Soldiers of Gloucestershire Museum – Grant Report

Posted by: Lauren Barnes  |  Posted on: February 14th, 2024

In April 2022 I was lucky enough to receive a grant from the British Korean Society to help fund my trip to South Korea. As Director of Soldiers of Gloucestershire Museum the links we have with the people of South Korea are of huge importance to us. We visit each other regularly and it is important that I go to South Korea to pay my respects and to both work on ongoing projects and create new ones.


On the opening day of our visit to South Korea we headed to Busan to meet colleagues at the United Nations Peace Memorial Hall (UNPMH). This is the national museum of South Korea concerning the Korean War. We received a tour of their excellent facility and then had a few high level meetings. The outcomes of these meetings were excellent. Firstly, we reaffirmed our Memorandum of Understanding which had somewhat lapsed during Covid. We currently have an exhibition of portraits at Soldiers of Gloucestershire Museum of the ten surviving veterans of the Battle of Imjin River. These are the work of ex-England Wicketkeeper and prolific artist Jack Russell. An agreement was put in place that these portraits would be shared with UNPMH and they would go on public display in South Korea January 2025. We also began to put in place a joint learning venture where British and Korean students would be offered the same teaching session at our venues. Finally, along with our South Korean colleagues, we were able to go and pay our respects to fallen veterans who are buried at the United Nations cemetery.

On Day two we headed to the city of Paju. This is the area where the Battle of Imjin River was fought, which heavily featured soldiers from the Gloucestershire Regiment. We already have excellent ties with the city and their people and were looking to reaffirm these. Firstly we met the Mayor and City Council and held several meetings. We were especially keen to thank the people of Paju for their generous donation to the people of Gloucester of PPE during the Covid crisis. Along with colleagues, I then attended a summit with businesses from Paju in which we hoped to further economic cooperation between our county and the city of Paju.


On the third day we were given a tour of the DMZ. This was of great importance to me in my role as Director of Soldiers of Gloucestershire Museum. There is perhaps nothing more prominent in reminding people of the extreme division between North and South Korea and for why so many of our soldiers, both British, South Korean and many others, laid their lives down in this conflict.

The afternoon of the same day we visited the National Folk Museum. As someone who has a career in museums and has worked as places like the Ashmolean and IWM it was a truly staggering experience. The museum is brand new and their use of technology to bring the collection to life was on a scale of which I thought unimaginable. In Britain, we are perhaps guilty of thinking we are always at the cutting edge of culture/heritage due to our rich history. Yet what I experienced really opened my eyes to what can be possible with the right attitude and of course investment. We made some good contacts at the museum, and although it is a long-term plan, we hope to host the Folk Museums first ‘outreach gallery’ in Britain.

The final day was the reason that I ultimately made this trip. To be at the site of the Battle of Imjin River on the anniversary was a huge honour. I have always been told how important this battle is in Korean history and how much it means to the people of South Korea. Even so, I assumed that our small party would just arrive at the memorial, quietly lay a wreath and then go on a battlefield tour. I could not have been more wrong! Upon arrival I quickly realised the entire ROK 1st Division were in attendance. There was a band, thirteen different ambassadors from various nations and the highest ranking South Korean officials possible. Again, to be there in person was a great honour but to truly experience how much the South Koreans appreciate the sacrifice of the men whose stories it is now my duty to tell was incredible.

So thank you to the British Korean Society for supporting my trip to the peninsula. I had some amazing experiences and made some great links which will certainly help cultural ties between our two nations flourish well into the future. The Korean War, specifically the Battle of Imjin River, is where the ties between our countries were truly cemented and it is an honour to be a small part of this story.

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