23 Apr 2021

EACH year on 24 April, we remember the Battle of Kapyong, an important battle of the often-labelled ‘Forgotten War’, the Korean War.

Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Darren Chester said that the Battle of Kapyong was a significant action in the Korean War, during which Australian, Commonwealth and other United Nations Command (UNC) forces helped stop a communist advance on the South Korean capital, Seoul.

“On 23 April 1951, the Chinese launched their offensive through the Kapyong Valley to advance on Seoul, breaking through the forward positions held by South Korean Army units and reaching Australian positions that evening,” Mr Chester said.

“The 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (3RAR), was repeatedly attacked through the night and into the next day, and was forced to withdraw to defensive positions established further to the rear after having arrested the momentum of the Chinese advance.”

On 24-25 April 1951, the focus of the Chinese attacks shifted to the positions held by Canadian troops, but with the assistance of New Zealand artillery, they were able to halt the Chinese advance. The Australian and Canadian battalions were each awarded a United States Distinguished Unit Citation for their part in the battle.

“On difficult terrain these courageous troops fought off the attacking Chinese infantry. Not only is the Battle of Kapyong remembered as an important success for UNC forces, it was one of Australia’s most hard-fought battles of the Korean War,” Mr Chester said.

“Earlier this week I met with the current soldiers of 3RAR in Townsville as they learned more about this battle in their unit’s history and to reflect on this important milestone in our military history.

“As a nation we must never forget the service and sacrifice of the Australians who served in the Korean War and those who fought in the Battle of Kapyong. On behalf of all Australians, I thank you for your service.”

The Korean War, 1950-53, was the first major conflict of the Cold War and the first to involve troops, including Australians, fighting under the auspices of the UNC. It began with a North Korean invasion of South Korea and ended with an armistice that left the Korean peninsula still divided. 

About 18,000 Australians served during the Korean War and in the post-armistice phase, including some 50 nurses. Tragically, around 340 died, some 1,200 were wounded, and around 30 were taken prisoner during the war. Of these, more than 30 were killed, nearly 60 wounded and a small number taken prisoner during the Battle of Kapyong itself.  

Further information on the Battle of Kapyong and the Korean War can be found on the Department of Veterans’ Affairs Anzac Portal.