There is probably no greater argument for distributing bottled beer to troops in battle than the story of William Speakman.


In 1951, the 24-year-old Speakman volunteered for service in the Korean War.

He first joined the Black Watch Royal Highland Regiment, but was attached to the 1st Battalion, King’s Own Scottish Borderers while in Korea.

William Speakman in Korea, 1951.

By 1951, the war had turned on UN troops fighting on the peninsula. After near annihilation along the Korea-China border, communist forces were bolstered when China entered the war for North Korea.

Later that year, William Speakman and his unit were somewhere along the 38th parallel – the new front – on a freezing, shell-riddled hill along the Imjin River. It was known as Hill 317.

On November 4, 1951, Speakman’s unit was suddenly pounded by intense Chinese artillery and a tide of overwhelming human wave attacks.

What happened next earned William Speakman the nickname “VC beer bottle.”

This time a British soldier held down 6,000 enemy troops with bottles of beer
Speakman’s medals, which he donated to South Korea in 2015.

Speakman, a junior enlisted infantryman acting out of order, led a series of counter charges to prevent his position from being overrun. He and six other men of the King’s Own fought off around 6,000 oncoming Chinese infantry. Speakman himself started throwing as many grenades as possible at the Chinese waves, even after sustaining multiple wounds.

He ran to and from a supply tent 10 times over the course of four continuous hours to replenish his supply of grenades.

“It was hand-to-hand; there was no time to take the bolt out of the rifle,” he said The telegraph. “It was November, the ground was hard, so the grenades were bouncing around and doing damage.”

His grenade cache didn’t last forever, of course. When he exhausted his unit’s supply of explosives, he turned to whatever other materials he could find to hurl at the enemy horde, including rocks and a steady supply of empty beer bottles. He and his six buddies were able repel the communist assault long enough for the KOSB to safely withdraw.

“I enjoyed it, in fact, that’s what I pledged to do,” Speakman said in a interview with the Royal British Legion. I volunteered for Korea and joined KOSB…we did what you are trained to do as a soldier. We fought that night and did what we had to do.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ej6au6duwnM

Speakman remembers Queen Elizabeth II presenting him with the Victoria Cross for his actions on Hill 317.

“When I got him, the king was alive,” Speakman said. “But he was very ill. He awarded me the VC but he died. So I was the Queen’s first VC…I think she was nervous. And I was very nervous.”

Only four VCs were awarded during the Korean War, and Speakman is the only living recipient of the Victoria Cross from that war. Although Speakman served until 1967 and fought in other conflicts in places like Italy and Borneo, he wants his ashes will be scattered in the Korean DMZ.

This time a British soldier held down 6,000 enemy troops with bottles of beer
HRH The Duke of York meets Chelsea pensioner Bill Speakman, VC. (photo Duke of York)

“When I die, that’s where I want to be. Nowhere else,” he said the wall street journal.