Grenades against Communism.

What kind of mad bastard fills his pockets with primed hand grenades and charges forward after hearing the news that two of his company’s platoons have just been overrun by division of 6000 Chinese troops?

Probably the same kind of mad bastard that gets shot twice and fucks off direct orders to seek medical attention, just so he can pelt more grenades at Communists.

November 4th, 1951 and the Korean war is raging. Pte William (Bill) Speakman with the Kings own Scottish borderers are defending a tactically vital Hill not long captured by the Australians when the Chinese launch their inevitable counter-offensive to retake the hill.

As artillery shells rain down on British positions, an entire division of 6000 Chinese troops rise from their trenches to follow up this devastating barrage of fire. Seemingly endless waves of Chinese clash head on with the British defenders – their situation from the off desperate at best.

Given these circumstances of being outnumbered over 10 to 1 by the assaulting force who have already over-run two of your platoon’s positions, it’s probably fair to say that retreat was the only option on the table - Which is probably why Bills actions raised a few eyebrows. Amid the chaos and very real possibility of one’s chest hosting a Chinese bayonet party, the 6ft 6 cooler than a cucumber Private Speakman proceeded to pocket primed grenades until he could pocket no more. Taking a stand, he was immediately questioned on where on earth he thought he was going - His reply “I’m going to shift some of them bloody chinks”, clearly taken from the British Army handbook of ‘How to not EVER give a Fuck.’. 

Charging forward in to the darkness Bill quite literally pulled the pin. With the ground frozen solid and the Chinese in tightly packed formations the grenades were used with devastating effect and actually began to stem the advance of the Communists. So heroic were his actions that he actually inspired 5 other comrades to follow his example. With the fighting growing evermore intense Bill and the men continually ran back and forth picking up grenades from their own lines and turning it into Fragmentation and democracy for the Chinese. Unfortunately, however this was a two-way range, and along with the growing number of casualties Bill also took two gunshot wounds - to the leg and shoulder. Completely undeterred Bill simply got patched up and defied direct orders to withdraw back to the aid station, and instead advanced back to the fight that was now down to hand-to-hand fighting with “no time to pull the bolt back on the rifle”.

Some battles were simply never meant to be won, and this was one of them. It became a case of holding off the advancing horde of Chinese troops long enough to allow the remaining members of the unit to withdraw, and Bill did this until the bitter end. In fact, Bill along with his Sgt Major were the last two men off the Hill - both of them severely wounded.

For his actions that day Bill was awarded the Victoria Cross (that he would later have to sell for repairs on his home) and received a hero’s welcome back in the UK. Bill however hated this celebrity status and volunteered for a second tour of Korea to get away from it all. In 1953 he went on to join the SAS during the Malayan emergency. Here he would show the same devotion to duty, most notably carrying two of his comrades back through the jungle after they had been killed in an ambush.

Bill left the army after 23 years of service and would die peacefully at the Royal Hospital Chelsea on the 20thof June 2018, surrounded by his family.