With tribute to:

Martin Spirit

James Paul

Co-written by:

David Carter

Britain's Small Wars

The preservation of British Military History

Korea 1950 - 1953

"A Police Action?"

The Raiders 1 (Independent)

No.41 (Independent) Commando

Originally the Volunteers from the Fleet were intended to form the only RN force carrying out raids, but early in August 1950, the Admiralty raised 41(Independent) Commando under Lt-Col D.B. Drysdale, a Veteran of the Brigade landings in World War Two. This unit was raised at Bucklegh and Plymouth, and for the majority of Marines, was a normal posting. Also, volunteers for this unit, about 200 men, were flown to Japan. Many were wearing Admiralty issued civilian clothing, and in the second week of September, began intensive training with American equipment, as was standard issue for Marine Commandos in Korea, except for the prized "Green Beret", which distinguished them from the American troops in battle.

The Commando worked up for three raids on the North Korean east coast, against the coast railway between Chongjin and Hungnam. This line carried supplies south from China, and Chongjin is only some 40 miles from the Chinese border.Two of these raids were to be made from US Destroyers, and another from a Submarine. The ships sailed from Japan after a certain amount of detailed planning.

The chosen targets, from a dozen possibles, were tunnels and a bridge on the coastal railway. The Marines were lowered from the destroyer about 2.5 miles from the coast, late on the evening of 6th October 1950 with nothing known about the enemy defences. A scout boat from each party, preceeded the landings to check for enemy defences, and soon D and C troops were on the beaches after crossing a sand bar and heavy turbulent surf.

Royal Marines in Korea

The boats were hauled ashore and quickly unloaded. The Marines headed inshore to the tunnel, moving air raid refugees from the tunnel for their own safety, and allowing two trains to pass. Pickets were out, beyond the railway, and an 88mm Bazooka was sited to destroy any further trains which came along before the two tons of explosive had been placed.During the raid Corporal Babb was killed and Lieutenant Pounds was burnt by some electric cables, the Marines made it back to their LCP(R)s before their explosives detonated and wrecked the tunnel, blocking the line for many weeks. The second tunnel and a bridge suffered the same fate, destroyed by C and D troops south of Songjin, some 5 miles from their second landing point. Another landing from the US Submarine Perch, had been successful as well.

Aboard Perch, 4 officers and 63 NCOs, and Marines from No.41 had been embarked in late September, with time for rehearsals. Good reconnaissance was available, but maps and charts of the area were poor. The submarine would surface a few miles from the coast, a light motorboat and the inflatable boats stowed in the top deck hanger, would be launched. Mines prevented the submarine from coming in close to the shore, the inflatables were towed in by the motorboat. The primary target had been dismissed when enemy patrols boats were covering the area, and a good secondary target was selected and attacked successfully. Marine Jones was killed during the raid.

The First US Marine Division requested No.41 Commando as an additional recce company after the major UN push North, and they arrived in the middle of November, just two weeks after China had entered the war. Before they could move to their positions near the Yalu river however, the Chinese attacked, and the Commando took up defensive positions at Kotori in sub-zero temperatures. The Commando, together with a company of US Marines, and a US Army company, attempted to break through to the Divisional base 10 miles up the road at Hagaruri, but encountered heavy Chinese resistance, and had to clear the heights around the road. No.41 clearing Hill 1, the USMC company on Hill 2, and 41 then onto Hill 3, with the Army company moving up the road.

Divisional HQ radioed that it was imperative that the Force get through that day, so the Marines got back in their trucks and with the tanks, attempted to force their way up the road, but, after three miles the tanks were unable to move in the face of growing resistance. An hour of daylight was left when a liaison officer arrived from divisional HQ,reiterating how imperative it was, the force get through. The Chinese made three attacks in the next hours, and the Chinese, not having adopted snow colours by reversing their khaki tunics, were plastered, by USMC support aircraft as they were clearly visible against the snow. The attack was driven off, and at about 1930hrs the remnants of the force reached Hagaruri, with straggling parties coming in all through the night. However, the Chinese had claimed over 90 causalties from the 200 marines who had set out.

The Royal Marines were used as a mobile reserve in the base, and the next night B troop counter attacked a chinese breakthrough east of Hagaru Ri and the perimeter defence was restored by 0400hrs. Two USMC Regiments fought their way back to base from the mountains, and for the next few days, the Commando carried out a number of fighting patrols, including a full Commando recce, but were unable to recover some 155mm Howitzers, which had been abandoned earlier when their tractors ran out of fuel. By this time 41 was at less than 100 in strength, and with tank support made probes to confirm enemy dispositions and recover wounded from a crashed transport plane.

On the night of 6th December, the Commando formed up with USMC 5th Regimental Combat team, as a rearguard to the Division's withdrawal from the base, south to sea, and to hold the Chinese until the Column broke out of the Plateau. The Chinese breached the old base perimeter, and 41 was sent back at midnight, into the perimeter line and fighting continued until dawn, when the Chinese withdrew, leaving 600 dead. The rearguard left the base at 0600hrs and fought its way through a roadblock. At 1600hrs, C Troop was sent to clear an enemy held hill of machine gunners, and then rejoined the column after dark. The remainder of 41 had by then, reached Kotori.


At Kotori, the Marines were sent to hold the high ground on the east of the road. A blizzard was blinding the men as they climbed to these positions without opposition, and the commando spent a night in the open air, with temperatures of minus 15 degrees. The next day, they withdrew and began the final march, some 23 miles off the plateau and down the pass, the Marine commando marching with the Regimental HQ. Fire from machine guns briefly held the pass, and a Marine was wounded, but they were through the pass by about 1800hrs and artillery and mortar fire fell around the column, probably from U.N. forces to the south. Late that evening, they reached Majon Dong, and were taken by trucks to a camp where tents had been set up. Walking in mud up to their ankles, they finally could get some sleep, after 72 sleepless hours of marching.

41 Commando lost 16 killed, 39 wounded, and 24 POWs after these actions, and 19 had frostbite, or were suffering from exposure and pneumonia. The Commando returned to Japan to re-equip.