A veteran of the Korean war was one of four winners of the 2013 Korean War Essay Contest after recounting some of his experiences during the conflict.
Bexhill resident David Hammond was one of 50 veterans who entered the competition - organised by the Korean Embassy in conjunction with the Korean Health Industry Development Institute to mark the 60 year anniversary of the Korean War Armistice Agreement. There were four winners in all.
In his essay, Private David Hammond, tells how, having joined the army in 1949 at the age of 19, four years after the end of the second World War, he’d hoped that he would never see active service. Around a year later he chose to serve alongside friends and comrades in Korea, supporting the South Korean people in their conflict with North Korea - a war which was to have a devastating death toll on a world still recovering from the effects of World War 11.
Private Hammond served as a driver with the 29th Brigade, which comprised of three battalions; the Gloucesters, Northumberlands and the Royal Ulster Rifles. In his essay David said nothing could have prepared him for the things he was to encounter: “The Gloucesters suffered the highest losses, in particular on the Imjin River, a battle which lasted for several days. This battle is still etched on my mind - the image of bodies of many nations floating in the river.
“A sad loss of life.”
Around 1,000 UK, 30,000 USA, and 400,000 South Korean troops are believed to have died during the three year conflict. It’s also estimated that 1.5 million communist forces and 2 million Korean civilians were also killed. Though a ceasefire was made between North and South Korea on July 27, 1953, no peace treaty was ever signed.
Witnessing the horrors of war was much to bear for the Private but other aspects of his time in Korea were to have long-term effects on the young soldier. David said: “As a driver I spent days on end under the unrelenting sun. The summers saw temperatures rising to 120 degrees or more whilst the winter brought frostbite to ears and toes.
“Unfortunately, it seems that my over-exposure to the sun, spending days in an open top jeep, bought unexpected problems and I now suffer with skin cancer.”
His experiences in Korea left a lasting impression and David became a Korean Standard Bearer for the Hastings branch of the Korean Veterans Association (KVA) for 30 years until it folded. He is an active member of a KVA branch in Lancing.
David said: “Over the years I have given a lot of thought as to why I continue to be involved to such an extent, and my conclusion is that it is important that these memories and acts of bravery and courage are remembered.”
Along with being presented with an award for his essay, at the Korean Embassy in London, David was also given an all-expenses trip to revisit Korea. This included a visit to Cheongwadae, the Blue House (The Korean presidential residence), a Seoul City Tour, and a tour of The War Memorial Hall. He said: “To have the chance to revisit Korea at this stage of my life is something I would never have dreamed possible.
“The Korean War was an opportunity to make a tangible difference to the lives of the people in South Korea, and the chance to stand up for something that I believed to be right, with the backing of the British Army.”
To see more of Mr Hammond’s trip see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SqsVy8OFuVo