THE family of a soldier killed in the ‘Forgotten War’ will finally get to pay their respects at his grave in South Korea more than six decades after his death.
No-one knew exactly where the remains of Bicester lad Herbert Clifton were until a chance conversation about the Korean War.
Now that chat means Herbert’s niece Valerie Busby and her partner Tom Selwood are heading out to South Korea tomorrow to be at his graveside.
It wasn’t until Mr Selwood was chatting to war veteran Grenville Toomey that things started falling into place.
Mr Toomey mentioned he knew somebody whose brother had died in the same conflict as ‘Uncle Herbert’ in June 1951.
That somebody was Bert Davey – who is the secretary of the Swindon & Wiltshire Korean War Veterans’ Association. Incredibly his brother Tom served with ‘Uncle Herbert’ in the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry.
They were both privates, both 20 and served in the same battalion. And they were both killed in action a day apart in an attack on the Imjin River.
Mrs Busby from Bicester said: “It was so uncanny. We had an idea where my uncle’s grave was but it was Mr Davey who helped us find out exactly where it was.”
The family compared photographs their relatives had collected and discovered they were almost identical.
She flies out to the country tomorrow as guests of the South Korean Government, which organises annual visits for soldiers and their families.
Tomorrow is also the same day Mrs Busby’s mother – Win May – celebrates her 90th birthday. She says it will make her mum’s day to know they are laying flowers on her brother’s grave.
Alongside Win May, ‘Uncle Herbert’ had four other siblings. His youngster sister Joan Smith is 87.
On Friday, Mrs Busby and partner Mr Selwood will attend a special ceremony at her uncle’s grave at the United Nations cemetery in Busan.
Also going is Mr Toomey, 80, from Appleton, who started the ball rolling.
He also served in the Korean War and it was his battalion – the Durham Light Infantry – that took over from that of Mrs Busby’s uncle on the Imjin River.
Mr Toomey was only 20 when he and two other British soldiers were surrounded by Chinese troops who opened fire in 1953.
He survived nine bullets to the chest and two shell attacks.
He said it’s the friendliness of the Koreans that has made him return. He said: “They can’t do enough for you.”
Mr Davey concluded: “I’m so pleased for Valerie and her family.
“It’ll certainley be a remarkable trip for her.”
- Korea had been part of the Japanese Empire until 1945, but the end of the Second World War saw it placed under the protection of the United Nations.
- As relations between the Allied powers deteriorated and the Cold War began, a Communist regime was established in North Korea, while a capitalist regime took charge in the South. After two years of tension, North Korea launched an invasion of South Korea at 4am on June 25, 1950.
- In the face of opposition from North Korea’s allies, the Soviet Union and China, the United Nations agreed to send troops, including British Army, RAF and Royal Navy units, to defend the South. More than 450,000 troops died. A formal peace treaty has never been signed. The war ended in July 1953.