Ahead of Anzac Day tomorrow, Australians are being reminded of the nation’s role in a fierce battle 70 years ago that helped turn history’s ‘forgotten war’.

Late that month, the Chinese army launched a lightning offensive in the Kapyong Valley with the aim to recapture the strategically vital city of Seoul and win the Korean War.

Australian soldiers helped repel a major offensive by Chinese soldiers during the Battle of Kapyong. (Australian War Memorial) (Supplied)

After quickly over-running South Korean forces who were defending the valley, they encountered Commonwealth troops – including soldiers from the 3rd Battalion Royal Australian Regiment (RAR).

Australian soldiers helped repel a major offensive by Chinese soldiers during the Battle of Kapyong.

The battle began for the Diggers on April 23, 1951, and was fought in cold conditions over difficult terrain.

The Australian infantrymen were repeatedly attacked through the night and into the next day and they were forced to withdraw after having slowed the momentum of the Chinese advance.

During the next two days, the Chinese attacks shifted to the positions held by Canadian troops, but with the help of New Zealand artillery and US tank units, they were able to halt the enemy advance.

US tanks supported Commonwealth forces during the Battle of Kapyong in April 1951. (associated press)
Canadian soldiers prepare a machine gun position during the Battle of Kapyong. (National Archives Canada) (Supplied)

At Kapyong, the Australians, and other UN forces had won a decisive victory. Seoul was saved from falling once again into communist hands, and would not be threatened again for the remainder of the war.

But the battle came at great cost for the defenders: The Australians had 32 men killed, 59 wounded and three taken prisoner; the Canadians suffered 10 fatalities and 23 wounded; the New Zealanders lost two men and three Americans were also killed.

The Australian and Canadian battalions were each awarded a United States Presidential Unit Citation for their part in the battle.

Overshadowed by longer, more costly battles waged in Vietnam and the Middle East since the 1950s – Korea is often regarded as the ‘forgotten war’.

In all, 339 Australian soldiers, sailors and airmen fought and died in the conflict, with another 1216 wounded.

US General James Van Fleet inspects members of the 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (3RAR), after bestowing the presidential citation in recognition of the unit’s action at Kapyong. (Australian War Memorial) (Supplied)

But South Korea continues to honour the sacrifice of the 18,000 Australians and other UN military personnel who served.

“The courage of Australian soldiers fighting in a foreign land to safeguard freedom is worthy of remembrance. Their sacrifice is something present and future generations of Koreans and Australians should not forget, for it is an important part of our shared history.”

Australian soldiers tend a wounded comrade during the Korean War. (Australian War Memorial), (Supplied)

Curator Bradley Manera, of Sydney’s Anzac Memorial, says the exhibition aims to highlight the special link between Australia and South Korea.

“Over the decades, the Korean War has slipped from public consciousness. This exhibition will be a timely reflection on its significance and how it forged an unbreakable link between Australia and Korea,” he said.  

“Ahead of Anzac Day, lest we forget the Australian soldiers’ innumerable honours and legacy.”

The exhibition runs until July 2, 2021.

This content first appear on 9news

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