Veteran arranges service to remember Korean War
Veterans have always played a significant role in commemorations of Australian military history. They have organised commemorative services, built memorials, returned to the battlefields on which they served, written books, shared stories with family, friends and historians, or simply reflected privately on their memories of service.
Peter Scott DSO, a 94-year-old veteran of the Korean and Vietnam wars, is no exception. Peter is organising a service on 29 July this year to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the cessation of hostilities in the Korean War. The service is open to all Korean War veterans, families of deceased veterans and members of the Korean community. It will be held at 11am at the Torrens Training Depot in Adelaide.
Peter’s decision to organise this service stems from many years of involvement in activities commemorating the Korean War. Each year, in the company of other Korean War veterans, Peter attends a service at the Royal Australian Regiment Association rooms to commemorate the Battle of Kapyong on 24 April. It was after this service in 2022 that Peter decided to create a tri-service-focused commemoration for the 70th anniversary, as he felt the Royal Australian Air Force and Navy experiences had hitherto been ‘neglected’.
In addition to the annual Kapyong service, Peter also attends a service on 7 October each year, to commemorate the Battle of Maryang San. For many years, he has also acted as MC at an annual service commemorating the Australian personnel missing in action from the Korean War.
Peter’s visit to Korea as a member of the 2016 DVA commemorative mission party had a ‘profound effect’ on him. It brought back memories of ‘many significant events’ and soldiers with whom he served during his 12 months in Korea with the 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (3RAR). Peter recalled a highlight of the commemorative mission was the opportunity to ‘view at some distance, Maryang San or Hill 317 as it was shown on maps’.
The experience was particularly powerful because Peter was a participant in the battle, and was Mentioned in Dispatches for his service as an Intelligence Officer.
He still has vivid memories of crouching in a Chinese-dug slit trench in the hill, with the Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Frank Hassett, the New Zealand Battery Commander, Major Arthur Roxborough and other soldiers as they endured continuous Chinese artillery and mortar fire.
‘We were very lucky, I think, to survive that because the top of the hill wasn't actually hit although I expected it to [be] at any minute,’ recalls Peter.
3RAR took the strategically significant hill, a victory official historian Robert O’Neill described as ‘probably the greatest single feat of the Australian Army during the Korean War’. It was later recaptured by Chinese forces.
A graduate of the Royal Military College Duntroon, Peter had a 37-year career in the Australian Army that was varied and distinguished. Having served with 3RAR in Japan as part of the British Commonwealth Occupation Forces and in Korea, he commanded the battalion from 1969 to 1971. This included an operational tour of Vietnam, for which he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order, the South Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Palm, and the US Army Commendation Medal.
A graduate of the Pakistan Army Staff College and the US Army Command Staff College, Peter also instructed at the Australian Staff College in 1966. Following his service in Vietnam he was appointed Military Assistant to the Minister of the Army. Promoted to Colonel in 1973, he served as Services Attaché to the Australian High Commission and Embassy in Pakistan and Afghanistan respectively until 1975 and later Commander 2nd Military District, Sydney. He retired in 1983.
His commitment to the ex-service community continued after retirement, evident in many ways, not least of which his role as President South Australia and Broken Hill Legacy in 2000 and 2004.
A published author, Peter has written five books on his service experiences: A Matter of Pride, Command in Vietnam, Crossing the Khyber Pass, The Forgotten War and Infantry Commanding Officers in Korea and Vietnam.
Clips of an oral history interview with Peter are accessible on the DVA Anzac Portal website, Peter Scott's story – Anzac Portal (dva.gov.au). A longer interview, held in the State Library of South Australia J.D. Sommerville Oral History collection is also available online: Peter Scott | State Library of South Australia (slsa.sa.gov.au)
Photo above: Lieutenant Peter Scott observing the fall of 17-pounder anti-tank gun shell, 16 July 1952.
Photo above: Peter Scott DSO delivering a reading during the DVA commemorative mission to Korea in 2016.