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Korean War veterans honoured at 70th anniversary event in Scotland

28 July 2023
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Serving members of the Armed Forces and Korean War Veterans gathered at the Scottish Korean War Memorial to mark the 70th Anniversary of the end of the Korean War.

Similar events took place around the country, with Chief of the Defence Staff, Admiral Sir Tony Radakin leading tributes in London’s Horse Guards Parade to remember those who served in the conflict. It is expected that over 1,000 people will attend the ceremony in London, where wreaths will be laid outside the British Army Headquarters.

Royal Navy, Royal Marines, British Army, Royal Air Force and Royal British Legion Scotland laid wreaths at the smaller, but no less significant event in Scotland. A small number of Korean War Veterans also attended the Service of Commemoration at the Korean War Memorial in a quiet corner of Beecraigs Country Park in West Lothian.

Among the Veterans who attended was Adam McKenzie who served with The Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders in 1955 as part of the peacekeeping force which followed the war and is responsible for having the Memorial built, the only one in Scotland which is purely for the Korean War.

Adam’s overriding memory is how cold the winters were. “I can remember being given an orange and it was like a cricket ball, we watched the chefs boiling eggs to thaw them out before they could be fried, it was that cold.” He said.

Adam was joined by fellow veterans Douglas Beattie and Ronnie Wilson who have both consistently attended the annual service that is held here. A service that is attended by an ever-diminishing number.

When asked how being here made him feel, Ronnie replied with a tear in his eye: “Sad. Very sad.” The place clearly resonates with him and his fellow veterans.

The Memorial, constructed in the form of an oriental pagoda and surrounded by 1,100 Korean Firs (one to represent each British life lost) which were grown from seeds sent by the Republic of Korea in the aftermath, is a living monument to The Fallen.

It is truly an honour to stand beside these veterans who served in the Korean War and to pay our respects to those who did not return. Many of these men were already veterans of the Second World War, who had rightly earned the respect and gratitude of their country and who should have been enjoying life after that enormous conflict.

Brigadier Andy Muddiman

A Royal Navy Chaplain led tributes to the 81,000 British personnel who served in the conflict with Royal Marine Band buglers conducting the Last Post and a Piper from the Royal Regiment of Scotland playing a poignant Lament.

Brigadier Andy Muddiman, Naval Regional Commander Scotland and Northern Ireland attended the Ceremony, laying a wreath on behalf of the Royal Navy.

“It is truly an honour to stand beside these veterans who served in the Korean War and to pay our respects to those who did not return. Many of these men were already veterans of the Second World War, who had rightly earned the respect and gratitude of their country and who should have been enjoying life after that enormous conflict.” Said Brigadier Muddiman.

“Instead, they found themselves being called upon once again to serve on the front line in a faraway country and it’s a shame that this further service and in some cases, sacrifice isn’t more widely recognised. So, it is truly a privilege to have this opportunity to say, ‘thank you’ to them and, to represent the currently serving Armed Forces Personnel, who owe so much to our predecessors.”

The Korean War began on June 25,1950 when the Northern Korean People’s Army, backed by the Soviet Union, launched a military operation to conquer South Korea and unify the territories of the Peninsula under the North Korean communist regime.

The UK and the United States were among several nations that heeded the United Nations’ call to take up arms in defence of South Korea, with 81,000 British personnel serving in the theatre of operations.

Armistice negotiations began in July 1951, but it wasn’t until two years later that a peace agreement was signed at Panmunjom and hostilities between the two nations finally ceased.

The conflict is often referred to as the ‘forgotten war’ because of the relatively scant attention it receives in comparison to other conflicts of the era, namely the Second World War and the Cold War.

 

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