This story will be published in the Shrine of Remembrance magazine, Remembrance, November 2013.

Before Kapyong 

Busan is a port city on the south-east coast of the Korean Peninsula. It was known as Pusan in the Korean War, and was where 3rd Battalion Royal Australian Regiment (3RAR) came ashore on 28 September 1950.

Pusan was the ‘pocket’ where the initial North Korean attack was halted in August 1950.  After two months of heavy fighting UN, mainly US forces, broke out of the Pusan Perimeter and forced the North Koreans back up the peninsula. The landing at Inchon, near Seoul, on 15 September 1950 saw the defeat of the North Korean forces south of the 38th parallel, and their pursuit to the Yalu River and the border with China.

Three Australians lie side by side at Busan: Private Harold Clark from Launceston, Private Basil Dillon from St Kilda, and Lieutenant Colonel Charles Green from Grafton.

Not far away are the graves of Lance Corporal Fred Origlassi from Brisbane and Private Joseph (Paddy) Longmore from Colac.

All died between 30 October and 13 November 1950 – in the first significant engagements of 3RAR in Korea – six months before the battle of Kapyong.

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In October and November 1950 3 RAR, led by Lieutenant Colonel Charles Green, proved itself a formidable fighting unit in the aggressive battles at the Apple Orchard, Broken Bridge, Chongju and Pakchon in North Korea as part of the 27 Commonwealth Brigade.

Yongju, or the battle of the Apple Orchard, on 22 October 1950 was the first major action for 3RAR.  The battalion undertook a spirited attack through a leafy apple orchard, surprising the North Koreans facing Americans further north. Three hours of fighting saw 3RAR break through to the Americans at a cost of seven wounded.

Three days later, the battalion reached the Taeryong River, a few kilometres from Pakchon, where one span of the 300-metre bridge had been destroyed by the enemy.  Using makeshift ladders, a small group of Australians crossed the river to reconnoitre enemy positions, and returned with prisoners. Lieutenant Colonel Green then brought down an air strike, and ordered A & B Companies to cross while American engineers repaired the bridge.

After a night of hard fighting the road north was cleared for tanks.  Eight Australians were killed in action or died of wounds, and 22 more were wounded. Among those killed was Private Joseph Longmore from Colac just before his 48th birthday. Paddy Longmore, born in 1904 in Colac, had been a sergeant with 2/6th  Battalion in the Second World War – enlisting in 1939. He had put his age down by seven years when he enlisted for Korea in 1950 claiming to have been born in 1911.  He left behind a widow and seven daughters.

Another fierce battle was fought on 29 October at Chongju where 3RAR marched 31 miles in 12 hours and attacked North Korean defensive positions on ridges astride the road to Chongju, with the help of US artillery and tanks. The battalion beat back a North Korean counter attack that night, destroying 11 T-34 tanks. Chongju cost nine dead and 30 wounded.

After the battle, Charlie Green said ‘They can send them on by divisions now; this battalion will accommodate them.’

On the afternoon of 30 October 3RAR headquarters company dug in for the night below a ridge which was occasionally being shelled by the North Koreans.

Charlie Green hadn’t slept for more than 36 hours, but on this night still did his rounds of the forward companies, sent a telegram to his wife Olwyn about some business matters back home and went to his tent to sleep. The tent, and the headquarters company, was located in a re-entrant in the ridge.  It was just after 6 o’clock.  Half a dozen shells whistled harmlessly overhead. Then one hit a tree at the foot of the re-entrant, exploded and sent a shard of shrapnel – one piece  –  into Green’s tent. He was mortally wounded, and died on 1 November.

A soldier said: “Why when he was minding his own business? Why him? There were a thousand of us in the same area and he was the only one who got hit.”

During the Second World War Charlie Green was an officer in the 2/2nd  Battalion in the ill-fated defence of Greece in 1941.  Missing the evacuation, he had to make his way back to his unit in Palestine by way of Turkey and Syria.  In 1945, at 25, Charlie Green became the 2nd AIF’s youngest battalion commander when appointed to the 2/11th Battalion for the Aitape-Wewak campaign in New Guinea.

After Green’s death Lieutenant Colonel Frank Walsh took temporary command of the battalion.

Until the end of October fighting had been with North Koreans. Their defeat at Chongju, however, opened the way to the Manchurian border, and precipitated, or at least coincided, with China’s entry into the war.

On 4-5 November the Chinese attacked, and 3RAR was sent to get them off a ridgeline east of Pakchon, after the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders (the Jocks) were pinned down.

For the first time RAAF 77 Squadron Mustangs supported the battalion, strafing the ridgeline before A and B Companies with fixed bayonets ‘liberated the Jocks, then thrashed the enemy off the feature’ in the words of Ben O’Dowd, A company commander.

After dark that night, the Chinese launched a massive counter-attack. On the Pakchon road, C Company was fired upon, while Chinese infantry attacked A and B companies on the ridgeline. Colonel F. S. Walsh wrongly ordered the withdrawal of the Australians to lower ground, which caused many casualties, especially in A Company.

Private Fred Origlassi was one of them. Crouching down, Fred was telling a mate to get his gear ready to move out, then stood up and was killed.

The 27th Brigade commander Brigadier Coad reversed Walsh’s order, but only D Company could return to defend the position. However after midnight the Chinese began to withdraw – 3 RAR had secured the ridge and the road running south from Pakchon was safe.

Fred Origlassi’s father emigrated from Turin in the early 1900s and worked on the sugar cane farm near Ingham. Fred, born in 1920, joined the 2/32nd Battalion in March 1940 and was one of the 9th Division’s Rats of Tobruk. He was taken prisoner at El Alamein in July 1942, and was tortured by the Italians because it seems, of his Italian name. After being freed in 1945, he returned to Australia, worked at Greenslopes Military Hospital and enlisted in K Force – as 1/4009. Legend has it that he swapped 1/40001  with a mate who didn’t want an unlucky 9 in his number.

(The number 1/40001 was no luckier. It belonged to Corporal Murray Hogden, killed in action on 30 October at Chongju. Murray was born in 1918, and had enlisted in the 2/31st Battalion in 1940, and served in Syria and in New Guinea in the Lae /Markham River campaigns. Murray got into strife in January 1945 for punching a bloke on the nose while drunk at a battalion dance in Atherton, while technically still on active service. Murray was Warrant Officer Class 2  – Company Sergeant Major – when demobbed in October 1945.  His offence and age was no barrier when he enlisted in K Force in 1950.)

Private Harold John Clark also died at Pakchon. He was from Launceston, aged 27, and the eldest son of Mr & Mrs SG Clark. He had joined the 40th Battalion in 1940 and served in the Northern Territory and after the war in Timor. In 1945 Clark went to Japan with the first contingent of BCOF and then served with 3RAR from 28 September 1950. He had only home on leave once since 1945.

Pakchon claimed 12 Australian lives; seventy men were wounded. Brigadier Coad appointed Lieutenant Colonel Bruce Ferguson as the new CO of 3 RAR the next morning.

A few days later 3 RAR was involved in patrolling north of Pakchon. It was extremely cold, and there was controversy in Australia over whether the men had been given sufficient winter clothing, and whether what they had been issued was good enough.  It was so cold that medicine in the battalion aid post froze, and older blokes who ‘faked their age to fight again are succumbing’ according to report in The Argus, a Melbourne newspaper. This was November, and the real ‘Siberian’ winter was yet to arrive.

On 13 November Lieutenant General Sir Horace Robertson Commander in Chief BCOF visited 3RAR in camp near Pakchon, and satisfied himself that the health of the men was not at risk, and that in any event additional winter clothing was being supplied. After his visit some of the soldiers took the opportunity to have a hot bath and went in search of wood.

‘At about   1500 hrs  on  13  Nov   ‘50  at  PAKCHON,  Pte  DILLON  and myself intended  having  a  bath.            Pte DILLON went into a house to gather some wood for the purpose of boiling water.

On his return he said to me  “Come on George, are you ready for your bath? ”   As I was having my bath Pte DILL0N was wandering around inside the house and  I  could  hear  him pulling  things  about, I  called  to   him  “Watch  your  step Blue  or  vou’ll  find   something  you  don’t  want.”

A little later he said to me,  “I have found something pretty.” I answered,   “I hope it’s a girl.” I heard him laugh and then there was a terrific   explosion. I ran into the house and found Blue coming out of the rubbish and debris. I laid him on a carpet calling out from the door,   “Stretcher Bearers” as there were two Australians in the yard. I then went to get some clothes on when I heard a shot   fired and Pte DILLON screamed,  “The dirty Australian bastard has shot me George.” I then assisted the stretcher-bearers to dress his wounds.

Pte George Loone, Statement to Board of Inquiry 1951.

The Inquiry rejected any idea that Dillon was shot by an Australian soldier (or was shot at all) although another witness testified that he saw an Australian shoot into the house.

Basil was born in Ballarat in 1927, went to school at CBC St Kilda, barracked for South Melbourne and had worked as a welder on the docks before joining up just after he turned 18 on 10 July 1945. He was discharged on 22 July 1947, having served with BCOF 6 Australian Welding Troop in 1946-47. He reenlisted in K Force on 11 August 1950, landed in Japan on 28 September and was killed ‘while on duty’ with 3 RAR barely six weeks later, on 13 November 1950. His older brother Vincent Dillon, 2/23rd Battalion had been taken POW at El Alamein like Fred Origlassi.

Basil’s family was at the pictures at the old Victory Cinema in St Kilda (now the National Theatre) on 16 November. They were watching a Hollywood weepie called No Sad Songs For Me starring Margaret Sullavan and Wendell Corey. A slide appeared on the cinema screen asking them to go to the manager’s office. They were needed at home.

There was a telegram waiting.


A week before, Fred Origlassi’s wife Phyllis was in a Brisbane hospital recovering from the loss of their baby, on her birthday when she received the telegram.

She wrote later to Charlie Green’s wife Olwyn Green: ‘At 8pm a nurse handed me a telegram. All were teasing me reminding me that Fred had promised to get a cable to me. . I nearly kept the ‘gram until later, but they were all so pleased, waiting so I opened it. The message from the Barracks Melbourne, regretting and so on with dreadful, unbelievable news. I don’t remember much about the months that followed.’’

Faye, one of Paddy Longmore’s daughters told historian Joy Damousi something of the effect of his death: ‘Our mother was devastated; her health broke and never fully recovered. The family members were separated for some time and poverty descended. A memorial service was thought inadvisable due to Mum’s distress. The repression of grief had a destructive effect on the family – remaining to this day.’

Telegrams like this, more than 340 of them, were delivered all over Australia between 1950 and 1953.  For those who were wounded, a first telegram offered false hope.

Olwyn wrote in her grieving biography The Name’s Still Charlie: On 31 October ‘the telegram boy came round Bancroft’s corner riding his bike. He reached our place, got off his bike and came up the path with the pink envelope in his hand. I remained fixed to the step.’ Her husband was wounded …

But about midnight next night neighbours came, and Olwyn could read their faces – Charlie was dead.

And next day, another telegram – the one Charlie had sent before he lay down to rest. Olwyn wrote: ‘There are no words to describe what was like a mortal wound. Nor tears enough to heal.’