As is our wont here at TTAK, we bring you a tale of historical bad-assery for your Saturday Morning. It comes, as they so often do, from the site War History Online and details the exploits of the first Victoria Cross winner from the Korean War – Private Bill Speakman.
When it is life or death for you and your comrades, you use whatever is at hand to fight back, even if it is a pile of empty beer bottles.
On November 4th, 1951, the positions being held by the King’s Own Scottish Borderers came under heavy artillery attack that would be followed by a dreaded human wave of Chinese soldiers. The artillery bombardment had taken its toll on the positions, and it appeared with the human wave pushing its way into the Borderers that Speakman’s unit might be overrun.
This is when this Private took the initiative and led his counter-charge without orders.
Along with six other men, the domineering 6 foot 6 Speakman grabbed as many grenades as he could and launched himself into the assault hurling grenades at every opportunity. Because it was November in Korea, the ground was hard and frozen which meant the grenades would bounce and prove quite effective. Speakman reports that it was hand to hand combat for much of the fight as there was not even enough time to pull back the bolt of a rifle.
But the Chinese assault was massive, and he eventually ran out of grenades to throw at the incoming Chinese. Thankfully, the British were fortunate to enjoy the occasional beer sent to the front lines in conflict, and there were a good number of empty bottles around.
Private Speakman picked them up and with dominating physical frame began hurling them has hard as he could at the attackers. And while that might seem like a losing strategy, Speakman’s assault gave his unit enough time to retreat to a better position in the line as opposed to being completely overrun by the human wave. Speakman was wounded in the leg during this action but continued to fight until he apparently ran out of objects to throw and his unit was to safety.
Not quite as colorful as Col. “Mad Jack” Churchill, but a game effort nonetheless.
I think we should all help replenish the supply of empties by drinking a toast to Private Bill Speakman (V.C.), of the King’s Own Scottish Borderers. Huzzah!