break through to Kapyong.