Seventy years to the day after the signing of the armistice, the Royal British Legion marked the anniversary of the so-called Forgotten War with dignity and style in Horseguards Parade, the venue for many ceremonials such as the Trooping of the Colour.
In the presence of HRH the Duke of Gloucester, numerous veterans and their families, the ceremony was hosted by BBC News anchor Jane Hill. The care taken in planning the event was evident. Music was provided by the British Army Band Colchester, the a capella vocal group Aurum Vocale and the Korean traditional instrumentalists of the Shilla ensemble. Special mention should go to the conductor, David Cole, for arranging the Dae Jang Geum theme tune and Blackpink’s Ddu-du Ddu-du for military band: these were among the miscellany of tunes wit which the army band entertained the audience before the prompt 11:30 start. He also orchestrated Bob Chilcott’s arrangement of Arirang for choir, military band, traditional Korean chamber group and operatic soprano (Haegee Lee) that followed the national anthems at the end of the proceedings.
The format of the event interspersed Pathé newsreel footage with reminiscences from veterans and their relatives together with musical and ceremonial interludes and appropriate readings, and took us chronologically through the war, focusing on the arrival in Busan, the Incheon landings, the battles of the Imjin and Chosin Reservoir and the struggles for control of the Hook.
A fan dance by Yerin Lee accompanied the presentation of flags; later a sword dance demonstrated some impressive coordination between the Shilla’s taepyongso (played by Seayool) and the army band.
The most moving part of the ceremony was the creation of a pyramid of drums which served as a memorial where the VIPs could lay their poppy wreaths; meanwhile similar wreath-laying ceremonies were live-streamed from places such as the Korean War Memorial on the Embankment and the National Memorial Arboretum, as well as from ceremonies at the National War Memorial in Seoul and the Imjin memorial at Paju held earlier that day. Messages of thanks from senior Korean military leaders, and from Korean children, followed.
The Royal British Legion wisely advised guests to bring umbrellas, but fortunately the rain held off for the duration of the event, which finished with a picnic lunch generously provided by the Legion.
Update: the Royal British Legion have put together a nice highlights video of the event, which captures the solemnity of the occasion very well. The film focuses on the newsreel and other video footage that was broadcast via the big screens on the day, and also the speeches and reminiscences of the veterans and other VIPs.
The commemorative event took place on 27 July 2023. You can download a scan of the order of ceremony in pdf format HERE. The document contains details of all the speakers.