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Canada’s Senator Yonah Martin arrives in Korea, goes right to British memorial services at Solma-ri

 

Senator Yonah Martin and good friend Mr. Chi Kap-chong, chairman of the United Nations Korean War Allies Association share some moments at the British shrine that is set in the base of Hill 235, Gloster Hill, near Solma-ri, where the British 29th Independent Infantry Brigade fought a decisive three-day battle in April, 1951, and held back massive enemy forces seeking to break through to Seoul.

The 1st Battalion of the Gloucestershire Regiment sustained nearly 100 percent casualties, except for a small team of survivors from D Company who broke through enemy lines by heading northward into their established forces instead of trying to break  out ahead of them. All of the other regiments saw very heavy action as well, including the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers, the Royal Ulster Rifles, the attached Belgian Capital Battalion, and Centurion tank troops from the 8th King’s Royal Irish Hussars. The infantry units were supported closely by troops from the 170th Independent Mortar Battalion, Royal Artillery and by the 45th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery.

The 10th Battalion Combat Team (Motorized) of the Philippine Expeditionary Force to Korea (PEFTOK) was also temporarily attached to the 29th Brigade during the battle.

Mr. Chi is the gentleman who is responsible for the development and placement of all of the principal monuments in Korea that commemorate the UN Forces from the various allied nations. He conceived of the idea, got the Korean government and local governments to provide support and over the course of many years helped erect no less than 21 major monuments in Korea on landmarks of historical significance to the forces from each participating nation.

Mr. Chi has attended every Canadian commemoration service held at Kapyong since the Canadian War Memorial was placed there in the late 1980’s, except for a recent illness that reuired very serious chest surgery. He is now well recovered, and, as the photograph shows, fit and capable.

He was a news correspondent during the Korean War. When Seoul was captured at the outset of the war he put a red handkerchief on his arm and pretended to be a North Korean special agent, thereby bluffing himself to freedom across the Imjin River. His wife is very charming, highly respected medical doctor.

Mr. Chi holds the Order of the British Empire from the United Kingdom and Canada's Meritorious Service Medal. Senator Martin holds Korea's Order of Diplomatic Service Merit.

After participating in ceremonies marking the 60th anniversary of the Battle of the Imjin River on Saturday, April 23, Senator Yonah Martin of the Canadian Senate had a business tea meeting with Korea’s new Minister of Patriots and Veterans Affairs, Park Sung Choon.

Before being appointed to his ministerial post by Korea's President Lee Myung-bak this year General Choon had a high profile career in the ROK Army. He had commanded two different divisions and before his military retirement he was in charge of military intelligence services at the Ministry of National Defence.

Minister of Patriots and Veterans Affairs General Park Sung Choon speaks to Commonwealth veterans during the Battle of the Imjin River services in Gloster Valley. General Park had a very distinguished career in the ROK Army and is a very popular minister. He is dedicated to looking after all veterans and to paying honour and tribute to all those who have served Korea in defence of freedom, all through the nation’s long history.

During the meeting Senator Martin presented some matters of particular interest to Canada’s veterans and to her as their advocate. Her brief reportedly was very well received by Minister Park Sung Choon.

In the afternoon all 75 Canadians in the revisit group were scheduled to go to Outpost Sang Seung along the Demilitarized Zone. The outpost, called "post typhoon" in English, overlooks by a few hundred metres distance, Hill 355.

Hill 355 will be of greater significance to many of the veterans in the revisit group than Gapyeong, where commemoration ceremonies will be held on Easter Sunday.

After the front line was stabilized along the present DMZ boundary every Canadian infantry battalion at one time or other served on hill 355. In fact, more Canadians lost their lives in defence of that position and in fighting patrols and actions along its flanks than on any other position in Korea.

The 2nd Battalion of the Royal 22e Regiment fought a hectic, miserable week-long battle on a position between Hill 355 and Hill 227 in November, 1951.

The position was held by D Company under Captain Real Liboiron. They fought off repeated enemy attacks and sustained 13 soldiers killed in action.In the platoon commanded by Lieutenant MacDuff, every soldier was wounded.

Captain Liboiron was awarded an immediate Distinguished Service Order after the action. Corporal Leo Major was awarded a Distinguished Conduct Medal for leading a team of submachine gun armed volunteers onto the slopes of Hill 227 and around Lieutenant MacDuff's platoon and inflicting heavy casualties on the enemy. It was Corporal Major’s second award of the DCM, which was the second highest award for valour in the British Commonwealth, next to the Victoria Cross.

The 1st Battalion of The Royal Canadian Regiment will remember the position with deep, strong feelings. From August through October in 1951, they held Hill 355, rotating companies to serve on the deadly Gibraltar summit, which was often under merciless artillery barrage.

The Royals lost more than 40 soldiers killed in action and more than 100 wounded on Hill 355 in the period that they held the vast position.

On the night of October 23, the enemy fired a barrage of 1,500 shells onto the Gibraltar position within quarter of an hour and then storm troopers raced over the blasted trenchworks, seeking prisoners. That night 18 Royals were killed, 35 were wounded and 14 were taken prisoner. B Company took the brunt of the attack.

The 3rd Battalion of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry was holding Hill 355 on July 27, 1953, on which night the last shell was fired and the war ended.

Bless them all.

 

British veterans march past at Solma ri. Sixty years ago they were all trim and full of fire. They are this day, but the years have wearied them – just a little. A few who served on that very ground 60 years ago spent nearly three years after that as prisoners of war up near the Yalu River. Among them was the late General Sir Anthony Farrar-Hockley, then a cocky young captain and adjutant of the Glosters. Before the remainder of the battalion, including 200 wounded, surrendered to the enemy, he had personally led charges against them. During the long forced marches to the prison settlement, Farrar-Hockley escaped four times, only to be recaptured and beaten. On one of his escapes he was free for two days before being recaptured in the home of North Korean farmers. General Farrar-Hockley was at Solma-ri in 2001 for the 50th anniversary of the Battle of the Imjin River.

 

Guard of Honour is posted at the British Memorial. The Canadian soldiers are detached from Canadian Forces Base Gagetown and are on temporary duty in Korea serving as the United Nations Command Guard of Honour. It is a regular personnel contribution made from time to time by Canada.

 

 

British veterans return to join up with comrades after placing wreaths at the Memorial.

 

Veterans present scholarships to students from Paju at the close of the ceremonies. The 250,000 won scholarships are in the same denomination as those that will be presented by Canadian Veterans to Kapyong Buk Middle School students in Kapyong (Gapyeong) on Easter Sunday.

 

Senator Martin meets a very significant veteran of the Korean War. Mr. D. S. Choi was a ROK Army officer and the official interpreter for the British artillery regiment during the Battle of the Imjin River in April, 1951. Mr. Choi’s mother was the “matchmaker” who introduced Senator Martin’s parents. With them is Mr. Choi’s youngest son. Korean War Veterans would do well to learn Mr. Choi’s diet and exercise regimen. He is 84 years old and participates regularly with a martial arts exercise group.

 

Head table on Saturday night at the Seoul Plaza Hotel in central Seoul. A lavish reception for the veterans revisit group of 75 Canadians and 13 Canadian soldiers serving with the United Nations Command Guard of Honour was held by the Canada Korea Society, whose distinguished members have significant business, political and personal connections in both Korea and Canada. Many former cabinet ministers are members of the Society. The hotel is located across the grand plaza from the Seoul City Hall. Although now being significantly modified, the city hall remained the same as it had throughout the Korean War until major renovations and alterations began recently. Note the chamber music ensemble from the British military band which is directly behind them. The music must have been heavy of the ears of the dignitaries, but one of them, Lieutenant Colonel John Bishop at left could tolerate it. John’s ears were badly damaged by artillery fire in 1951 while he was serving in Korea as a corporal and section leader. John spent a career in the Canadian Army and in the late 1980’s was the Canadian Defence Attache in Seoul. He is now the national president of the Korea Veterans Association of Canada and leader of the group of 75 Canadians now revisiting Korea. The gentleman to his left was not identified but the gentleman who is second from John’s left is Chong Chong Mo, vice chairman of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Korea. Mr. Chong is the chairman of a Korean corporation and makes business trips to Canada every year. He is a very strong supporter of Canada’s veterans. A prominent Canadian who also is vice chairman of the Society is Michael Arcamone, who is president and chief executive officer of GM Korea, which produces one out of five of every Chevrolets sold in the world. 
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