While we are in a period of commemoration of the First World War and Paschendaele it may be fitting, while we still have time, to remember the veterans who are still with us.
The veterans of a conflict known as the Forgotten War, the war in Korea which was fought between 1950 and 1953 and whose combatants are rapidly diminishing.
90-year-old, Thomas Kenneth Hardy or ‘T.K.’ of Penrhos, Bangor, served his National Service as part of the reformed Gloucestershire Regiment. He was a medical officer who was given a role within what was called the ‘Big Switch’, the operation to repatriate serving soldiers.
As an officer on the HMS Dunera his home base was Southampton which meant that he never received the Korean Star, neither did he mention his role in the War to his friends, family and loved ones, except for his son, John, who works for the BBC.
After many years of trying, John has recently managed to secure a joint programme commision between Rondo in Wales and JTV in Korea with the aim of commemorating the forgotten war and depicting his father’s part in the conflict.
In modern Korea there is still a sense of debt and gratitude that permeates through all levels of society and ages.
An example of this is a society called Pumassi, in which hundreds of young people write letters and pay their respects to the Veterans to express their thanks for saving their Nation.
Three years ago, John visited Korea and met a group of Pumassi children in a small ceremony led by 11 year old Young Sun Min. He was presented with the medal that his father never received for his National Service.
Although so many years had passed since his visit, John recently found a note on his doorstep: “I received a letter from the South Korean Embassy last month. It was as unexpected as it was welcome!
“It stated that both me and my father had been inivted to the 64th anniversary of the Korean War Armistice Agreement Commemoration Ceremony.
“The only snag was that my father had just been released from hospital but before declining the invite I decided to give him the choice. His answer was short, sharp and in the affirmative.”
On Thursday, July 27, the pair arrived at Euston, by none other than the now 14 year old, Young Sun Min, who was there as part of the Pumassi who were touring all the combatant Nations of the Korean War,
John added: “The Pumassi’s entertainment was a mixture of traditional and modern. Little had I realised that so many OAP’s were familiar with the Gang Nam Style!
“It was a ceremony held with dignity and a luncheon filled with memories although it was a little strange to be recognised by so many people. Right now life couldn’t be better for a man who has just had his 90th birthday.
“Their message was simple but heartfelt, a touch of the breast followed by the words & Thank you for saving our Nation. South Korea is a modern frontier country that has not forgotten it’s past.”
John’s programme had a warm reception on S4C and was also watched by millions in Korea.
Sunday 6 August 2017