Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria (18 & 19 July 2018)
Date of Auction: 18th & 19th July 2018
Sold for £26,000
Estimate: £30,000 - £40,000
Military Medal, E.II.R., 1st issue (22530161 Pte. D. M. R. Walker. Glosters.); 1939-45 Star; France and Germany Star; War Medal 1939-45; Korea 1950-53, 1st issue (22530161 Pte. D. M. R. Walker. Glosters.); U.N. Korea 1950-54, unnamed as issued, extremely fine (6) £30000-40000
FootnoteProvenance: Christie’s, November 1990.
M.M. London Gazette 8 December 1953:
‘In recognition of gallant and distinguished services in Korea.’
The original recommendation states: ‘During the second phase of the battle of the Imjin River on the night of 23-24 April 1951, the position of the Battalion’s HQ became untenable and a hurried move was made to a ridge immediately south of the original position. This new position had only just been reached and was yet unorganised when, at dawn, an attack materialised. The enemy were engaged by members of the Signal Platoon and among them was Private Walker. Failing in their direct assault up the line of the ridge, some enemy worked unseen along the precipitous slope of the ridge. Their close approach remained undiscovered until grenades and automatic fire started clipping the crest of the ridge. The Signal Platoon replied with grenades but no direct fire could be brought to bear over the crest. The enemy could only be located by one standing on the edge of the crest, who would then be exposed to the close range fire of the enemy. Grenades failing to dislodge the enemy, Private Walker decided to shoot it out with them. Slinging his Bren gun to the hip position and shouting for some grenades to be thrown to cover his action, he sprang to the very edge of the crest and started shooting down the steep slope. Almost immediately he himself was hit and severely wounded, but his objective had been achieved. The enemy made a rapid withdrawal and there was no further trouble at this point. Private Walker’s initiative, fighting spirit, and great gallantry were most praiseworthy.’
Douglas Michael Robertson Walker was born in Croydon on 26 November 1926, and volunteered for wartime service on 14 April 1943, adding 18 months to his age. After initial training with the General Service Corps, he joined the Black Watch on 1 July 1943, and saw active service in France and Germany. From D-Day, 6 June 1944, the Highland Division supported the Airborne Division in the Eastern Salient between Caen and the Normandy coast. By July the 1st, 5th, and 7th Battalions were fighting around the Caen countryside and took part in the drive to Falaise, thundering south in Armoured Personnel Carriers by the light of searchlights reflected off the clouds. Walker was wounded on 17 August 1944 whilst serving with the 7th Battalion. He was not officially 18 years old. On 8 February 1945 the 1st and 7th Battalions led the assault on Germany, the 1st Battalion being the first troops to set foot on the Reich. On 22 March 1945 the Black Watch crossed the Rhine, and swept up towards Bremen and Bremerhaven, mopping up pockets of last ditch resistance.
From April 1945 Walker served in Palestine, before moving to the Canal Zone on rotation in December 1945, spending Christmas Day 1945 at Ismalia, Egypt. Returning to Palestine in April 1946, he transferred to the 2nd Battalion Highland Light Infantry on 3 August 1946. During this month the H.L.I. were overseeing the return to Greece of King George of the Hellenes, and were based at Vouliagmeni on the outskirts of Athens, before moving later in the year to Drama in North Greece. In February 1947 Walker moved with the Battalion to Salonika, before being posted to a wireless outpost in the Konitza Mountains on the Albanian frontier. He returned to Scotland with the Battalion on 7 November 1947, and was discharged on 10 April 1948 having completed 5 years with the Colours.
Battle of Imjin River
On the outbreak of the Korean War in June 1950 Walker was employed as a salesman in Bristol. He immediately volunteered for service in Korea, and re-enlisted at Bristol on 22 August 1950. Posted to the Gloucestershire Regiment he sailed with them aboard the Empire Windrush for Korea, landing at Pusan on 10 November 1950. Posted to the Signal Platoon under Captain R. A. St. M. Reeve-Tucker, he was present at the Battle of Imjin River where, on the night of the 22 April 1951, a Chinese attack developed along the whole of the Regiment’s front. Over the next three days a large number of Chinese troops subjected the Battalion’s positions to almost continuous assault.
At 8:00 a.m. on 24 April Colonel Carne ordered ‘B’ Company to break contact with the enemy, with whom they had been strongly engaged, and to join the Battalion on the steep and rugged feature known as Hill 235, and later renamed ‘Gloster Hill’. Their final dash for safety was witnessed through the field glasses of both the Adjutant, Captain Anthony Farrar-Hockley and the Intelligence Officer, Lieutenant Henry Cabrel. It appeared to this watching group, now joined by the Commanding Officer, Lieutenant-Colonel James Carne, that, had it not been for Private Walker’s heroic act of gallantry, that their survival was in jeopardy. In his book The Edge of the Sword, Anthony Farrar-Hockley recalls Walker’s lone charge:
‘Private Allum, a signaller in HQ Company, declared: “You’d better come up quick Sir, there’s another party of Chinks just around the end of the ridge and they’re going to head B Company off. Walker’s got the Bren on them.”
Accompanied by the Colonel we hurried up the slope only to discover Walker gone. “Where’s Walker?” I asked. “I thought you said he was here with a Bren?”
“He was Sir”, said Allum. “He was right by this rock when...”
“There he goes” shouted Henry Cabrel, pointing down the hill.
It seemed that Walker had decided to meet this threat on his own. Alone, entirely without orders, he was running down the hill with the gun on his hip, firing as he went. I think it was more his fierce determination than the bullets he fired that deterred the Chinese. To a man they ran back round the edge of the ridge. It was so like Walker: he was an independent type.’
Walker, now wounded by a bullet to the lung, was taken by his comrades to the Regimental Aid Post. That night the battalion again beat off a determined enemy attack, inflicting heavy losses but during the early hours of the morning of 25 April the Chinese launched a further all-out assault on the Glosters’ position. Surrounded, Carne gave his men orders to split into small groups and to withdraw from the position. Only one party from the Battalion succeeded in reaching safety- the rest were either killed or captured. Out of 750 men, Carne’s command was reduced to 150.
Prisoner of War
When eventually the battalion position was over-run by the enemy, Captain Bob Hickey, R.A.M.C., and the Padre attempted to organise the evacuation of the wounded from Hill 235 but the Chinese prevented them. Captain Hickey’s party were doubled down the hill to join a larger group of prisoners who had been caught on the eastern side of the ridge. With the latter were four men who had been walking wounded but whose condition had so worsened through exhaustion and lack of treatment that they had become stretcher cases. As the group were marched back and forth around the Battalion positions whilst their Chinese captors argued over which way to go, three stretchers were stolen from the looted Regimental Aid Post despite being forbidden to do so. Walker was probably a beneficiary of one of these stretchers. Farrer-Hockley was amongst those concerned for his condition:
‘We felt some concern about Walker, the signaller, whose gallant charge down the hill on the 24th brought the remnant of ‘B’ Company in safely. He had a bullet through the lung and needed constant attention. Yet grave as his condition I felt somehow that it was going to take more than this to kill Walker.’ (ibid).
The first news that Walker was missing in action was received by his brother at home in Bristol by telegram on 2 May 1951. By then the march into captivity was well under way during which no medical attention was offered to the wounded. Many of the men were too exhausted to carry the wounded for more than a few hundred yards or to carry them at all. Poor visibility at night made changing stretcher shifts even the more difficult. Captain Hickey did what he could in spite of the fact that two of the guards had taken his medical kit away from him. Later, in an interview with the Bath and Wilts Chronicle and Herald, Walker said ‘I was shot through the chest and he tended me as a mother would a child. He gave me the will to live and I owe him my life.’
Walker reached Pyongyang in early June 1951 and, as part of a group of wounded men, was left at a house for several weeks without guards whilst a Chinese doctor tended to their wounds. The round that had penetrated his chest had missed his lung by a fraction of an inch: ‘The Chinese operated on me in a knife and fork fashion. There was no anaesthetic and it took six men to hold me down.’ Recovering sufficiently, on 9 June he found himself in action in unusual circumstances. As fellow captive Graham Bailey recalled to the author Philip Chinnery, historian for the National ex-P.O.W. Association:
‘One day Walker wandered over the hill into the next valley in search of food and found himself a spectator as American F-80 jets attacked a target nearby. He was so close to the action that he was wounded in the arm and found himself surrounded by North Koreans who thought he was a shot down American pilot. He was given a good beating before the Chinese found him and took him away.’ (Korean Atrocity: Forgotten War Crimes 1950-53 refers).
Walker was operated on by Dr. D. L. Woo, a Chinese doctor who subsequently send a letter to Walker’s brother detailing his condition (although Walker was unmarried, he felt that there was a greater chance that the Chinese authorities would be more sympathetic if a letter was sent to a supposed wife and family, rather than to his brother):
‘I met you husband in one of our hospitals in Korea. He was very anxious to let you know that he is fine and on the way to recovery, He was wounded in the lung in a battle near Lin-Chieng River on the 25th April [sic]. He was saved by our advancing army and sent to a field hospital near Pinyang. Here, during an air raid, he was re-wounded by shrapnel in the right arm, He was operated on there and is fine. I am a doctor (not a reporter) and his permission I took a picture of him and promised to have his photo sent to you and kids. So please worry no more by him. Yours sincerely, D. L. Woo.’
Whilst in hospital recovering from this second wound he attempted to escape in an incident he later related to the Evening World:
‘A friendly Korean said the coast was only about 10 miles away and that American ships were just off shore. I thought that if I could reach the coast I might be able to steal a rowing boat to get out to the Americans, but on the way I walked into a Communist anti-aircraft position and was recaptured.’
Temporarily billeted with a North Korean family on a small holding near the Chinese main supply route, for once Walker and his fellow wounded captives were well looked after, but were still in danger; George Bailey recalls how on one occasion he was nearly killed during an American air attack as a fifty-calibre bullet from a night fighter hit the ground between him and his sleeping neighbour. Moved on, Walker was ultimately held at the notorious Camp 3, a penal camp for ‘reactionary’ Americans and like minded British and Commonwealth prisoners who could not be turned towards communism. The regime was harsh, with a much lower standard of living than in the other camps.
Walker was amongst the last of the Battalion's prisoners to be released, on 22 August 1953. The final weeks for those in the two main other ranks penal camps were marked with delays, frustrations, and genuine fears of being held back. He arrived back in Southampton on 14 October 1953, and on 21 November attended the civic reception for the presentation of the Freedom of the City at the Assembly Hall, Gloucester. He was discharged from the army on 21 February 1954, after a further 3 years and 170 days’ service. He was invested with his Military Medal by H.M. the Queen at Buckingham Palace on 18 November 1958.
Sold with the a file of research, and the following related items:
- The recipient’s Certificate of Service.
- Telegram to the recipient’s brother reporting Walker ‘Missing in action’, dated 2 May 1951.
- Letter to the recipient’s family from Dr. D. L. Woo regarding the recipient's condition, dated 15 August 1951.
- Telegram to the recipient’s brother reclassifying Walker ‘Prisoner of War’, dated 19 September 1951.
- Telegram from the recipient to his brother, dated 22 August 1953: ‘Just released, have kept fit all the time ... best love, Mick.’
- Telegram to the recipient’s brother informing him that Walker has been released, dated 22 August 1953.
- Various Infantry Office Records Letters regarding the above telegrams.
- Christmas Card to the recipient from Lieutenant-Colonel Carne, V.C., signed and annotated ‘Congratulations on your M.M.’
- Central Chancery letter regarding the recipient’s investiture, dated 29 October 1958.
- Copy of the program for the Civic Reception held by the City of Gloucester, dated 21 November 1953; and accompanied Luncheon Menu.
- Copy of the Order of Service on the occasion of the Laying Up of the Colours of the 2nd and 3rd Battalions, Gloucestershire Regiment, Gloucester Cathedral, 22 July 1960.
- Ten photographs of the recipient.