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New memorial for UK servicemen who died in Korean War

By Gillian Sharpe
BBC Scotland News

image captionThe new memorial is located in Witch Craig Wood, near Torphichen, in west Lothian

Veterans of what became known as the "forgotten war" have held a dedication service for a new Scottish Korean War Memorial in West Lothian.

It is 60 years since an armistice was signed, bringing the fighting to an end.

British forces served as part of a United Nations coalition, after Communist North Korea invaded the South, in June 1950.

Nearly 1,100 British service personnel died in the conflict.

These are the memories of two Scots who fought there and have been involved in bringing the memorial to reality.

Permanent memorial

It is a gentle climb to a peaceful site in the Bathgate Hills - a place which reminded veterans of a Korean landscape.

There was a memorial here already but this latest one is designed to be more of a permanent structure.

The site is planted with Korean firs and Scottish trees which represent those who died.

image captionBob Clelland and Adam McKenzie fought in the Korean War

In the centre is a building in a traditional Korean style and on it are the names of the British service personnel who lost their lives.

"We didn't even know where Korea was," laughs Adam McKenzie. He is now in his 80s but as a young man he spent nearly a year there with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.

One incident sticks in his mind - the Battle on Hill 282. Out of date maps meant that the enemy was able to fire down on them from higher ground.

"We called for an airstrike and we got an airstrike," explains Mr McKenzie.

"The only problem was that it landed on top of us instead of the feature it was supposed to land on.

"We lost quite a number of men that day, in fact between killed and wounded we lost approximately 100 men."

Many of those who fought in Korea were young men doing their National Service, most had little idea of where and what they were going into - others were in the regular army.

"To young, uninitiated laddies," recalls Bob Clelland, who was 19 when he went to Korea in 1951, "it was, if you could describe it like this, a very magical experience.

'Display of blood'

"You could see the tracer bullets, you could see the rocket batteries and the shelling that was being carried out and, of course, we were terribly excited and enthralled."

But that soon changed as they began to see action.

"While we were marching up this hill, casualties were coming down the hill, some swathed in bandages, some on stretchers.

image captionThe new memorial will give veterans and families of those who died a place of remembrance

"The display of blood was very, very obvious and we felt, what the hang is this we're going into, is this a butcher's shop?

"All of a sudden at that stage I think we turned from boys into men and we became terribly mature and serious-minded."

When they finally got home, people seemed to know very little about what had happened in Korea. There was a feeling that it was all very far away.

"It bothered me from the point of view that so many of our troops were killed and they hadn't a full appreciation of it," says Mr Clelland.

Attitudes though are different in South Korea, and on a recent trip there, Mr McKenzie says he felt "very humble" in the face of the gratitude that was displayed by the general public.

Sixty years on from the armistice and the Korean conflict and its aftermath are once again in the news.

media captionBob Clelland talks about the Korean War

The Korean War Memorial Trust, whose Trustees include the British Korean Veterans Association, West Lothian Council and the Royal British Legion Scotland have collaborated to design and build this new memorial.

Their aim is clear.

"That friends and relatives could come and have a place to think about things and repose and pay their respects to their dead relatives," says Bob Clelland.

"All these men are lying now in Pusan (in South Korea) military cemetery and it's the only contact that their relatives have with them really. People coming up here have expressed that same feeling.

"They feel closer to their relatives reading their name off the name-panels, so I think it's terribly important."

More on this story

  • No peace for Koreas 60 years after war

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