KOREA 1950-53

"Trained to heal not to fight"

A story of a sister remembering her Brother with much love.
Mrs J Brightman July 2003


Leading Sick Birth Attendant D/SMX853707 presumed to have died
by The Admiralty on 2nd December 1950 in Korea.

(Photograph courtesy of Fred Hayhurst who tell us that it is from a passport photograph taken at Bickleigh in August 1950 before flying off to Japan. He had taken off his naval jacket so that he appeared to be in civilian clothes.)

Denis Raine's name is on the Morecambe Memorial and he is the only one from the Korean War so commemorated. Two soldiers from the Korean War are commemorated on the Lancaster War Memorial; these are the only three in our area. Mrs Brightman told us this moving story of her families quest to find out what happened to Denis, with great affection and pride .

My Brother Denis was born on 25/2/30 and brought up in Morecambe. He attended the West End Primary school and then went on to Morecambe Grammar School leaving with a school certificate. He worked in a Heysham Chemist as a trainee dispensing pharmacist. When his turn came for National Service on 2 April 1948 he did not want to go into the army; he preferred the Royal Navy and had to sign on for 7 years service with 5 in the reserve. He was a sick birth attendant in Portsmouth tending sick and dying ex-sailors.

He was attached to the 41st Royal Marine Commandos as a Leading Sick Birth Attendant for Service with the first operation of the United Nations in Korea.. He was to be on duty in a Japanese hospital to await wounded servicemen, the nearest he would be to a combat zone - or so my parents were told, presumably to allay their fears.

We had news in January 1951 that he had been missing from the previous December. Official news was sparse and it was not until 4 years later we were informed he had to help rescue some commandos stranded behind enemy lines. The American general in charge (MacAthur?) had ordered the UN troops to push the North Koreans back to the border with China, which brought the Chinese army into the war. The commandos were ambushed near to the CHOSIN Reservoir, which was a main water supply for Chinese Industry. They were then told to fight their way out. Denis and a comrade escaped from the Japanese when they were in sight of the lights of Haguri Ri where US Army engineers were working hard around the clock to construct a runway to take a C47 Aircraft. Denis received head wounds and he died two days later on the 2nd December 1950. We didn't get a death certificate, shown below, until 1954; it was a messy war with no lists of POWs.

Not a lot is known even now about his war as China will not release any official documentation or records. His name is on the Morecambe War Memorial, and in the Memorial Library in Morecambe High (Grammar) School.. A picture of my Brother at home is below.

 With my Father I attended the Dedication of the Memorial service in St Paul's Cathedral on the 11th August 1987. I remember a very large black piece of marble donated by the South Koreans was placed in the crypt of St Paul's as a memorial to the fallen. The inscription upon it read:

"Remember the British Servicemen who died in the first war fought in the name of the United Nations. Thank God for their courage and endurance and pray for peace and reconciliation among the peoples and nations of the world. Not one of them is forgotten before God"

Korea 1950-1953

Our paternal grandfather Alfred, also of Morecambe, was an ambulance driver in the RAMC in the first world war. He enlisted in April 1915 at the age of 45, leaving his 12 year old son to run the family sheet metal working business; he worked 12 hours a day. But thankfully Grandfather returned to his wife son and four daughters.

For a long time we lived in hope that Denis was a POW and would return. My Grandfather had a dream that when anyone died prior to other notification he dreamed of a coffin. He had this dream but the coffin was open with the name Raine in gold by which he assumed Denis was wounded but still alive. Sadly this was not to be.

Mrs Brightman continued her search for more details and brought the story up to date:

I was told that The Commonwealth War Grave Commission had put their data base of War Dead on the Internet, so I set out to try to discover the circumstances of my brother's death. Since their records only cover the two World Wars up to 1947, I wrote to the Naval Personnel Secretariat in the Ministry of Defence and they gave me very full and useful reply, extracts of which are shown below.

I then contacted Fred Hayhurst who has been very helpful. He was able to give me a lot of information.

I learnt that, contrary to the usual practice for Marines, my brother and five others were loaned with civilian clothes (these were rationed in UK at this time!) and flown to Japan as civilians to look after the wounded; such was the urgency at that time.

I have read Fred Hayhurst's Book" Green Berets in Korea" (which is in Morecambe library). A map of Korea and an enlargement of the Chosin Area follow. I understand that in the Chosin Operation Denis went off with raiding parties to tend the wounded


I am very proud to have learnt of the circumstances of my brothers death, knowing now that he went out with the fighting troops to look after them and when captured was not content to remain a prisoner of war.

Fred Hayhurst said in his book: "Sadly Denis has no known grave. His name is recorded on the British Memorial in the United Nations Cemetery in Pusan, South Korea and a picture of the Memorial is below. Following that is the entry for Denis in a Roll of Honour constructed By Group Captain Simon Coy who was the Defence Attache in Korea during the nineties. This Roll of Honour is now on the internet.

Roll of Honour
The Korean War 1950 to 1953

Leading Sick Berth Attendant D Raine
Royal Navy
attached 41 Independent Commando Royal Marines
Died on Saturday 02 December 1950

Commemorated on the Commonwealth Memorial at the United Nations Memorial Cemetery, Pusan.

Denis' name on a panel on the Memorial

There is an entry on Page 3 in the UK Book of Remembrance held at the National Army Museum which reads:

Royal Navy : Leading Sick Berth Attendant D Raine

There is an entry in the Army Historical Branch's Roll of Honour which reads:

Number D/SMX 853707

Rank Rating

Name RAINE, Dennis

Unit R Navy Serving with 41 Cdo</TD

There is also a Book of Remembrance in St Paul's Cathedral. 41 independent Commando Association also have their own Commando Roll of Honour in the village church of Bickleigh near Plymouth. Every year, on the anniversary the Chosin Battle, we attend a service and lay a wreath at the memorial, so your brother and all who served with us in Korea are not forgotten. ( pictures of the roll of honour are below.)"

Mrs Brightman continues:

I am told that Commandos do not carry identification for security reasons and the day after the Chosin Operation bodies were unidentifiable, hence the delay in issuing a Death Certificate since it was only know who was killed until POWs were exchanged in 1954.

Chosin was a United Nations Operation and the records are held by the UN who expect to publish on the Internet in 2004. The photograph on the next page illustrates the nature of these operations.

I have learnt that when new Colours were designed early in the 19th Century, The Royal Marines had over 100 Battle honours. Thus "Gibralter" was chosen to represent all battles, all of them being denoted by the "Globe encircled with Laurel"


Denis' Campaign Medals

So the story of my Brother ends; he carried out his duties at the forefront of the fighting in Korea and died a hero's death.


(1) "The Green Berets in Korea" by Fred Hayhurst Vanguard Press ISBN 1 903489 12 1

(2) RM Historical Association Special Publication '41 Independent Commando RM in Korea" by Lt Col Peter Thomas 

Essays Contents