British & Irish flags at new Korean War Memorial for Ulster troops

Royal Irish Regiment, Royal Ulster Rifles Association, Royal British Legion and The Irish Association of Korea working in cooperation with the Irish Embassy and the Somme Association were in South Korea recently to unveil a new memorial to Irish Veterans (largely from the British Army but also US & Commonwealth forces) of the 1951 Korean War.

The Irish Embassy website has a good article on current attempts to catalog all troops of Irish descent involved.

The Korean Times carries a detailed account of how the Royal Ulster Rifles, King`s 8th Royal Irish Hussars (Tanks) & the Royal Artillery were the last troops to withdraw giving others the time to evacuate and how US aircraft mistakenly gave away their withdrawal by letting off flares resulting in the Battle of `Happy Valley`.  The article mentions tat the Irish Tri-Colour was flown by those commemorating. The royal Irish Regiment Piper played `The Piper`s Lament`.

A new memorial in Seoul was dedicated during a remembrance service . The old memorial was moved to Army Barracks in Northern Ireland after locals dismantled the base for building materials.  It is now situated outside Belfast City Hall.

The new memorial reads:

Men from all over Britain and Ireland, from every community, fought with the Royal Ulster Rifles in Korea. The regiment sacrificed many to the Korean War with the most significant losses suffered at the Battle of ‘Happy Valley’ in defence of Seoul, capital of South Korea, on the night of 3-4 January 1951. The VIII Kings Royal Irish Hussars and the Royal Artillery in support of the RUR also sustained casualties.

This monument recalls the original Memorial Pillar in Happy Valley which was carved by a Korean mason during the succeeding battles before being erected on 3 July 1951 overlooking the battlefield. The original memorial was moved in 1962 to Northern Ireland and now stands in the grounds of the City Hall in Belfast.

The Wall Street Journal has a slightly wider take on events taking in British & Commonwealth troops.

In 2003 the United States Congress recognised the sacrifice of Irish men in the US forces by awarding posthumous citizenship to 29 Irish killed in the Korean war and an Irish Korean War Memorial was erected in New York  in 2006.

  • Has the Irish government or nation been to war since it fought itself at the foundation of the State.

    Seems that some strange notion of vicarious credit, or perhaps vicarious war, is being adopted by the Irish Government.

    It was soldiers who were Irish, not Irish soldiers fighting. In fact, they were British soldiers who were from Ireland. That seems hard for some to accept. Indeed this at war by association seems an extension of that denial.

  • Reader

    thedissenter: Has the Irish government or nation been to war since it fought itself at the foundation of the State. Seems that some strange notion of vicarious credit, or perhaps vicarious war, is being adopted by the Irish Government.
    The Irish Government has sent troops on other UN missions, but not to Korea. I suppose the UN aspect smooths the way to adopting the Korean war, and the Government may have made the final small step of participation because: (1) this event was happening anyway; (2) Good for UK/RoI relations.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    I heard from a mate of mine who is ex-RIR 1st Batt that they usually fly a tri-colour too.

    Probably not officially mind, but he was adamant that there is usually one hanging up some where.

    Anyone else have any info on that?

  • Rory Carr

    The Dissenter has it right when he writes that, “It was soldiers who were Irish, not Irish soldiers fighting.“.

    And since they were fighting for another country’s army, intervening in a civil war in yet another country with which Ireland had no quarrel, I should have thought that the proper response would be one of apologetic embarrassment rather than of pride and celebration. All the more disgraceful indeed to have Irish citizens fighting in a divided foreign country while their own country remained divided by an ancient occupying force.

    This seems to me neither more nor less than a nauseating exercise in imperial arse-licking in preparation for the wholesale subsuming of Free State armed forces into NATO in an abject capitulation from its historical and admirable stance of neutrality.

    Free-statism run bloody riot !

  • cynosure

    My wife is Korean. And I visit a lot. A relative of mine fought as a 17 year old US serviceman. He machine gunned the waves of Chinese soldiers at Heartbreak ridge. His tales are truly awful.
    When I talk to Koreans I find them friendly, jovial and they like a drink. Their country was colonised by a powerful Island empire. Their language was banned and they had to take new names in the style of the conquerors. Through guerilla fighting, terrorist bombings and the outbreak of a world war, they managed to become partially independent. However the north of the country is still not free

  • cynosure

    Sorry, I should have added that they also went through an awful civil war wounds of which are still not healed.

    Like I said, I have a lot of time for Koreans and not just because I’m married to one.

  • BarneyT

    Interesting parallel cynosure.

    Am I right in thinking that this posting from Kilsally is an attempt to justify the flying of national flags at the Belfast cenotaph?

  • Am Ghobsmacht – Have seen the Tri-colour flown or on display rather by RIR soldiers presumably from the South and there are a couple of annual Royal British Legion commemorations either side of the border where it is flown usually as Irish Defence Forces are present at the (sometimes joint) remembrance service.

  • BarneyT -this post has nothing to do with the Belfast Cenotaph flag issue. I personally agree with the Royal British Legion position and to me smacked of a cheap stunt by DUP on BCC.

  • BarneyT

    Well I agree Kilsally. Just thought I’d ask

    The commemoration of the war dead is politicised enough as it is. The poppy no longer is synonymous with the poppy fields and the WWI attricoties. It has become a symbol of devision over here and a stick to beat the perceived “unpatrotic” in GB. Just look at the BBC. Its wearing would appear to be mandated.

    The truth is that poppy sales allow funds to be gathering for existing troops and indeed those that were deployed here, which is no doubt behind the nat\rep resistance to the emblem. I went to a protestant secondary school and was under pressure from pupils and staff to wear it. I elected not to which was my right. I would get stopped in the corridors and the teachers would roar at me..”where’s your poppy”. It took everything in me to not say…”does it sir”…but I usually responded with, “many fought against Nazi Germany to ensure folks like me were free to wear a poppy or not”

    The DUP were clearly trying to appease those they feel they have failed as a result of the city hall incident and has nothing to do with marking the war dead. Very cheap and pitiful indeed.

  • terkin

    Am Ghobsmacht ….. I can assure you as a RIR vetran, we never flew the tricolour at any of Our rememberance parades…
    The RIR is (was) a regiment of the British army and were it is correct that we had Irish Citizens in the regiment, they all had to swear thier oath of alliegance to Queen and country !!
    They were British soldiers who just happened to be Irish !!

  • Reader, Korea was not a peace-keeping mission.

  • Eamonn-iak

    I’m a member of the Irish Association of Korea, which helped raise money/awareness for the memorial and I just want to point out a couple of things.

    The memorial was for soldiers who died AND for the 8 missionaries who died during the Korean war (mainly on death marches to PoW camps and in the PoW camps). In fact the front panel of the memorial says

    “In memory of all those of Irish birth and heritage who fought and died in the service of the United Nations and those civilians of Irish birth and heritage who died side by side with the Korean people: Korea 1950-1953.”

    The side panel (quoted in the post) recalls the the battle of Happy Valley where the majority of Irish deaths occurred. Another panel records

    “Eight civilians of Irish birth and heritage are known to have died in the Korean War. All missionaries, the seven Columban Priests and one Anglican Sister died as a direct consequence of hostilities in 1950 having refused the opportunity of evacuation. The Columban Missionaries first arrived in Korea in 1933 and at the outbreak of war there were 28 Irish born Columbans working in the country. Anglican Sister Mary Clare of the Community of St. Peter arrived in Korea in 1923 and here founded the Order of the Holy Cross.
    Their dedication to their calling and to the Korean people is recognised here.

    Sister Mary Clare (Clare Emma Whitty)
    Monsignor Patrick Brennan
    Father Anthony Collier
    Father Francis Canavan
    Father Thomas Cusack
    Father James Maginn
    Father John O’Brien
    Father Patrick Reilly”

    I was at the unveiling ceremony and no flags were displayed or flown. At the other veteran ceremonies during the week flags of the troop contributing nations would have been flown of course but not the Irish flag since we did not participate in the war. In fact it was not possible for Ireland to send forces since Ireland was not a member of the UN in 1951 (our membership was blocked by the USSR until 1955). Whether we would have sent troops or not is a question for the historians. There was large participation in the UN forces with 16 nations sending troops and a further 9 sending support (medical or other).

    This international contribution is recognised by Korea and every year the Ministry for Patriots and Veterans Affairs invites veterans or surviving family members to visit (in fact they will pay for the trip if the veteran hasn’t visited in the previous 5 years). It was under this programme that the Somme Association was able to bring 11 veterans from Ireland (mainly they fought with the RUR but also from the Royal Irish Fusiliers and one who fought with the US army). It was extremely interesting to meet these elderly men who come from all over the island of Ireland. Some great photos of their visit can be seen here http://tinyurl.com/dy5gxsx

    For an account of the Irish experience in the Korean war James Durney’s Far Side of the World is an excellent account http://jamesdurney.com/publications/thefarsideoftheworld/

    Andrew Salmon (http://tothelastround.wordpress.com/) has written 2 excellent books about the Korean war which give detailed accounts of the battles that the RuR participated in.

  • GEF

    Why Irish Flags were flown is a mystery. To my knowledge Ireland was not involved in the “Korean War (1950/53).

    The “North Korean” side consisted of
    Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
    People’s Republic of China
    The Soviet Union

    The “South Korean” side consisted of
    Republic of Korea
    Australia
    Belgium
    Canada
    Colombia
    Ethiopia
    France
    Greece
    Luxembourg
    Netherlands
    New Zealand
    Philippines
    South Africa
    Thailand
    Turkey
    United Kingdom
    United States

  • Harry Flashman

    I too have Korean friends and one of them told me that they are regarded as the Irish of Asia, fun people who like to party, (a bit harder working than the Irish mind).

    As regards the Ulsters in Korea, they fought in the same action as the “Glorious Glosters” and I remember hearing somewhere that they were rather miffed that the battalion that managed to get itself captured got so much credit when the Ulsters and the Fusiliers who fought viciously to successfully get themselves off the mountain are forgotten.

    Another excellent case of the British glorification of military disaster.

    I too am intrigued as to why the Irish government (as opposed to Irish veterans who are entitled to do what they like) should want to have official recognition for a war in which they had no hand, act or part.

  • Reader

    thedissenter: Reader, Korea was not a peace-keeping mission.
    However, it was a UN action. And the RoI’s position is ‘neutral’, not ‘pacifist’. And no one is asking them to send troops now (I think). This is about how to deal with the past, and with citizens who died with UN forces.

  • cynosure

    Poor Korea. The football of Asia might be a better description. Caught between Japan and China, then the USSR and the USA and latterly USA/China.

    If the countries who are so quick to condemn the DPRK looked at history, they might recognise their part in the creation of this Zombie Stalinist state.

    Any Grand bargin should acknowledge that fact.

  • “I too am intrigued as to why the Irish government .. should want to have official recognition for a war in which they had no hand, act or part.”

    Harry, I think it has more to do with Dublin’s desire to be seen as the voice of the people of the island of Ireland in conjunction with the erosion of aspects of Britishness; it’s about the elevation of the significance of Strand 2 over the other strands of the 1998 Agreement; it’s anti-unionist.

  • Kevsterino

    @dissenter, no, it was called a “Police Action” over here, not a “War” per se. All insane newspeak semantics if you ask me.

  • There is a database of the known casualties among UK forces: access it here.

    Total numbers involved are 1,078 killed in action, 2,674 wounded and 1,060 missing or taken prisoner.

    The equivalent US listing will inevitably include many of Irish descent: there’s an official US Monuments Commission gateway here. This is incomplete: as the Commission admits, many names were lost through a fire at the records office, so it’s also necessary to refer to sites such as the Honolulu Memorial.

    There were 340 Australian dead in Korea: the official roll lists all veterans [http://www.koreanroll.gov.au]. For example, 3400935 Kelly, Kevin Patrick, born 18 September 1929 in Galway, is there, along with half a dozen Scots and English emigré Kellys.

    One other site brings it even nearer home: Irish Men and Women Who Gave Their Lives in the Korean War. Read the whole of the Irish Embassy in Seoul’s press release for the account of the civilian dead. That goes a long way to answering some aspects of Harry Flashman @ 9:09 am query. It’s a heroic story, too.

  • Because I exceeded my ration of hot-links, an earlier version of this post fell foul of the moderation rules. Let me try again (the hard way):

    There is a database of the known casualties among UK forces: http://www.roll-of-honour.com/Databases/Korea/.

    Total numbers involved are 1,078 killed in action, 2,674 wounded and 1,060 missing or taken prisoner.

    The equivalent US listing will inevitably include many of Irish descent: there’s an official US Monuments Commission gateway: http://www.abmc.gov/search/koreanwar.php. This is incomplete: as the Commission admits, many names were lost through a fire at the records office, so it’s also necessary to refer to sites such as the Honolulu Memorial.

    There were 340 Australian dead in Korea: the official roll lists all veterans [http://www.koreanroll.gov.au]. For example, 3400935 Kelly, Kevin Patrick, born 18 September 1929 in Galway, is there, along with half a dozen Scots and English emigré Kellys.

    One other site brings it even nearer home: Irish Men and Women Who Gave Their Lives in the Korean War — http://www.illyria.com/irishkor.html.

    Read the whole of the Irish Embassy in Seoul’s press release, especially the “Notes for Editors”, for the account of the civilian dead: http://www.embassyofireland.or.kr/home/index.aspx?id=81828. That goes a long way to answering some aspects of Harry Flashman @ 9:09 am‘s query. It’s a heroic story, too.

  • Third attempt to post this. The moderation won’t allow more than a couple of hot-links. So here we go again:

    1. There is a database of the known casualties among UK forces: http://www.roll-of-honour.com/Databases/Korea/.

    Total numbers involved are 1,078 killed in action, 2,674 wounded and 1,060 missing or taken prisoner.

  • Aha! That worked. So:

    2. The equivalent US listing will inevitably include many of Irish descent: there’s an official US Monuments Commission gateway: http://www.abmc.gov/search/koreanwar.php. This is incomplete: as the Commission admits, many names were lost through a fire at the records office, so it’s also necessary to refer to sites such as the Honolulu Memorial.

  • Onward and downward:

    3. There were 340 Australian dead in Korea: the official roll lists all veterans [http://www.koreanroll.gov.au]. For example, 3400935 Kelly, Kevin Patrick, born 18 September 1929 in Galway, is there, along with half a dozen Scots and English emigré Kellys.

  • Finally:

    One other site brings it even nearer home: Irish Men and Women Who Gave Their Lives in the Korean War — http://www.illyria.com/irishkor.html.

    Read the whole of the Irish Embassy in Seoul’s press release, especially the “Notes for Editors”, for the account of the civilian dead: http://www.embassyofireland.or.kr/home/index.aspx?id=81828. That goes a long way to answering some aspects of Harry Flashman @ 9:09 am‘s query. It’s a heroic story, too.

  • Gopher

    Interesting thread

    http://www.irishwarmemorials.ie/html/warMemorials.php?warID=13&warName=Boer%20II

    Did it get any centenary coverage?

  • GEF @ 6:01 am:

    Sorry: just picked this one up.

    To which the response is “yes”and “no”. There were Irish very much at the sharp end. Which is where I wanted to point in my post @ 2:24pm.

    You didn’t need to be in uniform to be involved, or to be heroic. A clerical collar or a habit sufficed.

  • Eamon-iak – the tri-colour is reported as having been flown in one of the links above that I posted. – Have seen pics online of troops in Afghanistan or Iraq with Red Hand of Ulster, Union and Tri-colour being displayed by the troops (not official flown) and royal British Legion and Irish Defence Froces hold joint remembranve services both sides of the border where Union and Tri-colour flags are carried.

  • Zig70

    I’ve also worked in Korea and found them a lovely people though I find the comment that they are harder working just plain bigotry. There is a lot of irishness in Korea but a hell of a lot more that isn’t.

  • Eamonn-iak

    Thanks for the correction Kilsally, apparently the tricolour was used by the MPVA on a banner at another veterans event during the week, they wanted to draw attention to the visiting Irish group.

  • Many young folk will go and fight anywhere just for a bit of adventure if the “cause” is somehow connected to their earlier indoctrination. There’s nothing remarkable that they might bring along their “National Flag” and display it there while in action or use it later in commemorations.