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Map of Korea 1951

  • Author: Anonymous
  • Publisher: 1st Battalion, Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders, Hong Kong
  • Date: 1951
  • Dimensions: unfolded: 26.5 x 32 cms / folded: 13.25 x 16 cms


Map & 1951 Christmas card of 1st Btn Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders detailing their recent Korean War campaign, 1950-1

About this piece:

Untitled Map of Korea 1951

(showing the route of the 1st Battalion, Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders during the Korean War, Aug 1950-April 1951, as part of 27th Commonwealth Brigade)

Colour-printed pictorial map, with decorative borders, the verso of a folding sheet, the verso printed as the 1st Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders’ Christmas card for 1951, sent out from their Hong Kong headquarters. Unused. Fine condition.

This curious decorative map, designed as the 1st Battalion, Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders’ (1A&SH) Christmas card for 1951 recounts the unit’s valiant service during the Korean War which had concluded just eight months earlier when it had returned to Hong Kong after an arduous eight month tour of duty, during which it had traversed almost the entire length of the Korean peninsula.

Along with the Middlesex Regiment,  the Battalion was one of the first British units to be deployed in the Korean theatre from their base in Hong Kong. With Australian, Canadian & New Zealand units they formed the 27th Commonwealth Brigade to support American & South Korean forces following the outbreak of hostilities on the Korean peninsula in June 1950. Their deployment was a direct response to calls from the UN Security Council for its members to provide additional military support for the hard-pressed Americans & South Koreans.

In the initial months of the war, the North Koreans had quickly captured Seoul and pushed American and South Korean forces back towards the southermost port of Pusan. It was here that the 1A&SH disembarked from HMS Ceylon on August 29th, as depicted in amusing fashion on the map itself, HMS Ceylon portrayed as a Viking longboat.

1A&SH were quickly thrown into the thick of hostilities as UN forces counter-attacked along the Naktong river, on the western edge of Pusan’s defenses, actions undertaken in conjunction with amphibious landings at Inchon 150 miles behind the North Korean front line, in an attempt to cut their lines of communications and allow a breakout from the Pusan bridgehead. 1A&SH suffered terribly during its defence of Hill 282 on the Naktong front, being mistakenly napalmed by American jets and heavily outnumbered & outgunned by surrounding North Korean forces. It was in such challenging circumstances that 1A&SH’s A Company C/O, Major Kenneth Muir, was fatally wounded desperately defending the hill with a small residual force. For his actions and bravery Muir was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.

In the ensuing months, the Battalion would advance northwards, helping to retake Seoul. After crossing the North Korean frontier in October 1950, it helped capture Pyongyang. By late November, 27th Commonwealth Brigade had advanced even further northwards to within 40 miles of the Chinese border in the vicinity of Pakchon. China’s unforeseen entry into the war in November 1950 had an immediate impact, as UN forces were once again driven southwards, this time by the forceful intervention of the Peoples’ Liberation Army. Pyongyang was abandoned and Seoul itself captured in Jan 1951, before the Chinese advance finally ran out of steam. British troops acted as the covering rearguard in freezing winter conditions during this costly withdrawal, before the two armies dug in along the 38th parallel in the early Spring of 1951. By March 1950, Seoul, now in total ruins, was once more recaptured before a fresh Chinese counter-offensive began. It was repulsed along the Imjin River and at Kapyong in late April 1951. By this time 1A&SH had been withdrawn from the frontline. The Battalion finally left the Korean theatre for Hong Kong on board USS Montrose (amusingly depicted here as an Indian canoe) on April 25th 1951.

During the 8 month Korean campaign 1A&SH casualties were 6 officers and 29 ORs killed and 10 officers and 126 ORs wounded, a significant proportion of these in & around Naktong & on Hill 282 during their first month of action. The mis-targeted US napalm attack on Hill 282 had a particularly devastating impact, tragically resulting in the death of 17  & wounding of 76 men from the Battalion.

The unknown artist here depicts many of the Battalion’s experiences on the ground with wry amusement, with vignettes on either side of the map highlighting the preoccupations of the Jocks of 1A&SH throughout the course of campaign: the endless quest for fresh food (chickens & pigs); the daily brew-ups of tea; the smoking of strange local cigarettes; the copious consumption of local beer; the daily foot-slog (every man also carried his own kit in a huge backpack throughout the course of the whole campaign); the beauty of local Korean women; the humorous vagaries of military transport and the daily struggles to keep warm in the bitterly cold winter weather, which left a deep  & lasting impression on so many British veterans of the conflict.

Further embellishments include the unit badges of the other units of the 27th Commonwealth Brigade, whilst an outer border offers a fascinating selection of army labels, nicknames & unit codenames seemingly used by both British forces during the course of the campaign. These include Nottingham & Nottingham Black, Red, Blue & Maroon. “Nottingham” was the codename for 27th Commonwealth Brigade and colours were allocated to each of its constituent Battalions and units. For example 60 Indian Independent (Parachute) Field Ambulance  was designated “Nottingham Maroon”.

Following their return to Hong Kong in April 1952, the Battalion remained on station in Hong Kong until August 1952 when it finally returned to the UK & to a long-awaited & heroic Scottish homecoming.


Lieut Col G I Malcolm: The Argylls in Korea (Nelson, London, 1952)

1st Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders website (Korean War)

The Battle of Hill 282 (23 Sept 1950)