Our Heritage: Plaque to remember the ‘forgotten’ war

Wilf Rawlinson taken at the time of his service in Korea. He is 19 years old in the picture.
Wilf Rawlinson taken at the time of his service in Korea. He is 19 years old in the picture.

A plaque was recently unveiled at Westfield War Memorial Village in Lancaster to commemorate the Korean war.

Village resident and Korean war veteran Wilf Rawlinson attended the event, and talked to Martin Purdy from Westfield War Memorial Village about his service in the war.

It is often referred to as “The Forgotten War”, but for veterans like 80-year-old Wilfred Rawlinson the brief but bloody British involvement in the Korean War in the 1950s has never been far from his thoughts.

On the 60th anniversary of the end of the conflict in July, Wilf was given the honour of unveiling a new ‘Korea’ name plaque on a block of flats at Westfield War Memorial Village in Lancaster – the village where he and his wife, Freda, have lived for the past 21 years.

For Wilf it was a highly emotional moment – as a 19-year-old he had served in Korea with the King’s Liverpool regiment and seen his best friend killed. Wilf, a born and bred Lancaster man, was one of nearly 100,000 British servicemen sent to help protect South Korea from communist Chinese and North Korean troops intent on invasion and full unification of the Korean peninsula.

More than 1,000 British soldiers were killed in the campaign.

Wilf said: “Myself and my friend Jack were stationed in Egypt with the Border Regiment and got a bit fed up with Egypt so we decided to volunteer for Korea.

“We did three months of intensive training in Hong Kong and then went to Korea with the King’s Liverpool.

“We were gung-ho 19-year-olds and regular soldiers keen to see how we could do.

“Jack was killed on a patrol – they walked into an ambush. I am just thankful we got his body back.

“We saw a lot of fighting and lost a lot of lads – more than 200 casualties and 29 killed in our battalion.

“It was trench warfare when we were there in 1953 with a lot of fighting patrols.

“It has never been ‘the forgotten war’ to those of us who were there.

“It is a good thing to remember and it gives me a lot of pride to have this commemorative plaque on Westfield.”

Name plaques to commemorate battles in which local men have paid the ultimate sacrifice have been used on properties at Westfield War Memorial Village since its inception as a place of respite for disabled ex-servicemen at the end of the First World War.

However, there were four blocks of flats on an area of the village known as Ley Court that had been opened in 1993 and never been named.

The present trustees of the charity that looks after the welfare of the ex-servicemen and their dependants decided it was time to bring Ley Court into line with the rest of the village.

They wanted to give the blocks names from overlooked conflicts where many Westfield residents had served, and ultimately opted for Korea, Aden, Malaya and the Balkans.

Dr David Elliott, chairman of the Westfield charity, explained: “The rationale behind the idea was to carry on the tradition of naming residences, but also to demonstrate our support for our soldiers, recognising the huge sacrifice that they have made and continue to make.

“We also thought that it would make the residents of Ley Court more connected with the rest of the village.”

Paul Roberts, managing director of Guinness Northern Counties, which manages the Westfield properties, added: “We have enjoyed a long and successful association with Westfield since we took over the management of the properties in 1987.

“Westfield is a very unique village so it is very fitting that Ley Court, in keeping with the rest of the village, has been named after battles in which the people of this country have served.”

Also unveiled at Westfield last week by Olivia Ley, whose husband the previously mentioned Ley Court was named after, was a newly designed memorial garden.

The garden has been named in honour of Colonel and Mrs Bois, a couple who had been generous benefactors to the village in the seventies.