korean vets voice conflict concerns

Korean War veterans Tom Gardner (81), Peter MacKenzie (81), Samuel Kemp (79) and William Lockhart (81) at the Scottish Korean War Memorial
Korean War veterans Tom Gardner (81), Peter MacKenzie (81), Samuel Kemp (79) and William Lockhart (81) at the Scottish Korean War Memorial

Korean War veterans say it’s time the hostilities ended - 60 years after fighting there.

Threats of war from North Korea against South Korea, Japan and the USA have been bellowing out from Pyongyang over the past few weeks, heightening tensions in the area.

There are fears the North is about to launch a missile forcing the allies into defensive measures, including troop movements and deploying anti-missile systems as the world holds its breath hoping for a peaceful outcome.

The latest situation has brought memories flooding back for local veterans who fought in the Korean War of 1950-53 and they are desperate to see another conflict avoided.

Tom Gardner (81), from Falkirk, was a painter and decorator apprentice when he was called up for National Service along with pal Tommy Haldane, who was also nearly finished an apprenticeship in plastering.

Tom deferred his posting with the Black Watch until after his apprenticeship ended but Tommy took his up straight away, a decision that cost him his life.

Tom said: “Tommy was my school friend. I was 20 at the time, the same age as him. Tommy didn’t take the exemption and tragically it cost him his life. His family asked me to look for his grave when I was over there but I couldn’t find it.

“The family were quite dry with me when I came home after the war and I was upset about that, but they just wanted to know where he was.

“They eventually moved to Australia so they could try to find it but it turned out to be a futile exercise. Tommy is listed as ‘missing’ but I’ve since found out there is no known grave for him. His body is still buried over there somewhere.”

He added: “I fought in many battles with the enemy. We were on the frontline right on the 38th parallel, the 

‘‘I was the senior in a three-man crew and got 70 shillings extra in my pay for being the one to stand on the hill popping the mortar bombs.

“We thought we had fixed this 60 years ago. I have short-term memory loss now but the war is still fresh in my mind. There’s been hundreds of instances in that 60 years and it’s time it stopped.

“What’s happening just now stirs up memories and, if it flares up like it did back then, it will only mean more young soldiers dying.”

Peter MacKenzie (81), from Stenhousemuir, joined the Navy when he was 18 and was en route to Hong Kong on HMS Alacrity when war broke out on June 25, 1950. He is also fearful of the North Korean regime.

He said: “They are ruthless, always have been. During the war there were lots of cases of hand to hand combat but they didn’t play by the same gentlemanly ‘Queensberry Rules’ we did. They didn’t care about that.

“Since this began we have had a lot of discussions. It has brought it all back.”