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    A Gunner buried in Korea

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    '22546434 Gunner Michael Banbury died in Korea, in 1952.'

    Michael Banbury was born on the 26th of February in 1930 in Blaby, in Leicestershire.

    On the 7th of December in 1950, he elected to be a regular soldier with the Royal Artillery, on a five-year engagement with seven years in the reserve. 22546434 Gunner Michael Banbury served in Korea with the 61st Light Regiment, 120 Battery, in 'E' Troop.

    The 61st Light Regiment which was equipped with the 4.2 inch mortar was originally designed to be an infantry weapon to give greater firepower and range than the standard 2 or 3 inch mortars. It was a much more sophisticated weapon than the other mortars, firing a 20lb bomb out to a maximum range of 4,200 yards, proved to be unsuitable for the infantry and was given to the Royal Artillery. It was a particularly effective weapon in hilly or mountainous environments and was therefore well suited to the conditions in Korea. The 61st Light Regiment was a Divisional Regiment and was formed in Korea when the Commonwealth Division was formed. It had three light mortar batteries ie 42 Battery, 120 Battery and the 248 Battery and one locating/anti aircraft battery, 15 Battery. The mortar could be operated in one of two ways, the normal method was using a wheeled base plate on which it was mounted and the alternative method was using a 'static' base plate to which the tripod, sight and barrel was fitted. The base plate weighed about 120lbs and could be man packed into forward positions.

    On the 13th of August in 1952, the 1st and 3rd Battalions of the Royal Australian Regiment began active patrols which were designed to capture Chinese prisoners.

    The following is taken from the book, 'From the Imjin to the Hook,' by James Jacobs. ''''Early in August, 42 and 120 Batteries changed positions, with 'D' Troop moving to the north-east of Hill 187N and 'E' Troop to the south-east of Hill 210. By mid-August, 'E' Troop occupied a position in support of an operation of 28 Britcom Brigade with the tanks of 5th Royal Inniskilling Dragoon Guards [5RIDG] deploying to the tops of the ridges in close proximity to 'E' Troop mortars.This was much too close as far as 'E' Troop were concerned, as immediately a tank poked its gun and turret above the skyline the Chinese would start to shell it. One tank sitting on top of Hill 210 was particularly singled out but most of the shells were ranging just over the tank, landing among 'E' Troop gun pits, killing Gunner Banbury which did not go down at all well with his mates who made a few choice comments about tanks being so close at hand. Also wounded were Gunners Allen and McCricket and Pak Jai-sok, one of 'E' Troop's loyal porters. Such are the hazards of war,''''

    Actually Gunner Michael Banbury was severely wounded on the 27th of August in 1952 by a penetrating shell splinter wound to the abdomen and was evacuated to 8055 MASH [Mobile Army Surgical Hospital] but died the next day on the 28th of August in 1952. Gunner Michael Banbury was buried Plot 31, Row 9,  Grave 7, at Pusan Cemetery, on the 2nd of September in 1952 at 13.40hrs by the Rev. J F Lyall.

    Gunner Michael Banbury was only 22 years old, five feet seven inches tall, weighed 170lbs and had red hair when he died.

    Awarded the British and United Nations Korean medals.

    An interesting point to the story is that Doctor Richard Hornberger was serving at 8055 MASH, in Korea, at the same time as Gunner Michael Banbury was taken to this Mobile Army Surgical Hospital. Doctor Richard Hornberger wrote the book which resulted in the film and hit T.V. series 'M.A.S.H.' The last episode of this famous comedy T.V. series, about a Field Hospital in Korea, was on the 28th of February in 1983 and was watched by a record breaking 121 million viewers in America.  


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    Even in 1952 the British Army was very careful and professional when dealing with those who had died. Gunner Michael Banbury's body came directly from the Mobile Army Surgical Hospital but the British Army personnel were extremely careful when identifying the body and the recording process was fully documented. 

    Here are some parts of the forms used when they dealt with the body of Gunner Michael Banbury.

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    Most emotive presentation honoring a gallant individual.  8055 MASH [Mobile Army Surgical Hospital] was a U.S. unit thus explaining DD Form 511 for non-U.S. citizens as indicated by Report of Interment overstamps. 

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    Many thanks for the update, I did not even realise this was an America form and it make sense that the 8055 MASH would have completed the documentation. It was the story of ''Gunner Michael Banbury'' I just could not resist because military medals are not really in my collecting area. Although I have one or two examples in my collection.


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    • 2 months later...


    ''''' Midget Submarines and 4 VC's.'''''

    This relates to the career of '''C/JX143528 Yeoman of Signals George Christie,''' serving on HMS Bonaventure which was a Submarine Depot Ship - midget submarines.

    Later promoted to '''Communications Officer, Lieutenant''' and serving with HMS Belfast during the Korean War. 


    Yeoman of Signals George Christie - HMS Bonaventure.

    HMS Bonaventure was built as a merchant ship for the Clan Line Company and was launched on the 27th of October in 1942. The ship was converted and commissioned into the Royal Navy on the 26th of January in 1943. The ship's original name was 'Clan Davidson' but for the foreseeable future it would be HMS Bonaventure, a Submarine Depot Ship.

    Therefore the crew would have been selected and assigned prior to the ship's commissioning.

    The crew would have included many different specialist trades etc as HMS Bonaventure was fitted with workshops and other engineering facilities.

    Yeoman of Signals George Christie was probably part of that original crew selected to man the ship after its conversion and commissioning.

    All the crew would have been aware of the ship's secret training and assignments and security would have been very tight. The training was mainly done in West Coast of Scotland. The crew would have been proud of their part in these special operations etc.

    HMS Bonaventure had three Captains during her naval service and all of them were ex-submariners and each one was an extremely capably Commander.

    By all accounts it was a happy crew and ship and so we suspect George Christie was a happy crewman during these busy and exciting times with HMS Bonaventure. He was part of a crew that was very close and technically proficient. 

    HMS Bonaventure's specialist equipment included 'chariots' and 'X craft' [midget submarines] and in September of 1943 these 'X' craft successfully attacked the 'Tirpitz.' Two Victoria Crosses were awarded to personnel who carried out this operation and the other personnel were awarded various bravery medals. George Christie and the rest of the HMS Bonaventure's crew must have been excited and delighted with these honours.

    HMS Bonaventure was assigned to carry out operations in the Far East and there were now 12 new 'XE' Craft available. On the 21st of February in 1945 HMS Bonaventure, under the command of Captain William Fell sailed towards their new destination in the Far East. 

    HMS Bonaventure and its crew were excited about the approaching contact with the American continent. Unfortunately her journey to the Far East was to be guarded by the highest level of security. In Trinidad HMS Bonaventure was forced to anchor out of sight of land and no leave was allowed. The leave embargo was repeated at both ends of the Panama Canal and this created curiosity with the local people who believed the crew were being kept aboard because of a mutiny etc. The leave ban continued in San Diego, California and they even received invitations for parties to visit Hollywood, Los Angeles and Beverley Hills but the official decision remained unbent. The arrival at Pearl Harbour brought good news that leave was granted and the American hospitality was excellent but word also came to Captain William R. Fell's attention that Admiral Nimitz no longer wanted to employ the 'X' craft in the Pacific naval war. HMS Bonaventure then proceeded to Manus, in the Admiralty Islands and then south to Brisbane in Australia. The crew received a warm welcome and exceptional hospitality from the Australians.

    On the 16th of April in 1945, C/JX143528 Yeoman of Signals George Christie, being a crewman aboard HMS Bonaventure was awarded the '''Royal Kingdom of the Sea Certificate,''' for crossing the Latitude 00-00. This ceremony and the awarding of the certificate was a Royal Navy tradition, Captain William R. Fell signed the certificate.

    The other major operation that the midget submarines and HMS Bonaventure undertook in the Far East was the successful attack on the Japanese warship '''Takao.' The Takao operation resulted in a further 2 Victoria Crosses being awarded and other bravery medals being issued to personnel who participated in the Takao and in the destruction of the International Communications Cables operations. These successful operations again must have made the ships crew feel very proud. These operations were authorised because of the hard work put in by Captain Fell in convincing the Americans his men to do these special operations. 

    With the end of the war in the Far East came the dissolution of the 14th Submarine Flotilla and this took place in Sydney. There were Victory Parades and end-of-war parties, the crew were given leave and everywhere there was celebrations.

    HMS Bonaventure was stripped of her 'X' craft and equipment pertaining to them very quickly and was used for '''trooping and running stores between Sydney and Hong Kong. Some of HMS Bonaventure's crew were sent home or appointed to other jobs and HMS Bonaventure was later returned to her owners and she was again given her original name of '''Clan Davidson.''' 

    I suspect that George Christie was an original member of the ship's crew but we can definitely evidence his involvement with the Pacific operations because he was issued with the '''Lat 00-00 Certificate''' and he was also '''Mentioned in Dispatches''' for his work with HMS Bonaventure during this period and this was recorded in January of 1946's New Years Honour List.

    George Christie was later promoted to '''Commissioned Communications Officer''' and served aboard HMS Belfast during the Korean War. 

    I will add on information about his involvement in the Korean War later...................

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    '''C/JX143528 Commissioned Communications Officer George Christie serving on HMS Belfast during the Korean War.

    HMS Belfast is a Town-class light cruiser and was built in 1939.

    HMS Belfast saw action in 1950-52 during the Korean War.

    HMS Belfast carried out coastal patrols and supported United Nations troops with bombardment of various targets.

    In September of 1951, HMS Belfast provided anti-aircraft cover for the salvage operation to recover a crashed enemy MIG15 jet fighter.

    In 1952, HMS Belfast was hit by enemy fire and a 75mm shell struck a forward compartment killing a British sailor.

    On the 27th of September in 1952, HMS Belfast was relieved and sailed back to the UK.

    HMS Belfast had steamed 80,000 miles in the combat zone and fired more than 8.000 rounds from her 6 inch guns. HMS Belfast was also commended for her accurate gunfire support during her service in Korea. HMS Belfast was a very active Royal Navy ship during her time in the Korean War theatre.

    C/JX143528 Commissioned Communications Officer [Cd. C.O.] [Lieutenant] George Christie was awarded the British and United Nations Korean War medals and was also presented with the '''Captain's Certificate for serving with HMS Belfast during the Korean War.

    [Both the certificates with the medals are the original certificates issued.]


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    '''The real 'X' Men by Robert Lyman.'''

    Captain William Fell was a major player in these special operations during the Second World War and later commanded HMS Bonaventure in the Pacific and was therefore Yeoman of Signals George Christie's Captain.

    Captain William Fell, nicknamed 'Tiny' due to his small size, in March of 1942 was 45 years old. Captain Fell commanded the Infantry Assault Ship ''HMS Princes Charles.'' He had previously served in submarines and ''Q'' Ships and he was given the assignment to introduce and train for the new methods of Naval warfare ie Chariots, new re-breather sets and diving suits and later train the operators of the Midget Submarines etc.

    In late 1942 to January of 1943, Midget Submarines X5 to X10 arrived on the scene and Captain P. Q. Roberts was the commander of the 'X' craft depot ship HMS Bonaventure, of the 12th Submarine Flotilla, at Loch Striven, on the West Coast of Scotland. Captain Fell then initiated the training programme for the Midget Submarines and their crews and started planning for '''Operation Source''' which was to attack the '''Tirpitz''' located in Norway.

    HMS Bonaventure, could lift 4 midget submarine craft onto her decks simultaneously and was staffed with specialists of every kind and had fully equipped workshops and could also provide accommodation for all the 'X' craft crews. That is why HMS Bonaventure was the mother-ship for these special operations and equipment.

    On the 5th of September in 1943, 6 'X' craft were winched onto HMS Bonaventure to receive their specialist side charges. The crews also received their final intelligence briefing regarding the German warship ''Tirpitz.'' ''Operation Source '' was about the begin. On the 11th of September in 1943, the 6 'X' craft sitting alongside their mother-ship prepared to leave for Norway. British submarines then each towed a single midget submarine to the coast of Norway. There has been much written about this successful attack on the Tirpitz which caused so much damage that she was put out of action for many months and this allowed the Royal Air Force to mount a final attack on the ship using the biggest bombs of the Second World War. The bravery of the midget submarine crews was recognised with the presentation of 2 Victoria Cross's being awarded and various other bravery medals were issued to other team members.

    HMS Bonaventure was also responsible for the naval operations that involved the ''Chariot'' [underwater vehicles] and their story is fully recorded on many sites.

    Whenever the 'X' craft were deployed, the submarine depot ship HMS Bonaventure would be ensuring their every need was covered ie maintenance, repairs, training etc. The 'X' craft were used to test the security at the Royal Navy's base at Scapa Flow, in the Orkney Islands. The 'X' craft assisted with critical support for the Normandy invasion by surveying the Allied beaches to ensure their suitability for the landing craft and other vehicles. Sand samples and maps showing the defensive measures that were being taken at the landing sites were recorded etc. The 'X' craft were designed so that the crew ''diver'' could enter and leave the submerged midget submarine whenever needed.

    Captain William [Tiny] Fell took over the command of HMS Bonaventure in December of 1943 and was ordered to prepare and depart for operations in the Pacific Ocean. HMS Bonaventure would be part of the 14th Submarine Flotilla and started her journey to Australia on the 21st of February in 1945. On the 20th of March in 1945 HMS Bonaventure reached Pearl Harbour and then sailed on to Brisbane.

    The American Navy originally did not want to have anything to do with Captain William Fell and with HMS Bonaventure and her cargo of midget submarines. Then American Admiral Jimmy Fife visited the unit and travelled in one of the midget submarines and was extremely impressed. The American Navy then in May of 1945, requested 'X' craft and HMS Bonaventure to cut the Japanese communications cables ie the Saigon communications cable and the Hong Kong communications cable. Since the Americans had already cracked the Japanese military codes they wanted all Japanese messages to be sent by radio, rather than go by communications cables laid in the sea which were secure. The training and planning for these operations immediately began. The midget submarines successfully cut and destroyed the cables. 

    The Japanese warship Takao was also listed to be attacked and again the 'X' craft successfully completed their task and this resulted in the Takao settling on the bottom of the harbour. This particular operation resulted in another 2 Victoria Cross's being awarded and other bravery medals being presented to the 'X' craft crews. HMS Bonaventure was the most decorated ship in the Royal Navy during World War 2 and there was even 100 ''Mentioned in Dispatches'' awarded and Yeoman of Signals George Christie was one such individual who was recorded as having received this honour.

    It is interesting to note that American Admiral Jimmy Fife assumed command for these operations and the Admiral with ninety of his staff took over HMS Bonaventure during this period.

    ''The End.''


    I hope I have not made too many mistakes because I am not the greatest typist.  





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    Here we have 2 photographs of HMS Bonaventure :-

    [a] The photograph was taken in 1945 in the Pacific and there are 3 American submarines berthed alongside HMS Bonaventure and an 'X' craft [midget submarine] passing the bow of the submarines.

    [b] The second photograph was taken after HMS Bonaventure was returned to her original owner.


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