Five local heroes of the ‘other’ forgotten war

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In last week’s article I mentioned the planned event at the South African War Memorial which took place last Sunday.

Several times the phrase “the forgotten war” was used as the speakers recalled how the sheer scale and horror of World War I just a few years later turned minds away from the Boer War.

Thinking about this afterwards my mind turned to that other ‘‘forgotten war’’ on the Korean peninsula and to two old friends and veterans, Peter MacKenzie of Larbert and Bill Lockhart of Maddiston, who, like others who took part in that bitter and bloody struggle, believe that the sacrifices were often lost in the world’s desperate desire to put thoughts of World War II behind them.

So before we bring this long season of war remembrance to an end I want to salute the soldiers and sailors who faced a powerful and ruthless enemy while those back home were celebrating peace.

It was in June 1950 that a United Nations force led by the United States went to the aid of the Korean people in an attempt to prevent communist troops backed by the Chinese from overwhelming the whole peninsula.

For the next three years British forces, most of them national servicemen, faced the might of the enemy and the losses suffered were very great –1090 dead and many thousands wounded – before the uneasy ‘‘armistice’’ which saw the country divided into north and south.

Today the division remains and the ongoing tension which brought ‘‘little rocket man’’ face to face with ‘‘you know who’’ still threatens to erupt into a new conflict.

These modern events may help to rekindle a general interest in what happened in the 1950s but for the veterans and their families memories of the three years of war were long kept alive by the Korean War Veterans’ Association and by the very special Scottish Korean War Memorial garden on the south-west corner of Beecraigs Country Park near Torphichen.

A few years ago, at the invitation of Peter and Bill, I attended a very moving service on the site where those who gave their lives are remembered including five from Falkirk district.

Old soldiers and sailors had travelled from all over Scotland to remember their fallen comrades, something they had been doing there since the hillside garden was created nearly 20 years ago with 110 Korean pine trees and a little wooden pagoda.

Listed inside are the names of those who died including two privates from the King’s Own Scottish Borderers, H. M Brady and Thomas Haldane from Camelon, who were killed on November 5, 1951.

Lance Corporal D F Allan of the Argylls from Denny died a year earlier and Private W Steven of the Black Watch in November 1952.

The fifth was Private A Buchan, another Argyll, whose family came from Grangemouth.

Many more local men served and, happily, are still with us to keep the memories of the conflict alive.

Unfortunately, the nature of the sloping memorial site and long periods of wet weather damaged the foundations of the pagoda and a costly refurbishment was required.

It was replaced by a more substantial building and the South Korean government sent a traditional craftsman to oversee much of the work.

The result is a stunning memorial garden which is very well worth a visit.

The men who once marched there are now fewer in number with the passing of the years and the association was disbanded a few years ago – but as long as the garden remains the sacrifice of those who fell and those who served will not be forgotten.