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Avatar of GI KoreaBy on November 15th, 2007 at 5:36 am

Heroes of the Korean War: LTC James P. Carne – Part 1

» by in: Korean War


In November of 1951 the Chinese military entered the Korean War and launched a massive invasion of the Korean peninsula in support of their communist ally North Korea. The overwhelming numbers of Chinese forces initially had a shocking effect on the US military and its United Nations allies. The Chinese military won victory after victory against the retreating coalition forces and eventually captured the then mostly destroyed South Korean capitol city of Seoul.

It wasn’t until February of 1951 that the 23rd US Infantry Regiment led by Colonel Paul Freeman and augmented by the French Battalion led by Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Monclar, were able for the first time to stop the Chinese advance after the 23rd Infantry’s heroic stand at the Battle of Chipyong-ni.

In April of 1951 the United States military and its United Nations allies had begun to consolidate their gains against the Chinese Communist Forces by establishing a front line near the 38th parallel that had served as the pre-war border between the two Koreas. One of the United Nations forces manning this new front was the British 29th Brigade Combat Team commanded by Brigadier General Tom Brodie. The Brigade was composed of three British Battalions, the Gloucestershire Regiment, the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers, and the Royal Ulster Rifles. Additionally the brigade was augmented with one Belgian battalion.

The 29th Brigade was tasked to man a frontline along the Imjim River that stretched for 12 miles. Due to the length of the frontline and the number of soldiers available, General Brodie could not deploy his force in one consistent front against the enemy; he instead deployed each battalion to hold a strategic piece of ground opposite of the Chinese force, but this left gaps in between the battalions for the Chinese exploit. On the farthest left flank of the brigade near the village of Jokseong was the Gloucestershire Battalion commanded by Lieutenant Colonel James Carne:

LTC James P. Carne

The 45 year old, tall, and pipe smoking LTC Carne had served with the Gloucestershire Regiment for 26 years before finding himself in command of the unit he had long been part of, now in the far distant hills of Korea. He lived and breathed the Gloucestershire Regiment, which was credited with being the most decorated regiment in the entire British military with campaign streamers from other far off distant places such as Waterloo, Quebec, and Gallipoli. April 23rd was the British holiday of St. George Day and LTC Carne had an elaborate celebration planned to honor the British patron saint. Unfortunately the British celebration would never materialize due to roughly 30,000 Chinese party crashers that day.

Tea time for the soldiers of the Gloucestershire Regiment.

The Chinese Spring Offensive

On April 21, 1951 the Chinese launched what has now become known as the Chinese Spring Offensive. This massive offensive operation launched by the Chinese had the overall objective of recapturing the South Korean capitol city of Seoul. The Chinese believed that if they recaptured the city it would break the will of the United States and its allies to continue fighting what was quickly becoming an unpopular war. Capturing Seoul would put them in a position of strength during ceasefire negotiations that were sure to follow such a military success.

The offensive was launched all along the frontlines but the two most important objectives that the Chinese needed to achieve in order to march on Seoul would be to capture the Kapyong Valley to the north east of Seoul and to secure a river crossing across the Imjim River to the north. It was here along the Imjim River that LTC Carne and his men of the Gloucestershire regiment would go on to fight a battle that would make the veterans of Rourke’s Drift proud, against the vastly superior Chinese forces that would ultimately live forever in the anals of British military history.

The Battle of the Imjim Begins

The modern day Imjim River.

The Battle of the Imjim officially began on April 22, 1951 when the Chinese 34th and 29th Divisions assaulted the US 3rd Infantry Division located to the east of the British 29th Brigade. The 29th Brigade would not be assaulted until midnight on April 22nd. On that night the Chinese 187th Division exploited gaps on each side of the Belgian battalion to surround them and completely cutting them of from the rest of the brigade. The assault against the 29th Brigade continued to expand throughout the day and by the night of April 23rd the entire British frontline, including the Gloucestershire Regiment, were in full contact with the enemy.

The Gloucestershire Regiment initially enjoyed much success in rappelling Chinese attempts to ford the Imjim River at the one known crossing point. However, the Chinese discovered a crossing point to the northwest of the regiment that previous reconnaissance by the British had failed to reveal. The Chinese quickly took advantage of the undefended crossing point and poured troops across the river.

View from Kamaksan mountain of the Imjim River where the Chinese would have crossed north of Joeksong.

The troops of the Chinese 187th Division that had crossed the river were soon scaling the spurs of the hills being held by A Company soldiers of the Gloucestershire Regiment. Throughout the night and into the early morning hours the A Company soldiers held off the massive Chinese assault but they eventually had to withdraw from their position overlooking the river and back to supplementary position on Hill 235 to the south. In the typical understated British way the company’s radio man radioed LTC Carne to inform him their position was overrun by declaring, “We are overrun. We’ve had it. Cheerio.”

D Company located on Hill 182 held against the Chinese assault but with the withdrawal of A Company to their western flank D Company was also forced to withdraw towards Hill 235 as well so they would not be surrounded by the advancing Chinese. Their withdrawal was protected by heavy artillery and mortar fire as the British soldiers moved to Hill 235. The heavy artillery had stopped the Chinese momentum for the time being as sought shelter from the incoming rounds. This allowed the Gloucestershire Regiment to consolidate a front line with two companies holding Hill 235 and the other two companies holding a ridgeline based around Hill 314 just to the east.

Throughout the rest of the day on April 23rd the Gloucestershire Regiment held their positions against the Chinese probing attacks. However, the Chinese had not committed themselves to a full scale assault on the regiment because they were waiting for soldiers from the Chinese 192nd, 187th, and 188th Divisions to cross the Imjim River. The single British Regiment of 750 soldiers now found themselves opposed by three Chinese divisions numbering roughly 30,000 soldiers. With such a disparity in numbers the outcome of this impending final battle was never in doubt, it was only a matter of how long and the men of LTC James Carne’s Gloucestershire Regiment were going to make the Chinese earn every piece of ground they tried to take.

That night thousands of Chinese soldiers charged at the waiting guns of the Gloucestershire Regiment. Casualties were heavy on both sides with the Chinese taking the vast majority of the casualties. As the fighting continued through the night the soldiers began to run low on supplies and ammo. If they were not resupplied soon, they would be over run. LTC Carne had to organize a party of soldiers to assault into the Chinese lines to recover supplies from his regimental headquarters that had been over run by the Chinese earlier on the 23rd. The raiding party was able to successfully break through the Chinese lines and recover some supplies. The supplies ended up being enough to get them through the night, but would it be enough to get them through the next day?

Next Posting: The Fight for Hill 235

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  • John McCrarey
    6:53 am on November 15th, 2007 1

    Another great post on some history that should not be forgotten.

    I had the opportunity to go on the 8th Army staff ride to the Chipyongni battlefield last month. It was really fascinating to see and walk the ground where the Chinese were first stopped against all odds, but at a terrific sacrafice from so many heros.

  • Marcus Atrocious
    1:49 pm on November 15th, 2007 2

    I wrote a series of posts on the Gloster Hill fight about a year-and-a half ago.

    If you're interested you can check out the first installment here:


  • Avatar of GI KoreaGI Korea
    9:01 pm on November 15th, 2007 3

    The Chipyong-ni staff ride I did a few years back and is quite a good battlefield to tour. Colonel Freeman and his men along with the French battalion fought a heck of a battle there. In my Korean War archives I have pictures of the modern day Chipyong-ni battlefield posted there as well for anyone that wants to see them.

  • Places in Korea: Gloucester Valley at ROK Drop
    5:56 am on November 18th, 2007 4

    [...] those that have read my series of postings (Part 1, Part 2, & Part 3) about the heroism of the Gloucestershire Battalion during the Battle of the [...]

  • Hero of the Korean War: LT GEN Ralph Monclar (France) - The Phora
    11:42 pm on April 16th, 2008 5

    [...] all sent units that went on to fight heroically in great battles such as The Battle of Kapyong and The Battle of the Imjim. Sword wielding Turkish and Thai soldiers were also highly respected for their combat skills. [...]

  • ROK Drop Weekly Linklets - 27APR08
    10:16 am on April 27th, 2008 6

    [...] ambassador to Korea just had the best week of the year.  I recommend that the ambassador read my prior posting on the Gloucesters.  – Its official no more AFN on Korean televisions. – LOL, Blind Alley. – That is one scary [...]

  • Heroes of the Korean War: Lieutenant Colonel Dionisio Ojeda - Part 3
    9:08 am on May 9th, 2008 7

    [...] conferring by radio with the Gloucestershire Battalion commander Lieutenant Colonel James P. Carne, Brigadier Brodie decided that the Gloucesters were too weak to mount a fighting withdrawal and [...]

  • james carne - Dogpile Web Search
    12:46 pm on June 18th, 2008 8

    [...] Offers james carney. Sponsored by: &#149 Found on Ads by Yahoo! Heroes of the Korean War: LTC James P. Carne – Part 1 On the farthest left flank of the brigade near the village of Jokseong was the Gloucestershire [...]

  • Recognizing Heroes of the Korean War
    8:55 pm on July 17th, 2008 9

    [...] Lieutenant Colonel James P. Carne (UK), Commander Gloucestershire Battalion, Battle of the Imjim [...]

  • c p stafford
    7:31 am on December 14th, 2008 10

    tne gloucester regiment was not the only regiment on the imjim

    the northumberlad fusiliers the ulster rifles and the belgian battalion

    all these regiments fought hard for four days before they broke out Iwas with the northumberlad fus.

  • John
    4:43 am on February 24th, 2010 11


    Thanks for posting. As I'm about to start reading this I'd like to add few comments on the 'surprise' appearance by the Chinese.

    Currently the Korean Newspaper (one of the major ones in ROK) is running a series of recollections written by the famous Korean General Paik, Sun Yup of his experience during the Korean War. He was the commander of the 1st ROK Division at the start of the Korean War. He's already written a book about his experience that's published in English and available on

    From Pusan to Panmunjom: Wartime Memoirs of the Republic of Korea's First Four-Star General (Memories of War) (Paperback) ISBN: 978-1574887433

    Anyhow in one of his recollections on, he recounts his first encounter with the Chinese. As his division was advancing closer to the border of Korea/China, they started getting reports from the local Koreans of the presence of Chinese soldiers ahead. The locals used term 'thae-nom' which is derogatory term used by Koreans to describe ethnic Chinese, not Korean-Chinese. Note that at the beginning of the Korean War, the North Korean army had units composed of Korean-Chinese who were veterans of the guerrilla war against the Japanese in China. So it wasn't a rare thing to have Chinese speakers in the North Korean Army.

    Anyhow, the South Koreans were alarmed and a special patrol was sent out to capture prisoners for interrogation. When the patrol returned with the prisoner(s), the general himself interrogated as he spoke Chinese, having been trained as a officer in China during Japanese occupation of the Korean Peninsula. The Chinese prisoner admitted to being a Chinese serving in the Chinese army. The information was passed immediately up the chain including the commander of the US 1st Army. General Paik recalls the facial expression of the commander of US 1st Army darkening upon hearing the report and knew the significance of it. It was taken very seriously by those on the ground. And we all know that this view wasn't shared by those in Tokyo.

    General Paik goes onto criticize the UN Command Staff in Tokyo and specifically General MacArthur for having contracted the Victory Disease. Make no mistake though that General Paik has high praises for General MacArthur. Gen Paik asserts in one of his recollections on the newspaper that General MacArthur seemed to have already started thinking about launching an amphibious attack near Seoul (specifically Incheon) during his first visit to Korea on the THIRD DAY of the Korean War. During this visit he visited the south side of the Han River. He was always thinking in grand terms.

    I just thought to pass this on so that people don't think the 'surprise' appearance of Chinese army wasn't really a surprise.

  • JohnT
    5:08 am on February 24th, 2010 12

    I think anyone who reads up on the Korean War knows about what you said in your last sentence. Thanks for trying though.

    What unit of the ROK military did you serve in anyway?

    Do it's battle honors go back to the Korean War?

  • John
    6:25 am on February 24th, 2010 13


    Well, I'm sure many who read/care about the Korean War know it already. But probably not from the words of General Paik himself.

    Sorry what do you mean by this?

    "Do it’s battle honors go back to the Korean War?"

    I have not served in any military of any nation. I do read a lot about history and warfare.

  • Avatar of GI KoreaGI Korea
    11:06 am on February 24th, 2010 14

    John, here is the interview with General Paik you are referring to:

    I had a chance to meet with General Paik a few years ago and he is a very interesting man to talk to. He even signed my book for me. Truly a Korean hero.

  • Jonathan Moffatt
    6:01 am on May 2nd, 2010 15

    Good to see that Colonel Carne and the Imjin Battle are not forgotten. My father served with him after Korea and he and his wife Jean became family friends. He was a quiet. modest man, typical, I'm told, of the type who are awarded the VC. I was pleased to discover recently at the National Memorial Arboretum A[UK] a plaque and Korean cherry blossom planted in his memory [photo of these on request].

  • alan c bailey
    4:13 am on October 21st, 2010 16

    My father charles andrew bailey was with the gloucesters at imjim as a coupral and was a prisoner of war for 3 years, he is a main charactor in the book no rice for rebels, he never wanted to talk about his experiences, but we did know that he thought that his efforts were forgotten very easily after he came home, as a small child I never heard much about it, he never expected to be called up again as he was a desert rat in tubruk in north africa in the second world war and thought that he had done his bit, I would love to find out more about him its too late to ask him now as he died in 1979,

  • Alison Copley
    8:18 am on February 1st, 2011 17

    My dad was conscripted into the Gloucesters and served as a Corporal and Lance Corporal and later Acting Sergeant. He was 18 when he went out, a student and was there in 53 but I don't know for how long before that. He was mentioned in despatches but we don't know why, although suspect it was to call in artillery onto advancing Chinese as they faced being overrun. He never talked about it – we didn't even know he had been there, he was part of the occupying forces in Germany and that's all he ever told his family he did. Just weeks before he died an ex-colleague from the Korean campaign got in touch to tell him about a renunion. I think it brought back some horrendous memories – he clearly saw the effects of the artillery at close quarters and, whilst it probably saved his and others' lives, I think the images must have been awful. The psychiatrist's advice was to bury the memories and bury them deep! He did, clearly, but it would be good to know what happened. He died 21 years ago now. His name was Phillip Michael Goddard. Anything anyone can tell me would be much appreciated.

  • Ed Carne
    9:51 am on November 11th, 2011 18

    So proud of my great Uncle James, although he passed away just before i was born his stories have been told many a time and i always enjoy reading articles such as this one.

  • Graham Carter
    3:23 am on March 26th, 2014 19

    A message for Alan C Bailey,
    I know your comment on this website was made in 2010 but I only just found it. You reference your father Charlie – did you know that he is featured in the book ” No Rice For Rebels” this book tells the true story of L/Cpl Bob Matthews BEM, in the book Bob refers to your father many times, they escaped together, we’re punished together. Charlie was a close friend of Bob. Bob sadly took his own life in 1960. You may ask what my connection may be with Bob, well I was privileged to know him, I was a young boy whilst he was in Korea and my parents were friendly with Bobs wife whilst Bob was POW we were living next door to them. I still remember the day I was told of Bobs death. Bob had two sons, and his wife is still alive and I see her from time to time. I had a signed copy of the above book that I have now passed to Bobs family where it should be. I think that your father could also be classed as a hero o Korean War along side Bob and others.

  • Graham Carter
    3:37 am on March 26th, 2014 20

    Sorry for the wording error on above Alan, it should be written, you are aware, not are you aware – sorry for my misplaced wording.

  • alan Bailey
    2:58 am on March 27th, 2014 21

    thanks for the comments graham I am in communication with bobs wife and have visited her I have found that we have a lot in common all the best alan

  • Graham Carter
    3:28 am on March 27th, 2014 22

    Thanks for your reply,my wife and I went to see her (L) yesterday, we spoke of you and your Dad, although I never met your Dad, only through the book, he usually is mentioned at sometime when we speak, as he meant so much to them both? I know that she values your contact. Kind regards, Graham


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