Derek Godfrey Kinne GC (Direct Recipient)

b. 11/01/1931 Nottingham. d. 06/02/2018 Tucson, Arizona, USA.

DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 25/04/1951 – 10/08/1953 Korea.

Derek Godfrey Kinne (1930-2018) was born on 11th January 1931 in Nottingham, one of six children of Adolphus and Vincenza Kinne (nee Casenelli). He had three brothers, Raymond, Ernest Valentine and Anthony, and two sisters, Victoria and Christina. The family grew up in Leeds, Yorkshire, where Adolphus Kinne was a builder’s joiner. Derek was educated at Corpus Christi and St Charles School in Leeds.

Derek G Kinne GC

Derek was conscripted at the age of 18 as a National Serviceman in England shortly after WWII. After training in Britain and North Africa for two years he finished his service and was told by his commanding officer he would never make a soldier. Derek’s older brother Raymond had also been in National Service and had stayed in the Army. Derek made a pact with two of his brothers in 1947 that if one of them went missing, the others would find him. They bought and exchanged rings inscribed Kinne I, II and III. If Raymond was to die, Derek would take his place, and if Derek died, Ernest would take the place.

While in Hong Kong with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, Raymond’s regiment was called up for service in Korea. Raymond was killed in action at the age of 23. This resulted in Derek honouring the pact and he signed up under the Korean Volunteers Scheme. He was assigned to the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers.

In April 1951, the 1st Battalion, the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers, was preparing to defend the crossings over the Imjin River from the low hills to the south. Their position was in the centre of the British 29th Independent Brigade Group’s defensive system and the key to that of the 3rd American Division. The battle ended on April 25th with a fighting withdrawal to the south, but Fusilier Kinne and a number of his comrades were cut off and taken prisoner. He now had two objectives. First, to escape; and second, to raise the morale of his comrades by showing his contempt for his Communist captors and his scorn for the brutality and ill-treatment that they meted out to their prisoners.

Within 24 hours Kinne had succeeded in escaping, only to be recaptured when he was on the point of crossing through to the British lines. He was sent to join a column of prisoners, many of them wounded, who were to be marched some 250 miles northwards to Camp 1 at Chiang Son on the Yalu river.

During the march, which lasted more than a month and was undertaken in conditions of great privation and without any medical attention for the wounded, Kinne’s spirit and bearing did much to lift the morale of his fellow prisoners. Kinne soon gained a reputation for being a most uncooperative prisoner. In July 1952 he punched a Chinese officer who had struck him. For this he was beaten then made to stand on tiptoe with a running noose around his neck, which would have throttled him if he had tried to relax.

He escaped again but was recaptured two days later. He was severely beaten and kept handcuffed in solitary confinement for 81 days. During part of this time he was locked up in a small, box-like cell in which he had to sit to attention all day. At the slightest hint of relaxation his guards beat him, kicked him or prodded him with bayonets.

The following month, after being made to stand to attention for seven hours, Kinne complained to the guard commander. Enraged, the man set about Kinne with the butt of his sub-machine gun but his weapon went off accidentally and he shot himself dead. Kinne was stripped, beaten and thrown into a rat-infested pit for a month, during which time he was frequently taken out and beaten into unconsciousness. The rats became his pets, Kinne said later, adding that they had helped to keep him sane.

In October Kinne was tried by a Chinese military court and sentenced to 12 months solitary confinement. It was increased to 18 months when he complained of not receiving medical attention for a double hernia that he incurred while doing physical training to improve his chance of escaping. In December he was transferred to a special penal company. His last sentence to solitary confinement was handed down in June 1953 for defying orders and wearing a rosette, made from prison rags, on Coronation Day.

The armistice was signed on July 27th and the repatriation of prisoners of war was due to be completed within 60 days. Kinne was threatened with exclusion from the scheme for demanding an interview with a visiting representative from the Red Cross. Derek Kinne was eventually exchanged on August 10th 1953 after two years and four months of captivity. He had been kept in seven different places of imprisonment, including a Korean high-security gaol, under conditions of extreme degradation and subject to great brutality, but he never lost the determination to resist.

For his actions in Korea, Derek was awarded the George Cross (London Gazette, 9th April 1954), and was presented with his medal by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace on 6th July 1954. He left the Army soon after returning from Korea, and began a mobile launderette in Leeds. It was in Leeds, that he met his future wife, Anne Boyle, and in 1957 they emigrated to Canada. They married on 21st July 1959 and went on to have two children, Raymond (named after his brother) and Deborah.

Derek and Anne travelled all over Canada and the USA where he worked as an ironworker and welder, before in 1961, the couple settled in Tucson, Arizona. Derek became a welder and worked on the Titan Two Missile installation around the US and in Tucson. Derek worked as a welder until 1967 when he and Anne bought a picture framing business. They owned Glasgow-Kinne and eventually A&A Laminators, for 38 years. Derek always said that he had lived the ‘American Dream”. He worked hard, for years, seven days a week, to give his family what they needed and to get what he wanted out of life. In 2009, he became an American citizen. He regularly attended the bi-annual reunions organised by the VC and GC Association until 2014. In 2009, he travelled with Bill Speakman VC to Korea, and was due to go again in 2012, but an accident whilst driving in Denver, meant that Derek was unable to travel.

Derek passed away on 6th February 2018 at his home in Tucson, surrounded by his wife and family. He was remembered at a memorial service at Bring’s Broadway Chapel in Tucson on 2nd March 2018. His final resting place is not known at present. His medals including the GC, Korea Medal, UN Medal with clasp “Korea”, 1977 QEII Silver Jubilee Medal, 2002 QEII Golden Jubilee Medal and 2012 QEII Diamond Jubilee Medal are proudly held by the Kinne family.