AN 84-YEAR-OLD Korean War veteran from Byfleet was awarded one of South Korea’s highest honours on Sunday for service to the country’s diplomats and its people in the UK.
Alan Guy MBE was awarded the Civil Merit Medal for his achievements as Korean liaison officer for the British Korean Veterans’ Association. This has involved working with ambassadors and defence attachés at the Korean Embassy and the Korean community in Britain over the past 17 years.
Alan was unable to travel to South Korea for a ceremony because of travel insurance problems so the presentation was made at the Royal British Legion Club in Virginia Water
On Sunday, in front of fellow war veterans, Alan was given his citation and medal by defence attachés Captain Ji Seung-eon and Lieutenant-Col Park Sang-hyoun on behalf of President Park Geun-hye. Alan, of Foxlake Road, Byfleet, told the News & Mail he was overwhelmed by the award. He said it had largely been achieved through the support of wife, Lyn.
He dedicated the accolade to his fellow veterans’ association members and to the 1,106 British servicemen who did not return from the conflict.
Alan had been sent to Korea as a member of the Royal Army Medical Corps two months after his 19th birthday. Around 80,000 personnel from the Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force joined the United Nations force opposing the North Korean invasion, which began in June 1950.
He said he had joined the army at 17-and-a-half simply because he was bored. Eighteen months later, he was told he was being posted to Korea. “At just 19 years old I had never heard of the country, so I frantically started to flick through a world atlas to find out where it was,” he explained. On arrival at Pusan Port, now called Busan, South Korea’s second largest city, he was astounded by the devastation that greeted him and his regiment.
“There were no trees or flowers – everything had been bombed and burnt away, completely flattened,” he said. “The rice fields were being fertilised with human manure and the stench in the air was almost unbearable, even though temperatures could reach as low as minus 40 degrees in winter.”
When he and his comrades arrived in Korea they were equipped only with normal battledress and had no winter clothing.
“My job was preventive medicine,” he added. The medical corps were drafted in to ensure that the frontline soldiers did not succumb to malaria, frostbite or any diseases from food or water poisoning. Each day we went to the front to support them.”
Alan’s family had been bombed out of his home town of Liverpool in 1941 and they were evacuated to North Wales. He lived there on return from Korea until 1979, when he moved to Byfleet to work for Surrey Ambulance Service, before joining Runnymede Council as a senior environmental health technician until his retirement.
He and Lyn have two grown-up children, seven grandchildren and seven great grandchildren, with two more on the way. Alan was made an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 2011 for his services to the British Korean Veterans’ Association.
In November 2013, Alan met President Park, the Duke of Cambridge and the Duke of Gloucester outside the Ministry of Defence in London, where a scale model of a Korean War memorial statue was unveiled.
At the time Alan said: “We’re the only country who served in the Korean War that doesn’t have an accessible memorial in their capital city.”
The statue, a five-metre tall British soldier, was later installed at an event attended by 50 war veterans – fulfilling Alan’s wish for a lasting memorial.