b. 06/03/1912 Chester. d. 23/09/1950 Songju, Korea.
Kenneth Muir (1912-1950) was born on 6th March 1912 in Chester, Cheshire, the son of Colonel Garnet Wolseley Muir and Mary Williamina (nee Cuninghame). His grandparents had named his father after the famous Victorian general. As a boy, Kenneth was accustomed to military life, and had been a pupil at Malvern School in Worcestershire when his father was appointed to command the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders in 1923.
Kenneth was commissioned in 1932, his early campaigning was in India. He was a subaltern on the North West Frontier from 1935-1938, which entitled him to both the Indian General Service Medals. The Frontier was a hard, unforgiving school for soldiers, through which every infantry battalion had to serve at some time. During World War II, he had risen from Captain to Acting Lieutenant Colonel. Until July 1943, he was attached to the Sudan Defence Force. He earned three campaign stars for service in North Africa, Italy, France and Germany, plus the 1939-45 Star. For most of the time, however, he served on the staff, or was attached to the Military Police. Brought down to Major again in 1946, he worked for a time in the Provost Marshal’s branch of the War Office in Eaton Square, before joining the Argylls in Hong Kong as second in command. Few of the fellow officers knew him, as it had been eleven years since he served with a battalion of the Regiment. He would never know that his three weeks in Korea would add four more medals, including the VC, to his other eight.
The Argylls were posted to Korea in a hurry. They belonged to 27 Brigade, under Brigadier Aubrey Coad. They sailed on the 25th August 1950. Four days later, they sailed into Pusan on HMS Ceylon to a great reception. They then spent a few weeks acclimatising to their new surrounding, before the breakout battle began on 16th September. It was not a great success, and it was not until the 22nd, when the 24th Infantry Division was put in, that progress was made. The 24th contained 27 Brigade, whose task was to protect the left flank of the US advance. Seven miles over the Naktong lay the small town of Songju, a road junction on the route to Seoul.
On 23rd September 1950 near Songju, Korea, there was difficulty in evacuating the wounded after a position had been captured, until Major Muir arrived with a stretcher party. When the enemy started to launch a series of attacks on the positions, the major took over command and after a direct hit from a fire bomb, causing further casualties, he led a counter-attack and the crest of the position was regained. He was determined to hold it until all the wounded had been evacuated and moved about his small force shouting encouragement and firing a 2-in. mortar himself until he was mortally wounded.
The Americans were the first to honour Muir with the DSC in November 1950. Then, on 6th January 1951, Muir’s award of the first VC of the Korean War was announced. Colonel and Mrs Muir went to Buckingham Palace on 14th February 1951 to receive their son’s posthumous VC from King George VI, the last time he would present it. It was the Argyll’s 16th VC. All 12 of his medals are now owned by the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders Museum at Stirling Castle. Kenneth Muir was buried in the UN Memorial Cemetery, Busan, South Korea. Tragically, his father never recovered from his son’s death, and committed suicide on 14th April 1954.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: ARGYLL/SUTHERLAND HIGHLANDERS, STIRLING.
BURIAL PLACE: UN MEMORIAL CEMETERY, BUSAN, SOUTH KOREA.
Andy Wright – Image of the Muir VC Medal Group at the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders Museum, Stirling.
Thomas Stewart – Images of Muir’s name on the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders Honours Board, the RMA Sandhurst Board, and the Korean War Memorial in Bathgate, Scotland.