Korea: Remembering the veterans of 'forgotten war'

Discussion in 'Korea' started by dbf, Jul 11, 2013.

  1. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD



    Just a handful of years after World War II ended, the US, Britain, China and many more countries became embroiled in another conflict lasting three years and whose death toll is thought to be in the millions. Yet the Korean War is often referred to as the "forgotten war" by British veterans of it.

    "It was a war that seemed extremely remote, the other side of the world," says Keith Taylor, who served as a 2nd Lieutenant with the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers. "Most people had no idea where Korea was, and had even less idea what the war was about."

    In fact, as the Cold War turned hot for the first time, it involved a fundamental battle between democracy and communism.

    After the Soviet-installed communist dictatorship of North Korea invaded democratic South Korea in June 1950, the US led a United Nations force from numerous countries that drove the North Koreans back.

    When the UN troops then advanced into North Korea and closed in on the Chinese border, aiming to unify Korea under a pro-Western government, communist China joined the war against the allies.
    "It was stalling and restricting the spread of communism into that very important peninsula of Korea," says Mr Taylor, an 81-year-old Londoner now living in the US.
    "It was the right thing to do at the time," he adds. "It was very challenging and, of course, it lasted three years which was much longer than people had expected."
    On the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the end of the war, British veterans who served in the Korean War are being honoured with a parade in central London and thanksgiving service at Westminster Abbey.
    When an armistice was signed to bring an end to hostilities on 27 July 1953, in territorial terms the two sides were almost back to where they had started.
    One of about 100,000 British troops who served during the war, Mr Taylor was 19 when he was sent along with many other teenage national servicemen who had barely left their home counties before, let alone the UK.

    'What you signed up for'
    "It was a pretty vertical learning curve," says Mr Taylor, of a campaign involving extremes of weather, equipment shortages and unpalatable rations, mosquitoes, and periods of tedious inactivity in the trenches interspersed with ferocious battles often featuring hand-to-hand combat.

    More than 1,000 British troops were killed, almost 3,000 wounded, and a further 1,000 or so were missing or taken prisoner.

    Mr Taylor recalls: "When bodies had been recovered of those who died in our regiment, they were laid out on the ground for officers to go and pay their respects to them before they were taken away.

    "It was very, very emotionally disturbing to see people who you knew well and had served with and who were now dead, and it takes some believing.

    "It was done with great dignity and respect, and it was a very sharp reminder of what was happening and what it was all about."


    Flight Lieutenant John Murphy was one of a small number of British pilots who received training from the US Air Force to fly American fighter jets close to the Chinese border in the war.

    "I considered myself very lucky to go," says Mr Murphy, whose 32 missions in Korea earned him a US air medal and were the only combat he saw in an RAF career that lasted until 1966. "It was quite literally a once-in-a-lifetime experience."
    Overwhelming gratitude
    He recalls: "We had a tangle with one [enemy aircraft] and sent him spinning down to the earth, but they couldn't find the wreckage so we couldn't claim anything with it. We got a 'probable'.
    "That's what you signed up for," he adds.

    While British veterans feel the war is treated as no more than a historical footnote at home, those who have been back to South Korea are usually overwhelmed by displays of the gratitude ingrained in people of all ages there.
    "It was quite amazing the way the Koreans looked after us," says Mr Murphy about a veterans' trip he made just three years ago. "Children would come up to us and want to have their photo taken with us. Little groups, when we walked by, would applaud.

    "I didn't expect to be applauded in my life. They treated us like royalty actually."
    He adds: "We knew we were helping to keep South Korea free. If the United Nations hadn't intervened, the chances are there would just be one Korea. They are unbelievably grateful to the UN."
    The 60th anniversary events in the UK are explicitly aimed at recognising "the bravery and dedication of those who fought", with government defence minister Mark Francois saying Britain's role "should never be forgotten".
    "War has a very uniting effect on people and you share a common situation, I am pleased to say, with enormous courage and fortitude," says Mr Taylor.
    "Of course, with the passage of time there are less and less of the Korean veterans around to attend these things."
    All the more reason then, while some of their number are still with us, to remember those who fought the "forgotten war".
    Deacs, 4jonboy and CL1 like this.
  2. BrianM59

    BrianM59 Senior Member

    Thanks Diane - always nice to know that people remember. 'Forgotten' wars - seems such a strange term as those who fought them would often like to forget but can't. I always think of my poor old dad shouting and sweating in his sleep having nightmares about Korea.
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  3. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD


    View attachment 107251

    The 60th anniversary of the end of the Korean War has been marked in London with a parade and thanksgiving service at Westminster Abbey.

    The events remembered the 1,000 or so comrades who were killed and some 1,060 who were taken prisoner during the war.

    About 300 veterans of the 1950-1953 war marched to the service from Horse Guards Parade.

    Although an armistice was signed on 27 July 1953, the two Koreas remain technically at war.

    The 15-minute parade began at 10:45 BST, ahead of the service at noon.

    The veterans, who were led by the Royal Artillery Band, were joined at Westminster Abbey by the Duke of Gloucester, Defence Minister Mark Francois and senior military representatives.

    The last post was sounded and a silence observed before wreaths were laid at the Grave of the Unknown Warrior in the abbey.

    Mr Francois said the Korean War "remains an international conflict in which Britain played a significant role and one that should never be forgotten".

    In a reading, he said: "Today is about commemorating an important campaign, which saw more than 1,000 men lose their lives to provide freedom for Korea.

    "I am very happy to be here with so many veterans to remember what at times was a very bloody conflict."

    Commemoration day
    A message of thanks from the president of the Republic of Korea for the "invaluable sacrifices" made by the British servicemen was read out by the country's UK ambassador, Sungnam Lim.

    The president of the British Korean Veterans Association, Major General Mike Swindells, also gave an address.

    The Republic of Korea, now also known as South Korea, was invaded by the North Korean People's Army on 25 June 1950.

    Some 100,000 British troops served on the Korean peninsula, many of them National Servicemen, as part of a United Nations force.

    Almost all of those serving with the 1st Battalion The Gloucestershire Regiment - now part of The Rifles - were killed or taken prisoner during the Battle of the River Imjin in April 1951.

    Troops from the US, Canada, Australia, India and many other UN member states also took part during the conflict.

    Other events to mark the anniversary include a Korean War Commemoration Day at the National Memorial Arboretum on 27 July.

    Representatives of the British Korean Veterans Association are also due to attend a General Assembly of the International Federation of Korean War Veterans Associations in Seoul between 23 and 27 July.
  4. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD


    [Video clip in link]

    A service of thanksgiving will take place at Westminster Abbey on Thursday to commemorate those who fought in the Korean War over 60 years ago.

    British and Commonwealth troops served on the Korean Peninsula as part of a United Nations coalition force after North Korean troops invaded South Korea in June 1950.

    By the time an armistice was signed on 27 July 1953, over 1,000 British servicemen had lost their lives and around another 1,000 had been taken prisoner by the North Korean forces and their Chinese allies.

    Estimates for the total number killed on both sides range from more than 500,000 to almost 1 million.

    Major David Sharp was an intelligence sergeant in the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers during the war, and was captured behind enemy lines.

    He spoke to BBC News about what he endured during his time as a prisoner of war and his memories of the conflict.
  5. Uncle Jack

    Uncle Jack Member

    We remember too ... and have a memento on our bedroom wall. Uncle Tom who was at Anzio in RA was a press photographer and was sent to Korea. We have several of his photos including one of an ammunition case chapel with a Scottish regiment. He'd set of from UK to cover the Duchess of Kent on a tour of Africa .. then got diverted to Korea
  6. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD



    Would you mind sharing any of photos here?
  7. Uncle Jack

    Uncle Jack Member

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  8. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery

    thank you for posting Diane
  9. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery

    Korean War Memorial
    Croxley Green, Hertfordshire

    Attached Files:

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  10. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    For some, service didn't end with WW2. GSM with Malaya clasp & Korea Medals, "awarded to one of the 100 Inniskillings who served with the Royal Ulster Rifles in Korea in 1951".

  11. Uncle Jack

    Uncle Jack Member

    Tom Dixon was a press photographer in Newcastle upon Tyne and joined the RA in 1939. He returned to his job after WW2 and was a very senior photographer and moved to London. He was often on Royal duties and in 1952 was in the official party covering the Duchess of Kent's Tour to Singapore and Malaya

    He was diverted to Korea and his photographs dramatically illustrated the soldiers life ... see sleeping soldier from Daily Graphic December 1952.

    When Tom died in 1975 his press colleagues prepared a printers plate of that same page from 1952 and presented it to his widow as a tribute to Tom ... clearly among hu8ndreds of photographs of Royalty (from George VI funeral to Royal weddings), Sports events etc ... the Korean photos stood out for them... That tribute is on our wall and we remember ...

    Attached Files:

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  12. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Thanks very much for adding that smashing tribute to your uncle and the images he took.
  13. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

  14. 4jonboy

    4jonboy Daughter of a 56 Recce

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  15. 4jonboy

    4jonboy Daughter of a 56 Recce

  16. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

  17. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery

  18. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

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