27 July 2022

Wagga Korean War veteran wants you to remember the 'Forgotten War'

| Chris Roe
Join the conversation
war veteran

Korean Veterans Day is a sad one for Harry Edmonds, as he remembers lost mates. Photo: Chris Roe.

A small group gathered in Wagga’s Victory Memorial Gardens today to mark the 69th anniversary of the end of the Korean War.

Along with the dignitaries and soldiers were two Korea veterans, Alan Evans and Harry Edmonds.

“I’ll be thinking of those mates of mine and all of the boys who were over there,” Harry said before the service kicked off.

“I’ll be thinking of them, I’ll be thinking of their families and I’ll be praying that we don’t ever see a war again.”

Korean Veterans Day marks the signing of an armistice that ended the fighting in Korea on July 27, 1953.

Often called the forgotten war, Australia’s involvement began just days after the North Korean Army launched an invasion of South Korea in 1950.

Harry was 20 years old and serving with Australia’s 3rd Battalion (3RAR) in the post World War 2 occupation of Japan.

He recalled that they were preparing to return to Australia when news of the conflict arrived.

“The company commander called us on parade and told us that the war had broken out in Korea and asked who wanted to volunteer,” he said.

“There wasn’t one who disappointed him. We all volunteered.”

READ ALSO Keeping the Kapooka Tragedy in our ‘social memory’

The battalion arrived in South Korea in late September 1950 and was greeted with scenes of utter devastation.

“Japan had occupied Korea for so many years and stripped the country of their timber and everything. There were no trees or anything,” Harry explained.

“If you looked at the people, they looked like people 2000 years ago; they were still in that era.”

Harry spent 12 months in the country and said while it was a challenging time for the Australians, it was worse for the civilians.

“The hardest part was seeing the women and children involved in it,” he said.

“To see them killed or blown to pieces was just utterly devastating.”

Australian soldiers in Korea

Members of No 4 Platoon, B Company, 3RAR after the Battle of Kapyong, 26 April 1951. Photo: AWM.

The 3RAR received the US Presidential Unit Citation for its role in the battle of Kapyong that was fought between Commonwealth and Chinese forces between 22 and 25 April, 1951.

On the night of 23/24, Australia’s 3RAR weathered wave after wave of Chinese attacks on a rise known as Hill 504.

“It was pretty heavy going,” recalled Harry in a quiet voice.

“We lost 32 killed that night and I think 56 wounded and three prisoners taken.”

Two man in park

Korean Embassy Second Secretary Euitaek Oh and Harry Edmonds at Wagga’s Korean Veterans Day memorial ceremony. Photo: Chris Roe.

More than 17,000 Australians served during the Korean War. In total, 340 were killed, more than 1200 wounded and 30 captured as prisoners of war.

Harry said Korean Veterans Day was an important but sad day for him.

“You remember your mates that went over with you and never made it back,” he said.

“And you remember all those millions of people who were not only killed but were uprooted from their homes and we saw miles and miles of them marching south.”

READ ALSO ‘Wilko’ is 101 and ready to march this Anzac Day

Harry returned to South Korea in 2011 and said what he saw there made him feel that their sacrifice was worthwhile.

“Well, when we were there it was just bullock tracks where you were flat out to get one vehicle through at a time,” he recalled.

“When I returned, there were six-lane highways, high-rise buildings and vehicles everywhere.

“It’s just such a wonderful thing that a country could pull itself back up and rebuild from that position.”

As for what he would like Australians to remember of the forgotten war, Harry’s message is simple.

“I’d like them to remember those fellas that went to defend what they thought was the right thing,” he said.

“Remember the sacrifices that were made, because peace comes at a price.

“Somebody has to pay for it and unfortunately, over 300 Australians had to pay that price in Korea.”

Lest We Forget.

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments

Daily Digest

Want the best Riverina news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riverina stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.