Korean War Memorial
In June 1950, North Korea crossed the 38th Parallel and invaded the South. The resulting Korean War was the first real test of the United Nations following the organisation’s inception in 1945. Members were called upon to uphold the principles of the United Nations to ‘maintain international peace and security’. In answer to this call for action, and despite being on their knees in the wake of the Second World War, Britain and Commonwealth countries sent Armed Forces to join 16 other countries to fight in defence of South Korea’s freedom.
It is estimated that 100,000 British servicemen and women served during this time and in the three years of brutal conflict British losses amounted to over 1,000 killed; many more were wounded and suffered as Prisoners of War. Yet, until 2013 Britain was the only participating nation in the Korean War not to have a memorial in their capital city. The so called ‘Forgotten War’ may only be a footnote in Britain's public consciousness, but its mass loss of life and the sacrifice of so many in its hour of need is ingrained in the psyche of South Koreans, both young and old. It was in this spirit that The Republic of Korea, through its Embassy in London, approached the Lady R Foundation in late 2012 with a request for assistance to gain planning permission to erect a memorial to the Korean War in central London.
The Lady R Foundation managed the entire project; most importantly, choosing Tony Dyson from Donald Insall Associates as the architect. The process took one year and involved finding a suitable site, designing the monument, choosing the sculptor Philip Jackson, and liaising with the British Korean Veterans Association, Korean Embassy, Westminster City Council, the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, as well as overseeing legal, financial and administrative matters.
In October 2013, permission was granted for the memorial to be built in Victoria Embankment Gardens outside the Ministry of Defence. On the 5th November 2013 South Korea’s president Park Geun-hye was joined by HRH The Duke of Cambridge at a ceremony to break ground for the Korean War memorial as part of her state visit.
Just over a year later, on 3rd December 2014, Korean War Memorial was unveiled by HRH The Duke of Gloucester and Minister Yun Byung-se, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea to a huge audience of Korean Veterans and both British and foreign dignitaries including The Dowager Viscountess Rothermere, Major General GMG Swindells, His Excellency Sungnam Lim, Ambassador of the Republic of Korea, The Rt. Hon. Michael Fallon MP, Secretary of State for Defence, General Sir Nicholas Houghton, Chief of the Defence Staff and General Kim Yo Hwan, Chief of Staff, The Republic of Korea Army.
We received substantial media coverage of the event showing that, although long overdue, this memorial was greatly desired by the Korean veterans. It will serve as a permanent reminder of the sacrifices of British troops during the war and, importantly, a place for Korean Veterans and future generations to go to remember.