Posted : 2014-04-27 18:23
Updated : 2014-04-27 18:23

British Korean War veterans honored

Korean War veterans from British Commonwealth states salute during a ceremony to commemorate the 63rd anniversary of the Somal-ri battle, also known as the Gloster Hill battle among the British, in Paju City, Gyeonggi Province, on Wednesday. / Yonhap

By Kang Hyun-kyung

PAJU, Gyeonggi Province — Tens of British veterans of the Korean War marched with the British defense attache Andrew Cliffe to the newly-created Gloster Hill Memorial Park in this border city, Wednesday.

They, along with tens of veterans from other British Commonwealth states, including Canada, participated in the opening ceremony of the memorial park created by the Paju City government to commemorate the 63rd anniversary of the bloody battle in Solma-ri, also known as the Gloster Hill Battle in England.

The local authorities funded and established the monument of "The 700 Berets" inside the park to pay their respects for the sacrifice and contributions of the 652 British soldiers who were in a severe fight with a 30,000-strong Chinese army in April, 1951.

Paju City explained that the memorial park project also aims to teach the younger generation that the affluence and prosperity they now enjoy is partly owed to the fallen British Gloucester soldiers who fought for the freedom of this country.

British veterans, who are now in their 80s, said that they feel rewarded as they see that South Korea has achieved miraculous prosperity six decades after the bloody war.

John Edward Philips, who served during the later stages of the Korean War, said that his tour of duty in South Korea six decades ago was worthwhile.

"It was an honor to fight for freedom and I would do it again," he said. "(What he and his British colleagues did) gives the next generations a big chance to be free, have their own lives and do what they want to do."

Philips said he had his 19th birthday two days after the Battle of Imjin and his perception of South Korea then was that of a wilderness.

He is one of the 64 Korean War veterans who were invited by the Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs to the annual tour program to Korea.

Veterans from other British Commonwealth states, such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand, also joined the week-long program.

Nearly 56,000 British soldiers fought during the Korean War, and of them, 2,674 were killed. Canada sent 27,000 soldiers, Australian 8,500 and New Zealand 4,000, according to the veterans ministry.

British Ambassador to Korea Scott Wightman expressed his deep gratitude to Paju City for the creation of the memorial park to commemorate the sacrifices of the British soldiers.

"I am overwhelmed by the generosity of Paju City and Gyeonggi Province putting together such a beautiful and dignified memorial park," he said.

"I think it's really a wonderful representation of both the heroism and bravery of the people who took part in the action and also the commitment of the people in Paju not to forget."

The brand-new park was established on 7,831 square meters of a hilly area of the border city.

On April 22, 1951, hundreds of British soldiers were cut off in that hilly area.

Unlike other United Nations forces, such as the Belgium army which successfully withdrew in the face of the massive Chinese offensive, the British soldiers were isolated there following the failure of their withdrawal and the U.N. forces' relief effort.

These soldiers were in severe difficulties as ammunition was low and prospects were poor. But they fought back against the Chinese troops. The battle ended with many casualties.

There were 59 dead with 526 captured, of whom 180 were wounded. Of those wounded, 34 later died in captivity.

At that time, the Gloster Hill battle was the bloodiest battle since World War II.

Their sacrifices bought time for the United Nations Forces to regroup and block the Chinese advance on Seoul.

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