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War veteran joins call for plaque accolade
KOREAN War veteran Grenville Toomey has been thanked by the people he fought to protect. Now he’s hoping to give his own thanks to the man who saved his life almost 60 years ago.
The Appleton villager, 78, fought for 10 months as a Rifleman in the Durham Light Infantry before he was injured in June 1953.
He was one of 80 Korean War veterans invited on the week-long all-expenses-paid trip back at the end of April by the South Korean government in thanks for his service.
When he was last in Asia in 1953 his life was saved by comrade Tom Allen, of Fritwell, after they were ambushed and shot on patrol.
Mr Allen carried his close friend more than two miles to safety despite being badly hurt himself.
Now Mr Toomey has joined calls to honour Mr Allen, who died six years ago, with a plaque in Fritwell.
He said: “He carried me a long way and he saved my life because if he hadn’t done it I wouldn’t have survived.
“The plaque is the sort of thing that should happen in his village.”
He said he enjoyed his return trip to South Korea, adding: “I never experienced anything like it. It was the best thing that ever happened to me. The people were so friendly and it wasn’t just because we were veterans.”
He said it was nice to see how the country had come on since he was last there.
Mr Toomey said: “It’s just marvellous what they have done. And they did say if it wasn’t for us it wouldn’t have happened.”
Former Bicester Advertiser features writer Tony O’Gorman first told the story of Mr Allen’s heroics in 1996.
He wrote to the Oxford Mail calling for a plaque to be put up in Fritwell’s St Olave church. He said: “He was supremely brave. It was a supreme act of strength.”
He said he hoped Mr Toomey would one day unveil the plaque, adding: “I think he should be very proud to do it. It would be very appropriate.”
Tom’s widow Hazel Allen, 75, of Fritwell, said: “It is a nice thought of people to think about. But I don’t know where you could put it.”
Village vicar Rev Paul Hunt said: “It would be something I would very seriously consider. He was a greatly respected and loved village character.
“If an approach is made the church will be looking to how it can recognise his contribution and his qualities.”
THE KOREAN WAR: The Korean War began on June 25, 1950, and hostilities ended in July 1953 with the creation of a demilitarised zone (DMZ) on the restored border between North and South Korea.
More than 1,000 British soldiers lost their lives during the conflict sparked when the Communist regime in North Korea invaded the South in a bid to control the whole Korean peninsula.
The United Nations, including the US and Britain, backed the South with China and the Soviet Union sending forces.
Tensions between North and South Korea continue. More than 1.5m troops from both sides are still stationed near the DMZ.
The US still has more than 30,000 troops in south Korea.