History of War

SURVIVING THE HOOK   AN INTERVIEW WITH BRIGADIER BRIAN PARRITT CBE

hisofwaruk1803_article_036_01_01
hisofwaruk1803_article_036_01_02
hisofwaruk1803_article_036_01_03
hisofwaruk1803_article_036_01_04
hisofwaruk1803_article_036_01_05
hisofwaruk1803_article_036_01_06

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.”

hisofwaruk1803_article_036_01_07
hisofwaruk1803_article_036_01_08

“DECEMBER IN KOREA IS A DARK, COLD PLACE AND YOU WERE STRUCK BY THE DESOLATION AND LACK OF PEOPLE. IT WAS PRETTY DEPRESSING COUNTRYSIDE ALL THE WAY UP UNTIL WE REACHED OUR GUN POSITIONS”

Arrival in Korea

Parritt was now a fully commissioned second

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from History of War

History of War1 min read
Nobunaga And The Monks
By the 16th century, Japan's Buddhist warrior monks had amassed great wealth, influence and power. Chief among them were the Ikko-ikki, or ‘single minded’ sect. Self-governing, the Ikko rejected any outside interference, even driving a constable out
History of War1 min read
The Capital Of Ruins
In 1944 Saint-Lô was a strategically important Norman city where a number of major roads intersected. If the Allies could take it then it would allow them to access the entire region and provide a route to advance towards Paris. The Germans also knew
History of War8 min read
Land Of The Rising Gun
In 1543 a powerful typhoon blew a Chinese junk off course, washing it onto the subtropical coast of Tanegashima – an island just off the southernmost tip of Japan, ruled by the Shimazu clan. The three Portuguese merchants aboard stepped out, onto a c