The British Korean Veterans Association (Ireland) flag has been “marched off” for the last time in front of the final muster of veterans who fought in the conflict almost 70 years ago.
At an emotional service yesterday in Belfast marking the 67th anniversary of the Korean War, veterans of the conflict gathered from throughout Ireland and England to recall their service and remember lost colleagues.
Between 1950 and 1953, hundreds of soldiers from throughout Northern Ireland and the Republic served in Korea in a war that claimed more military lives than the Falklands, Iraq and Afghanistan combined.
Most served with the Royal Ulster Rifles (RUR) which lost 157 men, and the 8th Kings Royal Irish Hussars which lost 10 tanks. Others served with a number of British regiments, as well as in Commonwealth and United States uniforms.
Now, nearly 70 years later, at Clonaver Barracks in east Belfast, the final muster has taken place for those Royal Ulster Rifle survivors who faced the horrors of Korean battles such as at the Battle of Imjin River and at the Battle of Kayong – known by veterans as the Battle Happy Valley.
Among those taking leading roles in the service of remembrance were Captain Richard Singleton, who served alongside the Royal Ulster Rifles as a lance bombardier with the Royal Artillery; former RUR Sergeant Major William McConnell; Albert Morrow who was a lance corporal with the RUR; Colonel Robin Charley who was a captain during the conflict; Simon (Fran) Gormon who travelled from Kent to be with his former RUR colleagues; and Reverend Canon Bob Jennings, from Wicklow who, as a chaplain at the time, travelled throughout Korea with a cross made from an ordnance shell.
A spokesperson for the association said: “Sunday, April 23 marked the final time the British Korean Veterans Association (Ireland) flag is to be ‘marched off’, as many of the veterans are now wheelchair-bound and unable to participate fully.
“The decision to make this the final muster of veterans was taken for health reasons, with the former servicemen now aged in their late 80s and 90s. It was an emotional day for everyone involved as it marked the end of an era.”
The British Korean Veterans Association was formed in 1981. Since its formation, many veterans of the Korean War, and those who served in the peace keeping forces in Korea and Japan after the war, have become members.