The deeply unpleasant Korean War began in 1950 with an unprovoked attack by North Korea. Hostilities went on for three long years, followed by an uneasy armistice that continues to this day. United Kingdom casualties amounted to some 300 Officers and 4,000 Other Ranks, many of them conscripts, while a total of over 100,000 United Nations soldiers were killed and three times that number wounded. A Royal Engineer Field Squadron deployed to Korea in late 1950 and this was expanded to a Regiment the following year. Often involved in fierce fighting, the Sappers suffered grievous casualties including 42 killed and several hundred wounded. Their gallantry was rewarded by numerous awards, including a CBE, an OBE and eight MBEs, two DSOs, thirteen MCs, eight MMs and, most notably, a Distinguished Conduct Medal, second only to the Victoria Cross. It was a vicious war whose intensity never slackened; in the last two months alone the Communist artillery fired over 700,000 rounds against just under five million fired back by United Nations forces. The Royal Engineers, among them the Author, were indispensible at all levels, from the forward areas, where they were often involved in close-quarter fighting, right back to the base in Japan. Their skills and roles varied from patrolling, river crossing and road building, to mine-clearing and -laying, defence works, bridging and postal services, so vital for morale. Other tasks included blowing things up (always a favourite occupation) and clearing booby traps (less popular). In a war zone with one of the most inhospitable climates in the world, merely keeping alive was a challenge. This book is not merely a gripping, yet thoroughly readable, account of the Sappers’ achievement but a tribute to the sacrifice of those who did not return.
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