William Swarbrick of 20 Field Regiment, Royal Artillery arrived in Korea in February 1953. He recalls:
“When I came home after being away for 12 months there was no home coming party. When I met friends and they said that they hadn’t seen me for a while, I told them I had been to Korea. They usually asked where it was in the world. I don’t think many people knew about the Korean War and it came to be known as the ‘Forgotten War’.”
Following the end of Japanese occupation in 1945 it was agreed by the United States and the Soviet Union to divide Korea into two occupation zones. What was intended as a temporary border resulted in partition: the communist Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) and the American-backed Republic of Korea (South Korea).
The new governments claimed rule over all of Korea and neither accepted the border as permanent. On 25th June 1950, after years of clashes along the border, the North Korean People’s Army invaded South Korea, overwhelming the south’s forces. In response, the USA called on the United Nations Security Council to invoke the UN Charter and declare the North Koreans as aggressors. This would be the first war in which the UN took an active involvement and called on all members to help the South. The USA was the first to respond with UN combat troops to support South Korea, followed by a further 14 nations, including the UK.
Ken Keld, 2nd Battalion Green Howards recalls digging new fighting pits, bunkers, and trenches.
“Sleep and ‘my time’ was minimal. Through time it got to a point where you could drop off to sleep standing up!... Unfortunately, bed was where we faced our second enemy – the rats. Like humans, rats feel the cold and seek warmth, especially where food is to be had… One particular time, I had two bars of chocolate and was eating one in the dark and the other bar had disappeared. I found a rat nibbling it at the bottom of my so-called bed. When I threw my mess tin at the offender, it disappeared so I threw the bar of chocolate away. One of the lads, Ron Smailes, found it and simply broke off the nibbled bit and ate the rest. Fortunately, he lived to tell the tale!”