Kay Force joins the conflict
At this point a further New Zealand contingent joined the UN Command – Kayforce. On 26 July 1950, in response to a further plea from the UN Secretary-General, Trygve Lie, the government in Wellington had agreed to the dispatch of a 1000-man ground force. Arrangements had quickly been made for this force to serve as part of a Commonwealth formation. Kayforce, comprising 16th Field Regiment and small ancillary units, had to be recruited, trained, and dispatched 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. Thereafter it took part in the operations which led the UN forces back to and over the 38th Parallel, recapturing Seoul in the process.
The Fifth Phase offensive
When, in April 1951, the Chinese launched the opening step of 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. 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, from 23 to 25 April. 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, though Kap’yong later had to be abandoned as the UN forces fell back to positions just north of Seoul in good order.
The situation worsens
The failure of their Fifth Phase Offensive – its second step 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. Although they resumed at Panmunjom on the following 25 October, progress was very slow. During 1952 the fate of communist POWs would emerge as a seemingly irresolvable sticking point, with the communist negotiators firmly rejecting the UN contention that they should have the right to elect not to be repatriated to their home countries.