29 January 2012

Victoria Cross: K. Muir


Major, The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders (Princess Louise's)

Born: 6 March 1912, Chester, Cheshire
Died: 23 September 1950, near Kumch'on, South Korea

Citation: On 23rd September, 1950, "B" and "C" Companies of the 1st Battalion, The Argyll and Sutherlands [sic] Highlanders, attacked an enemy-held feature, Hill 282, and by 0800 hours had consolidated upon it.
Some difficulty was experienced in evacuating the wounded from the position and demands were made for stretcher-bearing parties to be sent forward by the Battalion. At this juncture the position came under mortar and shell fire.
At approximately 0900 hours a stretcher-bearing party arrived and with it came the Battalion Second-in-Command, Major K. MUIR. He proceeded to organise the evacuation of the casualties.
At approximately 0930 hours, small parties of the enemy started to infiltrate on the left flank necessitating the reinforcing of the forward platoon. For the next hour this infiltration increased, as did the shelling and mortaring, causing further casualties within the two companies.
By 1100 hours, casualties were moderately severe and some difficulty was being experienced in holding the enemy. In addition, due to reinforcing the left flank and to providing personnel to assist with the wounded, both companies were so inextricably mixed that it was obvious that they must come under a unified command. Major MUIR, although only visiting the position, automatically took over command and with complete disregard for his own personal safety, started to move around the forward elements, cheering on and encouraging the men to greater efforts despite the fact that ammunition was running low. He was continually
under enemy fire, and, despite entreaties from officers and men alike, refused to take cover.
An air-strike against the enemy was arranged and air recognition panels were put out on the ground. At approximately 1215 hours the air-strike came in, but unfortunately the aircraft hit the Companies' position instead of that of the enemy. The main defensive position was hit with fire bombs and machine gun fire, causing more casualties and necessitating the withdrawal of the remaining troops to a position some fifty feet below the crest. There is no doubt that a complete retreat from the hill would have been fully justified at this time. Only some thirty fighting men remained and ammunition was extremely low. Major MUIR, however, realised that the enemy had not taken immediate advantage of the unfortunate incident and that the crest was still unoccupied although under fire.
With the assistance of the three remaining officers, he immediately formed a small force of some thirty all ranks and personally led a counter-attack on the crest. To appreciate fully the implication of this, it is necessary to realise how demoralising the effect of the air-strike had been and it was entirely due to the courage, determination and splendid example of this officer that such a counterattack was possible. All ranks responded magnificently and the crest was re-taken.
From this moment on, Major MUIR'S actions were beyond all possible praise. He was determined that the wounded would have adequate time to be taken out and he was just as determined that the enemy would not take the crest. Grossly outnumbered and under heavy automatic fire, Major MUIR moved about his small force re-distributing fast diminishing ammunition and when the ammunition for his own weapon was spent, he took over a 2 inch mortar which he used with very great effect against the enemy. While firing the mortar, he was still shouting encouragements and advice to his men and for a further five minutes the enemy were held. Finally, Major MUIR was hit with two bursts of automatic fire which mortally wounded him, but even then he retained consciousness and was still as determined to fight on. His last words were: — "The Gooks will never drive the Argylls off this hill".
The effect of his splendid leadership on the men was nothing short of amazing and it was entirely due to his magnificent courage and example and the spirit which he imbued in those about him that all wounded were evacuated from the hill, and, as was subsequently discovered, very heavy casualties inflicted on the enemy in the defence of the crest.

[London Gazette issue 39115 dated 5 Jan 1951, published 2 Jan 1951.]

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