Joined: 14 Dec 2006
Location: Edinburgh (From Sutherland)
|Posted: Mon Apr 02, 2012 8:04 am Post subject: Dundee Korean War Memorial
|Location: Dundee City Chambers
This memorial was recently unveiled. It has been reported on Yonhap whatever that is?
Dundee veterans of Korean War receive long overdue recognition
By Bryan Kay
DUNDEE, Scotland, April 2
Their names represent foggy reminders of what became Britain's "Forgotten War," fought in a country little known or understood in the United Kingdom at the time. Today, they are freshly carved into the city of Dundee's annals of history, presented together to the public for the first time in the city in recognition of their sacrifice more than 60 years ago on the Korean Peninsula, one of the final acts and legacy of the local Korean War Veterans' Association.
As a group of soldiers, they number just 10 lost souls. But they make up the known local deficit of a much larger tragedy: Lost on the battlefields of Korea between 1950-53, they are part of the nearly 1,100 British casualties in the death toll amassed during the conflict. Veterans point out that the number totals more than the sum killed in Britain's frequently quoted wars in the Falkland Islands, Iraq and Afghanistan combined.
The belated honor -- a plaque fixed inside Dundee's City Chambers, home of city officialdom and its lord provost, the Scottish equivalent of a mayor -- is widely regarded as long overdue.
Local residents Jimmy Devlin and Bill Fyffe, who served in the Korean conflict and helped bring the tribute to fruition, were on hand in late January alongside some of the surviving family members of the fallen soldiers as the plaque was formally unveiled to the public.
Jim Devlin (third from right) and Bill Fyffe (to Devlin's right) at the plaque's unveiling with Dundee's lord provost, John Letford (fourth from right) (Courtesy of Dundee city government)
Yet, the small piece of recognition might never have come to pass had it not been for a casual conversation between Devlin and John Letford, Dundee's lord provost, and a visit by Fyffe to a war memorial in the nearby town of Blairgowrie which, he noticed, included the names of two local men who lost their lives in Korea.
"If a small town like Blairgowrie can have one, why not Dundee," mused 81-year-old Fyffe, who served with the then Scottish regiment, the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, in the 27th Infantry Brigade during the push north out of the Busan Perimeter from late summer 1950, in a recent interview in his Dundee home. "Jimmy mentioned to the lord provost that we don't have a monument to the Dundee lads killed in Korea. He had said, 'Leave it with me,' and now we are going ahead with it, paid for by the local government."
For British Korean War veterans, any kind of government recognition -- token, begrudging, magnanimous or otherwise -- is received with open arms. Many rail against the perceived second-rate status their war efforts have appeared to attract since hostilities ended in 1953.
The most lauded tribute to Britain's Korean War dead is a memorial garden in the foothills near the town of Bathgate, a short drive west of the Scottish capital Edinburgh -- but it only came about by way of the grassroots fundraising efforts of surviving veterans themselves.
"It does bother you," said Fyffe, seated by a window in his living room offering spectacular views down over Dundee and the River Tay that forms its southern border, and surrounded on each side by an array of military history books. "The plaque we have at Westminster in London, it is out of the way. If you look at the one for the Falklands, it is a big one."
In a sense, the forgotten nature of the conflict was reflected in a local media campaign by Devlin and Fyffe as they strove to track down some of the surviving relatives of the 10 Dundee men whose names adorn the new plaque.
"We couldn't seem to get anybody really interested," explains Fyffe. "You would think by now that they would have been able to provide some information about the whereabouts of relatives. But these are the problems we have after 60 years. Albert Lorimer, for example, never saw his daughter because she was born when he was over in Korea. But she is in Australia now, so she couldn't be expected to come for the unveiling."
Another point of contention among veterans has been a British government policy that bans survivors from officially wearing campaign medals awarded by the South Korean government for their efforts during the war. The British government, for its part, recently said it planned to review the policy.
"Look at South Korea now," says Fyffe, "Was that not something worth fighting for?"
It is on the southern side of the demilitarized zone of the Korean Peninsula where many veterans of the affair feel most able to speak freely of their memories, and where they feel most respected. Fyffe, who suffered shrapnel wounds at the Nakdong River on Sept. 6, 1950, has visited South Korea four times since retiring from his job at a Dundee factory 21 years ago. Each visit includes a trip to the cemetery where many of his comrades are buried, and on each occasion he makes sure to visit the graves of the "Dundee lads." And every time, he says, South Koreans show unremitting respect, something for which he says he is eternally grateful.
Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders soldier Bill Fyffe (second from right, back row) is pictured with his platoon in Korea, March 1951. (Courtesy of Bill Fyffe)
Taking pride of place on his living room wall is a letter, framed, sent in 2010 to mark the 60th anniversary of the outbreak of hostilities on the peninsula from South Korean President Lee Myung-bak thanking him for his part in the war.
Given the advancing years of the surviving veterans and the fact the 60th anniversary of the end of the war falls in July 2013, just 15 months away, members of his local veterans' association plan to wind up their activities.
"We feel that, by then, that is probably the best we can do," says Mr Fyffe. "We are all getting older now and we increasingly don't have the members."
So does Fyffe have one last long-haul foray to South Korea for the 2013 60th anniversary in him? "I am 81 now," he considers. "I would like to think I am fit enough to go, but I don't know." But perhaps the true answer to that question was revealed as he first welcomed me into his home. Asked how his day had been so far, he remarked: "Every day is a good day at my age."