By the spring of 1951, both sides of the Korean War - the UnitedNations (mainly the United States and South Korea) and the Communistforces (China and North Korea) had taken each other's measure. Afterthe UN had driven Kim Il Sung's Communist regime - which had attackedSouth Korea - entirely out of North Korea, massive Chinese armiesattacked across the Yalu River and drove the UN back. UNcounteroffensives against overextended supply lines serving outgunnedand outskilled (if far from outnumbered) Chinese forces prevented MaoTse-tung from himself unifying Korea.
BySpring 1951, it had become clear that a northern Communist regime and asouthern pro-Western regime would continue to "share" the Koreanpeninsula - the main issue was where their border would be drawn.
OnApril 22, 1951, around the 38th Parallel (the pre-war boundary) inKorea, the Chinese forces began their offensive to recapture Seoul, theSouth Korean capital, among other things. In fact, three divisions of the Chinese 63rd Army attacked across the Imjin River
, just north of Seoul. On the other side: the British 29th Brigade, commanded by Brigadier Tom Brodie.
Outnumbered,the British could not hold their positions, and Brigadier Brodie askedhis superiors, the American commanders of I Corps, for help and/orpermission to withdraw. He got very little of the former (no artillerysupport at all - and the 29th Brigade had inadequate artillery - noclose air support on the first day and little thereafter) and none ofthe latter. The brigade was shattered - in four days of fighting taking1,091 casualties, possibly 25% of its strength right before the battle.
Didthe Americans understand the British 29th Brigade's desperate plight?The British had radios and could communicate the situation...or couldthey?
As historian Max Hastings points out in his book The Korean War
, p. 218, quoting a British officer on the scene:WhenTom told Corps that his position was 'a bit sticky,' they simply didnot grasp that in British Army parlance, that meant 'critical'.
Inother words, the British Army suffered a stinging defeat, includinghundreds of crack British troops trudging into Communist prison camps,because the British couldn't express themselves clearly and/or theAmericans couldn't take a hint.
Epilogue: After the battle theBritish incorporated the 29th Brigade into a new Commonwealth Division- so that British commanders would be much less dependent oncommunicating with American superiors.