BKS Korean War Veterans’ Event, 5th May 2022

Written by: Douglas Barrett  |  Posted on: May 14th, 2022

British Korea Society Event to honour the Veterans of the Korean War

at the National Army Museum

5th May 2022

 

 

The British Korea Society held an event to honour the Veterans of the Korean War on 5 May at the National Army Museum. The event had been delayed for close to two years due to Covid-19 restrictions. It was great to finally honour our Veterans and more importantly record their thoughts for posterity of what it was like to be in Korea during “The Forgotten War”.

 

The event was split into two parts – a plenary where eight of the Vets shared their memories of the war; and a social event after the main plenary.

 

The plenary featured two groups sharing their experiences. The first consisted of Sir Willie Purves who spoke about leadership; Ron Yardley was the sole representative from The Navy; Edgar Green told us about the early days in Korea; and Brigadier Brian Parrit represented the Artillery.

 

The second group was Vic Swift from The Engineers; Rob Temple who was a tank engineer; Sgt Alan Guy from the Royal Medical Corps; and George Denning from the Commonwealth Forces. The sessions were opened by our Chairman Martin Uden and expertly hosted by Prof Michael Cullinane who has written a book on the recollections of Vets who served in the Korean War.

 

Some themes were prominent and stuck in the memory. Firstly – it was cold! A cold that is difficult to imagine. The first year of the war featured record low temperatures of -30C and more. And our troops were simply not equipped for such brutal conditions. Their kit was totally inadequate – some only had tropical gear and if it wasn’t for American soldiers handing out winter clothes including parkas it would have been hard to survive. We also heard that the kit did improve as the war went on.

 

The weather made it difficult to service vehicles. Your hand could stick to the metal. A lack of spare parts meant that other vehicles were cannibalised to keep other trucks and jeeps on the road.

 

We also heard that much of the fighting was at very close quarters – and how our troops were greatly outmanned by the Chinese army. And yet they fought; many survived but some made the ultimate sacrifice.

 

The food – mostly it came from a ration box and was the same every day; generally very tasteless. We all got to see a ration box which was passed around the audience. As the war went on – and finally came to an end – the troops managed to get fresh food including fresh bread.

 

I’ll also never forget Ron Yardley’s description of trying to sleep on HMS Belfast when the huge 12-inch guns were firing on the enemy. Not only was the noise totally deafening, but if you were trying to sleep you would have been lifted out of your hammock and may even hit the roof where you were sleeping.

 

At the end of the plenary Ambassador Kim noted that the Veterans are the closest to our hearts – and helped Korea on its journey to the country is it today.

 

We had a live audience of close to 100 including 20 Veterans in attendance with many others watching online. Those who were in attendance mingled and spoke with The Veterans after the main session. We also shared some wonderful food and wine. The National Army Museum was a fitting venue and we are grateful for their help in making the occasion so special.

 

Our thanks also go to The National Heritage Lottery Fund who helped to fund the event.

 

We would also like to thank Ambassador Gunn Kim and his team for their help and assistance during the event.

 

Thanks also to our Chairman Martin Uden whose drive and persistence over three years finally made this event happen.

 

Finally we would like to thank The Veterans for coming to the event, sharing their incredible experiences and for helping to shape Korea into the amazing country it is today.

If you would like to see a full recording of the event, please go to: https://www.crowdcast.io/e/koreanwarveterans

 

 

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