History of War

SURVIVING THE HOOK   AN INTERVIEW WITH BRIGADIER BRIAN PARRITT CBE

Brian Parritt pictured in Hong Kong, 1954. Parritt served for 37 years in the British Army and became a senior intelligence officer. He now regularly talks to schoolchildren about his experiences during the Korean War

The four 25-pounder guns that made up Baker Troop. The artillery pieces were numerically designated and positioned in four separate gun pits. The image featuring Baker Four was taken the morning after the Battle of the Hook, and the piles of empty cartridge cases can be seen

It is July 1953 and the Korean War is only days away from ending. Nevertheless, fierce fighting has taken place at a bitterly contested ridge called ‘the Hook’ between United Nations forces and Chinese soldiers. This position is blocking the Chinese advance to Seoul, and they have been continually beaten back by UN forces, including men from ‘Baker Troop’, 20th (Field) Regiment, Royal Artillery.

One of the soldiers in Baker Troop is Second Lieutenant Brian Parritt, a young but experienced officer who has been fighting at the Hook since Christmas 1952. Now, on the eve of the armistice, he spots two Chinese soldiers in No-Man’s-Land and orders his four guns to fire. However, his order is picked up by the high command, and before Parritt knows what is happening, all of the UN artillery is firing on these two soldiers under his apparent direction.

For Parritt, this was only one of many extreme incidents that took place during his service in Korea. He spent almost his entire wartime service at the Hook and was wounded during this final battle in May 1953. For over seven months Parritt and his comrades in Baker Troop fought against the Chinese and the weather in static conditions that were reminiscent of World War I. Now a retired brigadier, Parritt modestly tells a compelling story of serving in a war that has been wrongly neglected but is now more relevant than ever.

A family of gunners

Born in British India, Parritt came from a military family, and he was the fourth generation to serve in the Royal Artillery – after his father, grandfather and even a great-grandfather who fought in the Crimean War. With his family history, Parritt was ambitious to become a regular soldier but joined the British Army as a national serviceman. “I joined in November 1949 at Oswestry as a gunner and was an acting, unpaid lance-bombardier, which was the most difficult appointment I had in 37 years! I was trying to control a barrack room of Liverpool guys, but I then passed the necessary board and went to do regular officer training at Sandhurst.”

Parritt finished his artillery officer’s training in February 1952 and deliberately sought active overseas service. “I knew the 20th Field Regiment was going to Korea so I applied with my friend Shaun Jackson and luckily we got selected.” Upon selection, Parritt sailed to Hong Kong in August 1952, where his active deployment was confirmed. “Just after we arrived the colonel called us all on the square and said, “I’ve been posted to Korea”. He then paused and said, “and you’re all coming with me!” That’s when we knew it was true that we were going to Korea, and there was a hectic period of almost constant training. It wasn’t like peacetime, it was training on concentrated fire, plans, drills and deployments.”

Brian Parritt (second from left) with

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