Beer Bottles Versus 6,000 Enemy Troops: Guess Who Wins…

William Speakman

No one would ever guess that a beer bottle would be an effective combat weapon, especially against 6,000 opponents. However, one British soldier made do with what he had.

Volunteering For Korea

William Speakman was 24 years old when he volunteered for the Korean War. At first, he was with the Black Watch Royal Highland Regiment. Finally, however, he was with the 1st Battalion of the King’s Own Scottish Borderers in Korea.

In 1951, the war was firmly in Korea’s favor. An infusion of Chinese troops helped the Communist cause. Speakman and his unit were stationed along the Imijin River in a place known as Hill 317.

Chinese artillery caught Speakman’s unit by surprise on November 4, 1951, with a barrage of attacks. At the time, Speakman was a junior enlisted infantryman, and he took matters into his own hands.

To prevent the Chinese from overrunning the men, he led some counterattacks. Seven men fought off around 6,000 Chinese troops. Speakman was throwing grenades as fast as he could, all while taking hits from the enemy.

Giving It His All

Over four hours, he hurried back and forth from the supply tent as fast as his legs would carry him, getting more grenades. He said to the Telegraph, “It was hand-to-hand; there was no time to pull back the bolt of the rifle. It was November, the ground was hard, so grenades bounced and did damage.”

Soon he ran out of grenades and moved on to whatever items were available. He threw rocks and empty beer bottles, which seemed to be in abundance. The six men and Speakman held the enemy off long enough to get the KOSB out of the area.

“I enjoyed it, actually, it’s what I joined up to do. I volunteered for Korea and joined the KOSB… we did what you’re trained to do as a soldier. We fought that night and did what we had to.”

William Speakman to the Royal British Legion

Queen Elizabeth II gave him the Victoria Cross for his bravery that day. Speakman said, “When I got it, the king was alive. But he was very ill. He awarded me the VC, but he died. So I was the queen’s first VC… I think she was nervous. And I was very nervous.”

His was one of four Victoria Crosses from Korea and the only one given to a living recipient.

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