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George Cross awarded to Battle of Imjin River hero to be auctioned

Rod Minchin, PA
·3-min read

A George Cross awarded to a heroic officer who died as a prisoner of war after being captured after the Battle of Imjin River is expected to fetch up to £180,000 when it is sold at auction.

Lieutenant Terry Waters, 21, was badly wounded at the famous battle when soldiers from the 1st Battalion, Gloucestershire Regiment held out for three days in April 1951 against the much larger Chinese forces.

Running short of water and ammunition, the “Glorious Glosters” held their hilltop position through a full day and a night, repelling waves of Chinese attackers.

Lt Terry Waters died while a prisoner of war after fighting during the Battle of Imjin River in 1951 (Dix Noonan Webb/PA)
Lt Terry Waters died while a prisoner of war after fighting during the Battle of Imjin River in 1951 (Dix Noonan Webb/PA)

Some 59 men died in the defence of the hill and 526 were taken prisoner – 180 of them wounded. Another 34 men died in captivity.

But their heroic stand delayed the advance of the Communist troops, preventing them from outflanking the forces of the Republic of Korea and United Unions.

As a result, the Allied forces were able to take up positions at a defensible line further south and prevent a direct assault on capital Seoul.

Lt Waters assumed command of his company after the senior officers were all killed, despite being wounded in the leg and head.

The Salisbury-born officer, who had only recently graduated from Sandhurst, was captured and imprisoned in the foul conditions of the notorious Kangdong Caves, near Pyongyang.

Also being sold are letters and photographs relating to Lt Waters which had been kept by his family (Dix Noonan Webb/PA)
Also being sold are letters and photographs relating to Lt Waters which had been kept by his family (Dix Noonan Webb/PA)

As the only officer with the British party, he ordered his men to save themselves by pretending to accede to subversion at a Peace Camp while steadfastly refusing to do so himself.

The former Bristol Grammar School pupil died having refused to accept medical treatment, better food, and other amenities in exchange for his participation in propaganda on behalf of the North Korean communist regime.

The final paragraph of Waters’ original George Cross recommendation says: “He was a young, inexperienced officer, comparatively recently commissioned from the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst.

“Yet he set an example of the highest gallantry that may be asked of any Briton: he sacrificed his life rather than dishonour his nation.

“Surely his death, chosen so selflessly and so courageously at Pyongyang, must stand with the finest epics of personal courage in the history of British prowess.”

The George Cross is being sold by Lt Waters family who live in the Bristol area (Dix Noonan Webb/PA)
The George Cross is being sold by Lt Waters’ family who live in the Bristol area (Dix Noonan Webb/PA)

The medal, which is being sold by members of Lt Waters’ Bristol-based family, will go under the hammer at Dix Noonan Webb on February 17.

Christopher Mellor-Hill, from the auction house, said: “This has to be one of the most heroic George Cross’s awarded for bravery.

“It stands out for being awarded to a hero of The Battle of Imjin River who, having died as a prisoner of war in the notorious North Korean ‘Caves’ during the Korean War, was denied a further gallantry award.

“He sacrificed his life in defying the North Korean propaganda command by staying with his fellow prisoners, exemplifying all those high traditions of British leadership with courage.”