The Argyll and Sutherland
Hong Kong 1951 - 1952
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On the morning of 29th April the U.S.S. Montrose passed through Lyemun Pass into Hong Kong harbour, and on board were Brigadiers Coad and Burke, past and present commanders of 27th Brigade. They had come out with the pilot to greet the Battalion. As the ship steamed to its berth in Kowloon the pipe band played the regimental marches and the U.S.S. Montrose flew the regimental flag—probably the first occasion on which a ship of the U.S. Navy has flown the flag of a British battalion. On shore were Lt.-General Sir Robert Mansergh, K.B.E., C.B., M.C., Major-General G. C. Evans, C.B., C.B.E., D.S.O., and many other officers and friends. The regimental band was there too, and it played 'The Thin Red Line' during disembarkation. Before entraining for Fanling, Sir Robert Mansergh addressed the Battalion and thanked them for their fine work in Korea. At Fanling the Battalion found itself in the same camps it had left eight months earlier, with Headquarters on Dodwell's Ridge. On arrival in Hong Kong all ranks were delighted with the message sent by H.R.H. The Princess Elizabeth, Colonel-in- Chief, which read:
'Now that the Battalion has returned to Hong Kong after many months of distinguished service in Korea, please inform all ranks of my very great pride in their achievements which have upheld in the highest degree the best traditions of the Regiment. '(Signed) Elizabeth, Colonel-in-Chief'
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Other messages received were: From General Sir Gordon MacMillan: 'Delighted you are back. Congratulations to all on a fine job done in Korea.'
From H.M.S. Amethyst: 'Wish you a pleasant voyage and a very well earned rest. Hope to meet you this summer in Hong Kong.'
From Rear-Admiral Scott-Moncrieff, H.M.S. Belfast: 'Well done Argylls. The Navy hopes you will have real relaxation at Hong Kong.' From 8 A. & S.H.: 'Congratulations on your splendid record.'
That the departure of the Battalion from Korea was regretted is shown in the following letter of commendation received by Lt.-Colonel Neilson from Lt.-General M. B. Ridgway, Commander-in-Chief United Nations Forces in Korea. It was sent through Lt.-General Robertson, commanding the British Commonwealth Occupation Forces in Japan. It read:
'The departure of the First Battalion The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders brings to my mind once more the great and enduring friendship forged on the battlefield. There are left fighting in Korea a host of comrades who view with great regret the departure of this splendid unit which has fought so magnificently since it first joined the battle in defence of the Naktong perimeter. ' "Sans Peur" is a fighting motto for a unit which had conducted itself so well on the battlefield. The good wishes of us all go with you as you depart for a well merited respite from the fight. 'I take great pride in commending the First Battalion The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders for its heroic actions and achievements in Korea.'
In forwarding the letter, Lt.-General Robertson added: 'Thank you for a job well done in Korea. We shall miss you greatly.'
Lt.-General MacMillan, replying on behalf of the Regiment, said: 'I know I can speak on behalf of the Battalion when I say they have been very proud indeed of the privilege of serving in the United Nations Forces in Korea and are deeply grateful to General Ridgway for the personal interest he has taken in their fortunes, and the kind thought which animated him to send his message to them when they left his command.'
The close association between the Middlesex Regiment and the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders was to be continued. In August 1914 the two regiments landed together in France as part of the 10th Brigade and began a close association which has lasted down to the present day and which the Korean campaign had not only served to strengthen but had made it appropriate that it should now be recognised in some concrete form, and the initiative to this end was taken by Colonel M. Browne, M.C., D.L., Colonel of the Middlesex Regiment, in the following letter:
'In order to express in definite terms the long and close association and friendship now existing between our two Regiments since 1914, and which has recently been made closer by the arduous campaign in Korea, in which our ties have been steeled in battle, I have the honour to invite all officers, warrant officers and sergeants serving in the 1st Battalion and Regimental Depot of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders (Princess Louise's) (91 and 93) to consider themselves Honorary Members of the appropriate messes of the 1st Battalion The Middlesex Regiment (Duke of Cambridge's Own) (57 and 77) and The Regimental Depot at Inglis Barracks in the County of Middlesex.'
In replying, Lt.-General Sir Gordon MacMillan said: 'On behalf of the Regiment of which I have the honour to be Colonel, I would like to say how much we appreciate this expression of friendship which marks the close association between our two Regiments which has existed for so many years and has recently been made even closer by the arduous campaign in Korea.'
He then invited the officers, warrant officers and sergeants of the Middlesex Regiment and Regimental Depot to be Honorary Members of the messes of the 1st Battalion The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and Regimental Depot at Stirling Castle.
In accepting, Colonel Browne said he thought such an honour must be almost unique if the differences of nation were remembered.
The Battalion returned to Hong Kong with 22 officers and 612 other ranks. 5 officers and 109 other ranks were transferred to the 1st Battalion K.O.S.B. before leaving Korea. On arrival, 1 officer and 125 other ranks, sick and wounded, rejoined, and 1 officer and 86 other ranks left behind by the K.O.S.B. were posted. Volunteers from other units, who had joined before the Battalion left for Korea, were returned to their parent units, leaving in the Battalion 30 officers and 645 other ranks.
The casualties suffered by the Battalion during their eight months' campaign were: Officers - 6 killed and 10 wounded.
Other Ranks – 29 killed and 126 wounded.
Honours and Awards were: V.C., 1; D.S.O., 1; Bar to M.C., 1; O.B.E., 2; M.B.E., 1; M.M., 2; Mentioned in Dispatches, 12. American Awards: Distinguished Service Cross, 1; Silver Star, 5; Bronze Star Medal, 9.
Life in Hong Kong was something of an anti-climax, and it was difficult to settle down to ordinary routine and training after eight months of very active service, and this no doubt is the reason why no records of any kind have been kept of the important events of the post-Korea period in Hong Kong. From the monthly reports by the Commanding Officer to the Colonel-in-Chief it appears that the two main events which followed the return of the Battalion were a parade for His Excellency The Governor and H.M. The King's Birthday Parade. The former took place on Fanling Golf Course on 9th May, and at it His Excellency congratulated the Battalion on their record in Korea and welcomed all ranks back to Hong Kong. He afterwards lunched in the Officers' Mess. The King's Birthday Parade was, as usual, early in June. The whole garrison took part, together with a detachment of the Royal Navy. The programme, which consisted of a formal ceremonial parade followed by a march through Kowloon, was marred by torrential monsoon rain, which prevented Colours from being carried and bands from playing, but in spite of the conditions, large crowds, principally Chinese, gathered to watch the display.
On 28th July Lt.-Colonel G. L. Neilson, D.S.O., left for the United Kingdom, where he was promoted and posted to Fort George in the new appointment of Brigade Colonel The Highland Brigade. Pending the arrival of his successor, Lt.-Colonel J. C. Church, M.C., the command of the Battalion devolved upon Major E. J. D. Snowball, O.B.E. Lt.-Colonel Neilson had commanded the Battalion for over two years, and during the whole period it was either engaged in war in Korea or preparing to meet aggression on the Chinese-Hong Kong border. It had always to be in a state of immediate readiness, and it is to his credit that when the call came the Battalion was ready for it. The best tribute to his services is to say: 'He commanded the Argylls in Korea.'
During a very wet summer there was little of interest, the chief occupations being, appropriately enough, swimming and water polo; in the latter the Battalion was runner-up in the Land Forces Competition. On 11th October Lt.-Colonel J. C. Church, M.C., arrived in Hong Kong and assumed command of the Battalion. On the 25th the Battalion moved to a new camp site in the low foothills facing the frontier. It was a new camp with excellent accommodation and was opposite the old camp site occupied by the 2nd Battalion over twenty years before. The regimental crest cut into the side of the hill was still visible.
In November came news of the officers and other ranks who had been transferred to the K.O.S.Bs. when the Battalion left Korea. On the 4th of that month a very gallant action was fought by the K.O.S.Bs. in which they were often outnumbered by more than ten to one, but still they held their ground. In a letter to Lt.-General Sir Gordon MacMillan, Major-General E. G. Miles, C.B.E., D.S.O., M.C., Colonel of the King's Own Scottish Borderers, after describing the action, said: 'My object in writing is to tell you that, amongst the casualties so far reported to me by Records, I notice that 30 per cent. are men of your Regiment. 'Whatever credit my Regiment may derive from this battle, I want to assure you that we shall always remember with gratitude the loyal and splendid part played by men of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, who, for the time being, found themselves serving with our 1st Battalion. May I therefore ask you to accept this expression of gratitude from the King's Own Scottish Borderers and our deep sympathy with the relatives of your men who fell in the battle with ours.'
In his reply, Sir Gordon MacMillan well expressed the feeling of the Regiment when he said: 'I know that the Regiment will be extremely proud at having been associated with your splendid Battalion in this gallant action.'
The close and friendly association with H.M.S. Ceylon was renewed on two occasions after the return of the Battalion to Hong Kong. On 23rd September, the anniversary of the battle for Hill 282, the Battalion paraded for a special service to commemorate their dead. The Service was conducted by the Rev. J. F. Macdonald, and Captain Thring of H.M.S. Ceylon took the salute. On 26th December, when the ship was in Hong Kong, the officers and their wives were asked to lunch on board, and 200 other ranks attended a concert in the Naval canteen. In return, 20 officers and 200 ratings spent 30th December with the Battalion. During the day football and hockey matches were played against the ship, and in the evening Retreat was played by the pipes and drums, after which Lt.-Colonel Church, on behalf of the Battalion, presented Captain Thring with a plaque of the regimental crest. When the ship left Hong Kong the pipes and drums played on the quay, and Captain Thring presented to the Battalion a plaque of the crest of the ship. During the whole period 23rd December until 3rd January parties from ship and Regiment were continually visiting each other, and this happy relationship is still one of the most cherished memories of Hong Kong. An account of this event was included in the monthly report sent to Lt.-General Sir Frederick A. M. Browning, K.B.E., C.B., D.S.O., for communication to H.R.H. The Princess Elizabeth, and in his reply he said: 'Her Royal Highness was also delighted to hear of the reunion with H.M.S. Ceylon, as she is certain that this inter-Service friendship is a very good thing indeed.'
1952 was to be the last year of this foreign service tour and the Battalion settled down to wait, with what patience it could muster, for the day of embarkation to arrive. There was nothing new in the way of life, training exercises and plenty of opportunities for games of all kinds occupied its time. On 1st and 2nd February Highland Games were held, and among the guests were the Committee of the St. Andrew's Society of Hong Kong.
On 6th February Hong Kong received the very sad news of the sudden death of His Majesty King George VI. Lt.-Colonel Church sent a cable conveying to Her Majesty The Queen the deepest sympathy of all ranks of the 1st Battalion. On 15th February the Battalion took part in a Brigade memorial service at Fanling for His Late Majesty. Lt.-General Sir Gordon MacMillan, K.C.B., C.B.E., D.S.O., M.C., in his capacity as G.O.C.-in-C. Scottish Command, marched in the funeral procession both in London and Windsor.
On 9th February the Proclamation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was read in Hong Kong by His Excellency The Governor, and the Battalion was represented at the ceremony. At a similar ceremony in the Royal Burgh of Stirling the Regiment supplied the armed party and buglers that accompanied the Lord Lieutenant, the Provost and Sheriff. The following telegram was sent to Her Majesty:
'All ranks of The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders send loyal greetings to their Colonel-in-Chief on her accession, together with heartfelt good wishes for a long, happy and prosperous reign.'
Her Majesty was pleased to make a gracious reply. With the death of His Majesty King George VI and Her Majesty's succession, her appointment as Colonel-in-Chief of the Regiment automatically terminated, but on 4th April Lt.-General Sir Gordon MacMillan received a letter from the Military Secretary which gave the greatest pleasure and satisfaction to all past and present members of the Regiment. It read:
'I am directed to inform you that The Queen has been graciously pleased to signify her willingness to continue as Colonel-in-Chief of your Regiment.'
The last few months in Hong Kong were marked by two important ceremonial occasions. On 27th April the Battalion provided a Guard of Honour at the inter-Services Anzac Day Parade. This honour was very much appreciated by the Battalion, as it gave an opportunity to pay homage to the forerunners of the gallant Australian and New Zealand friends of the Korean campaign. The Guard was commanded by Captain R. D. Fairrie. Again, on 9th June the Battalion fired a feu de joie at the Queen's Birthday Parade. There had been little time for practice, but, on the day, the ceremony was performed in an almost perfect manner and received the unstinted praise of H.E. The Governor, the G.O.C. Hong Kong and the G.O.C. Land Forces. The march past too was a most inspiring sight, and the reception accorded to the Battalion by Europeans and Chinese, as it marched through Kowloon, was most touching. It was a great honour for the Battalion to play such a big part in the birthday celebrations of H.M. The Queen. This was the last important event in Hong Kong. On 25th July an advance party of 2 officers and 30 other ranks sailed for home in H.M.T. Devonshire while the rest of the Battalion settled down to wait for 18th August, when its troopship, the H.M.T. Empire Halladale, was scheduled to sail for UK.
Battlion Thin Red Line Notes for this period in Hong Kong
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History of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders 1st Battalion 1939 -1954
The Argylls in Korea
Thin Red Line Magazines
Edinburgh 1952 – 1953
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Updated: 26 October 2014