Inaugural Military History Award Goes to Book on ‘Forgotten War’

I’m a few days late on passing this on, but congratulations to Andrew Salmon for the success of his “To the Last Round”:

Aldershot Military Museum, 10th November. On the eve of Remembrance Day 2010, a book on Britain’s bloodiest – but almost completely unknown – post-1945 battle won the inaugural Hampshire Libraries (Special Collections) Award for the Best Military Book of 2009.

A bold new reappraisal of the Battle of the Somme was runner up.

From a list of 60 titles, Andrew Salmon’s To the Last Round: The Epic British Stand on the Imjin River, Korea, 1951 (Aurum) won first prize from a field of 60 key military titles, followed by William Philpott’s Bloody Victory: The Sacrifice on the Somme (Abacus).

Highly commended mentions went to Anthony Beevor’s D-Day and the Battle for Normandy (Viking) and Andrew Roberts’ The Storm of War ( Alan Lane )

“In a list of very strong military books, this is an excellent book, which well-deserves the winning award,” said renowned broadcaster and military historian Professor Richard Holmes, the patron of the award.

“The excellence of this book came to me as a complete surprise,” said judging panel chair General Sir Christopher Wallace of To the Last Round. “The author addresses a subject about which most people, including myself, previously knew little; it was the judges’ unanimous decision to award this book as the outright winner.”

The award, sponsored by military publisher Osprey, was designed to highlight the three “armed services” collections – aviation, naval and military – in Hampshire Libraries. The military collection alone boasts 18, 000 titles.

The winning author, a Seoul-based reporter, sent an acceptance speech filmed on the Imjin battleground, where the 1951 British positions remain fortified to this day against the North Korean threat:

The author was represented at the event by Sam Mercer, a veteran of the Gloster battalion annihilated on the Imjin, and a survivor of the grim North Korean POW camps. A chance meeting with Mercer, who lost a leg and an eye in the fighting, provided Salmon with the inspiration for his book.

“This book should have been written many years ago,” said Mercer. “At last, Andrew Salmon has done us, the 29th Brigade, proud”.

In April 1951, 29th Infantry Brigade, of which the Glosters were a part, faced off against China’s entire 63rd Army for three nights of battle, against 7-1 odds.

With this year marking the 60th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War, the prize held special significance for the author.

“I’d like to thank the award panel for recognizing an unknown author writing about a forgotten war,” Salmon said. “Though Korea remains the biggest, bloodiest and most brutal conflict fought by British soldiers since World War II, it is almost completely unknown in the UK; I hope this award will bring veterans some long-overdue recognition.”

More Britons fell fighting the Chinese “human wave” in Korea than have been killed in the Falklands, Iraq and Afghan conflicts combined, Salmon noted. Many veterans – some, still traumatized, sleep with their lights on to this day – are bitter at the lack of recognition the war receives in the UK.

Salmon and film makers Dan Gordon and Howard Reid are hoping to create a documentary on To the Last Round. The author is currently finalizing a prequel, Scorched Earth, Black Snow which covers Australian and British soldiers in Korea in 1950, the most dramatic – but most terrible – months of the war. It will be published by Aurum in early 2011.

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