On the 12th of March 1951, soldiers from 3RAR captured Hill 703 as part of the Battle of Maehwa-San during the Korean War. In cooperation with British and Canadian troops, the objective of 3RAR was the capture of the 3,560ft high mountain that was the high feature in the area. The Capture of Hill 703 marked an end of the battle
The battle began on 7 March, with 3RAR being ordered to capture Hill 410. A Company and D Company descended into the valley at 10:00 and advanced through open paddy fields under fire, then across the Asi-Ri–Punsuwon Road, to climb Hill 410. A Company ascended a third of the way up a spur before being pinned down by massed machine gun and light mortar fire. Calling for artillery and mortar support from 16th Field Regiment, Royal New Zealand Artillery and the United States Army B Company 2nd Chemical Mortar Battalion, the fire support could not dislodge the PVA/KPA, who were dug in, in machine gun and rifle pits.
D Company climbed a parallel spur to the right of A Company and also found the going difficult. At 15:00, D Company finally crossed the ridge line. Snowstorms began in the afternoon and hampered the evacuation of the wounded but A Company was able to advance. B Company then joined the two forward companies to consolidate the position.
In the fighting, 3RAR lost 12 killed and 24 wounded, while the 2nd Chemical Mortar Battalion suffered two wounded. At 06:30 on 8 March, B Company secured the rest of Hill 410 without opposition after the PVA/KPA withdrew during the night.
Over the following days, 3RAR would assist the other countries in the capture of Hills 532, 390, 326 and 432 without opposition, before commencing simultaneous attacks on Hills 703, 752 and 642. While forming up for the attack 3RAR headquarters received light mortar fire from the right flank without suffering any casualties.
As A Company and C Company 3RAR moved towards Hill 435 across the valley floor, A Company came under heavy fire from the village of Chisan to the right. The Republic of Korea Army (ROK) 6th Infantry Division had failed to attack as ordered with the result that the right flank of the brigade was exposed. 2 Platoon from A Company assaulted the village of Chisan, killing 30 PVA/KPA soldiers, before heavy mortar and machine gun fire forced the platoon to withdraw. A Company suffered two killed and seven wounded.
C Company 3RAR had continued towards its objectives and by 15:00 was pinned down just below the ridge of Hill 703 and remained in the position throughout the night. The 2nd PPCLI and 1st Argylls were able to secure Hill 642 and Hill 752 without opposition. With the ROK 6th Division still not having moved forward, C Company, 1st Middlesex protected 3 RAR’s right flank.
On 12 March, C Company had moved onto the crest and advanced to Hill 703 at 06:30. B Company and D Company 3RAR, moved up to consolidate Hill 703, which had been abandoned hurriedly during the night. The US 7th Marine Regiment moved forward and secured the right flank of the 27th British Commonwealth Brigade.
The operation resulted in a resounding Coalition success, but came at the cost of 14 Australians killed and 39 wounded. 3RAR was awarded the battle honour ‘Maehwa-san’ for their part in this action.
Lest we forget.