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UK Veterans of Korean War Visit Seoul
UK Veterans of Korean War visit a battle ground near Paju.

On Sunday, April 16, 2006 Incheon Airport witnessed emotional scenes as a party of 87 British Veterans of the 1950-1953 Korean war and family members arrived in Seoul – many on their first visit to Korea since their departure over 50 years ago. The visit is a part of the annual commemorations to remember the contribution British and other Commonwealth forces made during the Korean war.

For many veterans, the visit held mixed emotions. Sadness as they remember friends and comrades who fell on the field of battle, but also happiness at meeting old friends again and great pride as they see how South Korea has developed since the devastation of the war.

On the afternoon of Monday 17th April the veterans met at the British Embassy to start their week by sharing stories and reminiscing about old times. Mixing with the veterans, many of whom are in their 70s or 80s, were a number of younger faces as a group of 20 'young reporters' from the British School in Seoul join the group. The children who are working on a project on the Korean War interviewed the old soldiers about their experiences and recollections of the war against the backdrop of photographs from the period.

UK Ambassador to Seoul Warwick Morris and his wife Pamela Jean Morris attending a ceremony near Paju, S. Korea

For many veterans the annual "Gloster Valley" commemorations were the highlight of the week-long visit. The event, held at Seolma-Ri near Munsan on Thursday 20th April, marked the 55th anniversary of the battle of Imjin when heavily outnumbered British forces fought three Divisions of the 63 rd Chinese Communist Army in an encounter which captured the imagination of the world.

The commemorations included a march past by the veterans, a wreath laying service, the presentation of scholarships by the veterans to local school-children, and a Service of Remembrance on Castle Hill – where the British soldiers made their last stand. The event had special poignancy this year as the veterans remembered General Sir Anthony Farrar-Hockley – a hero of the Korean war and distinguished military historian who passed away last month.

As many as 400 Korean, US and other VIPs were present on 20 April, as well as a strong contingent from Seoul's British community, including British Ambassador Warwick Morris, who said:

UK Honor Guard marching

"We are delighted to welcome British veterans back to Korea - for many it will be their first sight of South Korea since the war. The visit is an opportunity for them and family members to recall memories of that war, and to see how the devastated country they left has developed so impressively over the last 50 years. I am particularly pleased that they will also meet many young people during their visit, to pass on glimpses of history and stories of heroism to the next generation."

Media were invited to attend the Gloster Valley commemorations on Thursday 20th April. For press enquiries contact Jenny Hong on 02 3210 5562 /hp 019 361 7550 at the British Embassy.

Britain was second only to the United States in the contribution it made to the UN effort in Korea. 87,000 British troops took part in the Korean conflict, and 1,109 British servicemen lost their lives and 2,674 were wounded. Some 800 are buried in the UN Memorial Cemetery in Korea in Busan. Of the many engagements involving British forces, the best known was the "Battle of Imjin River" fought by 29 British Infantry Brigade in April 1951.

ROK Army's 25th Division Band

The 87 Veterans and family members arrived in Seoul on Sunday 16 April. Their visit included trips to the National Cemetery, to Busan to visit the UN Memorial Cemetery in Korea and to Kapyong. They also joined fellow Veterans from other Commonwealth countries at commemoration ceremonies.

Scholarships were given to local school children at the Gloster Valley commemorations. The scholarships are made possible due to the kind sponsorship by a number of British and Korean companies, organisations and individuals. A full list of sponsors can be provided on request.

General Sir Anthony Farrar-Hockley died on Saturday 11th March 2006 at the age of 81. Farrar-Hockley lead the last stand of the heavily outnumbered British forces at the battle of the Imjin River in 1951. His order to the regiment's drum-major, at the height of the battle, to counter the nerve-wracking blare of the Chinese assault trumpets with snatches of British Army bugle calls passed into the regimental legend. Farrar-Hockley was also a renowned historian and his book 'the Edge of the Sword', recently translated into Korean has become compulsory reading for young Korean officers at the Military Academy.




 

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