Battle of Hill 187 | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Battle of Hill 187

The Battle of Hill 187 took place on the night of 2–3 May 1953 during the Korean War. It was one of the last battles before the armistice was signed on 27 July 1953. During the engagement, Charlie Company of 3rd Battalion The Royal Canadian Regiment (3 RCR) was overrun by Chinese forces, resulting in heavy casualties.

Robert Faulkner


2–3 May 1953


South Korea


Canada, other United Nations countries

Canadian Casualties

26 dead, 27 wounded, 7 captured


By May 1953, Canadian forces had been involved in the Korean War for almost three years. Peace talks were ongoing, but the fighting continued. The frontlines had been static since late 1951, and UN forces, including several Canadian units, manned positions along defensive lines such as the “Jamestown Line.” It was a war of trenches and patrols, reminiscent of the trench warfare that developed on the Western Front during the First World War. Both sides defended their sectors and sent out patrols to gather intelligence and capture enemy soldiers.

Third Battalion The Royal Canadian Regiment (3 RCR) arrived in Korea in March 1953 and was soon sent to the frontlines. Few members of the unit had battle experience. On 20 April, 3 RCR was deployed to Hill 187, which was “badly run down,” according to the commanding officer, Lieutenant-Colonel K.L. Campbell:

The wiring was insufficient. The trenches were not deep enough. There were gaps in the communication trenches. …The bunkers were too high, too lightly timbered and had too little overhead cover.

Campbell set the men to work improving the defences, but they were hindered by enemy fire. As no-man’s-land was controlled by the enemy, Campbell also sent out reconnaissance patrols and then stronger fighting patrols to regain control of the area.

Roy Jardine

Battle of Hill 187

The RCR sent out reconnaissance patrols and a fighting patrol on the night of 2–3 May 1953. The fighting patrol from “A” Company under Lieutenant G.B. Maynell encountered a force of about 60 Chinese soldiers, resulting in an intense exchange of gunfire. Maynell was killed, and about half the patrol was either killed or wounded. A standby patrol from “C” Company under Lieutenant D. W. Banton was sent out to help, but this too was ambushed. Banton was killed and the surviving members of his patrol scattered.

The Chinese then attacked Charlie Company’s positions. A heavy barrage of artillery and mortar fire was followed immediately by waves of assaults against the Canadian defenders. Once in the trenches, Chinese soldiers destroyed defensive works and took prisoners, quickly sending them back to their own lines. But they were soon subjected to heavy fire themselves from the battalion’s machine guns and mortars, tanks of Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians) and artillery from 81st Field Regiment. Second Lieutenant E. H. Hollyer of No. 7 Platoon requested artillery fire on his own position, and then ordered his men to retreat to their bunkers.

We were firing defensive fire around the area, trying to keep the Chinese back. … the patrols came back in, and the Chinese lifted their barrage and then they swarmed in. … in those days, they had no regard for casualties, … They just attacked en masse. … The first group would run through the minefield, blowing up the mines and themselves. The next group would throw themselves across the barbwire and the next group would just clamber over them into the position… they got into the 7 Platoon’s position and they were overrunning the place. And, so Ed Hollyer … requested that we fire on the top of his position with airburst. In the meantime he’s trying to get all his men into the bunkers. … We fired airburst shells, so that they wouldn’t hurt people who were underground. But it would cause a great deal of shell fragmentation on the surface, on the Chinese. (Donovan (Reg) Redknap, 4th Regiment, Royal Canadian Horse Artillery; listen to his account here.)

The Chinese suffered heavy losses but continued their attack. After fierce resistance, however, they eventually withdrew, and the Canadians reoccupied their positions.

The Battle for Hill 187 was one of the last battles before the armistice. 3 RCR lost many men during the engagement: 26 men killed, 27 wounded, and 7 taken prisoner. Most of these casualties were members of “C” Company. Two gunners and two men from the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry were also killed, and another seven Patricias were wounded during the battle. Three Military Medals and two Military Crosses were awarded to members of 3 RCR for their leadership and courage. Lieutenant G.E.M. Ruffee, a Forward Observation Officer from the 81st Field Regiment who served with 3 RCR, also received a Military Cross.

Further Reading