“I decided to donate my medals to the people of South Korea, because … you rebuilt your country and what you’ve done, it truly touches me. (The donation) is just to show you about my appreciation about what you’ve done, and I sincerely hope that the future generation of South Korea will follow their forebears and look after this beautiful place of yours.”
“I really hope that North Korea will realize the repercussions of being divided. The whole world wants to get Korea whole again as a beautiful, peaceful and loving place where people can all live together. I want my ashes to be brought back here to stay here in this country that I love and with these people.”
- William Speakman, a British Korean War hero
SEOUL, April 21 (Korea Bizwire) — A Korean War hero from Britain expressed hope on Tuesday that South Korea’s younger generation will carry on the lofty spirit of those before them who spared no sacrifice to defend the country and rebuild their war-torn homeland.
William Speakman, one of 51 veterans from the former British Commonwealth, arrived here Monday for a six-day trip. The former soldiers fought against the invading North Korea backed by China during the 1950-53 war.
In a symbolic goodwill gesture, Speakman donated 10 medals he earned during his 23-year military career, including three from his 10-month wartime service in Korea. He was a private affiliated with the First Battalion of the King’s Own Scottish Borderers.
One of the medals is the Victoria Cross, the highest military decoration awarded for valor to members of the armed forces of Commonwealth countries. Speakman received it from Queen Elizabeth II in 1952.
On November 4, 1951, at the age of 24, Speakman led his party in a series of grenade charges against heavy shell and mortar fire by more than 6,000 Chinese forces in the inter-Korean border town of Yeoncheon. Undaunted by severe wounds to his leg, he led operations to help save the lives of many of his comrades when they were forced to withdraw from their position. Speakman recalled that it was “not out of bravery but that was the way we were trained.”
The Korean War broke out on June 25, 1950, when North Korean troops, backed by the Soviet Union, invaded the South. The United States and 20 other allied countries fought alongside South Korea under the United Nations flag, while China helped North Korea. It ended in a truce, not a peace treaty, leaving the two Koreas technically in a state of war.