War tends to favor those with initiative and ingenuity and for Victoria Cross recipient Bill Speakman, he would evidently possess both. Some might think when a human wave of Chinese soldiers came rushing at your position that it is a good time to dig in and fight defensively. Private Bill Speakman thought it an opportunity to charge.
One might think when the ammunition has run out that it is a good time to retreat. Private Bill Speakman thought it an opportunity to pick up empty beer bottles and hurl them as weapons. And for his actions in Korea in 1951, bottle throwing Private Bill Speakman would be awarded the Victoria Cross.
Volunteering for the FightBorn William Speakman on September 27th, 1927 in Altrincham, Cheshire, Bill had longed to serve in the Army as he watched his countryman take on the Axis powers as a teenager. He joined in the Army in 1945 having just missed out on the action from World War 2.
The Korean War was a back and forth struggle before it had become the stalemate we know it as today. It began on June 25th, 1950 and in a few months the South Korea forces seemed to be on the verge of defeat. However, a US Marine landing at Inchon in September had relieved the beleaguered South Korean Forces, and the North Koreans were pushed back to the border with China.
It was at this point in October of 1950 that hundreds of thousands of Chinese soldiers poured across the border. Seoul would change hands four times during this struggle before settling in at a stalemate along the 38th parallel.
At 24 years old, Speakman would volunteer for action in Korea when the war was still in a back and forth conflict. By his account, it was his desire to fight in Korea that led to his transfer to the King’s Own Scottish Borderers and by any measure, they would prove lucky to have him.
This would set the scene for one of the most inexplicable acts of bravery to be seen in the war and perhaps the only Victoria Cross recipient to do so by throwing beer bottles at the enemy.
Attacking the Human WaveOn November 4th, 1951, the positions being held by the King’s Own Scottish Borderers came under heavy artillery attack that would be followed by a dreaded human wave of Chinese soldiers. The artillery bombardment had taken its toll on the positions, and it appeared with the human wave pushing its way into the Borderers that Speakman’s unit might be overrun.
That is when this Private took the initiative and led his counter-charge without orders.