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Korean War

Page 4 – Kayforce joins the conflict

In January 1951 a further New Zealand contingent joined the UN Command – Kayforce. On 26 July 1950, in response to another plea from the UN Secretary-General, Trygve Lie, the government in Wellington had agreed to the dispatch of a thousand-man ground force. Arrangements had quickly been made for this force to serve as part of a Commonwealth formation.

Kayforce, comprising 16th Field Regiment of artillery and small ancillary units, had to be recruited and trained before its dispatch to Korea, and would have missed the war altogether but for the Chinese intervention. There was no shortage of volunteers, five men coming forward for each place within five days. The 1056-man force embarked from Wellington on 10 December 1950 and arrived at Pusan on New Year’s Eve. It joined the 27th British Commonwealth Infantry Brigade on 21 January 1951, and was in action for the first time four days later. 

The Fifth Phase Offensive

When, in April 1951, the Chinese launched their Fifth Phase Offensive, 27th British Commonwealth Brigade fought a successful defensive battle against a Chinese division at Kap'yong after filling a gap in the UN line caused by the collapse of a South Korean division. From 23 to 25 April, the New Zealand gunners played a vital supporting role for 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, and the Canadian 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Light Infantry. For this action, in which it suffered its first fatal battle casualty, the regiment was awarded a South Korean Presidential Citation, conferred at a parade in February 1952. The Chinese offensive in this sector had been effectively checked, although Kap'yong was later abandoned as the UN forces fell back in good order to positions just north of Seoul.


The failure of their Fifth Phase Offensive - its second stage in May 1951 proved disastrous - helped convince the Chinese that outright military victory in Korea was beyond their capacity. Armistice talks opened at Kaesong in July 1951, but were soon broken off. They resumed at Panmunjom on 25 October, but progress was very slow. During 1952 the fate of communist POWs emerged as a seemingly irresolvable sticking point, with the communist negotiators firmly rejecting the UN contention that they should have the right to choose not to be repatriated to their home countries.

How to cite this page

Kayforce joins the conflict, URL:, (Manatū Taonga — Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated