A Day, and a War, to be remembered …The Korean War Armistice 60 years on

Written by: Warwick Morris  |  Posted on: August 1st, 2013

Alrewas (8)

Parade of Standards

Following the Service of Thanksgiving in Westminster Abbey on 11 July, several hundred Korean War veterans from all corners of Britain attended the annual Korean War Commemoration Day in the National Memorial Arboretum, Alrewas, Staffordshire on 27 July 2013.

In this special 60th anniversary year the turn-out by veterans, family members and friends was particularly impressive. The packed Service of Thanksgiving, movingly led by The Rev Jonathan Woodhouse, Chaplain-General to the Forces, included a parade of standards from the different British Korean Veterans Association (BKVA) branches, a fine tribute from the new ROK Ambassador HE Mr Sungnam Lim, and the rousing singing of both countries’ National Anthems. Music was provided by Korean military musicians in traditional dress, in Britain to take part in the Edinburgh Tattoo, and the resplendent Royal Signals (Northern) band.

After this the veterans formed up, spick and span, on parade, to be inspected by BKVA President Major General Mike Swindells and the ROK Ambassador, accompanied by BKVA Chairman Col Gadd, the ROK Defence Attache and your Chairman. They then marched, to much applause from spectators, to the BKVA Garden and its memorial. There a brief ceremony and laying of wreaths, including one from the Anglo-Korean Society and white roses laid by Lady Rothermere, took place. A bugler sounded the last Post and Reveille as those present remembered with heads bowed the 1000 plus British participants who never returned from the War. As the cover of the programme for the day reminded us all: ‘Freedom is not free.’


There was a very special atmosphere that day, helped by the warm sunshine throughout and the large number of attendees. Korean musicians and traditional dancers added to the sense of occasion. On a personal basis it was lovely to renew contact with a number of veterans whom we had met in recent years in Seoul during revisits, and now, as then, I felt privileged to be among so many who had come through so much. The arrangements were carried out as expected with military precision, and the whole Arboretum, not least the BKVA Garden, looked immaculate. During the service the BKVA handed the Arboretum’s Director a cheque to contribute to the maintenance of the Garden in perpetuity. With its many and varied memorials, plus restaurant and shop, the Arboretum is well worth visiting.

Certainly in 2013 the significant role played by British Forces in the Korean War is not being overlooked in this country. Nor is it ever forgotten in Korea, as the ROK Ambassador made clear, on a day when The Duke of Gloucester was attending War Veterans events in Seoul. And with the State Visit of the President of the ROK Park Geun-hye taking place this autumn as the two countries celebrate 130 years of diplomatic relations and friendship, the focus on past, present and future bilateral links will be much in evidence.

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