Royal Artillery troops fighting in the Korea War celebrated the Queen’s coronation in 1953 with decorations including a painted banner. SARAH TROTTER learns of its recent return to Woolwich.
A gunner’s painted banner to celebrate the Queen’s coronation on the frontline in Korea has been returned to Woolwich 61 years later.
The historic 4.3 metre banner was tracked down and presented by an ambassador of the Republic of Korea to The Royal Artillery Museum yesterday (May 13).
The banner’s artist Signals Officer Gunner Doug Leyland was among the veterans at the special ceremony at Firepower where it will be on permanent display.
The Royal Artillery Regiment battled throughout the Korean War between north and south Korea and were given the honour of firing the last shell of the war as tribute to their efforts.
The troops’ party plans for Queen Elizabeth 11’s coronation were interrupted by the Battle of Hook – the Chinese’s final major offensive of the war between May 28 to 29 1953.
They fired 37,000 shells in a single night to ward off the repeated waves of Chinese attacks.
After the battle, the camp was decorated and a string of banners painted by the regiment’s unofficial artist, gunner Leyland, were hung up.
He said: "I’m amazed it has survived. It was a bit of art I was quite proud of, and now it is on display here in the museum I’m even more proud of it." Other coronation celebrations in Korea’s Samichon Valley included red, white and blue smoke fired towards the Chinese lines to represent the Union flag.
The artwork and a donation to the museum were given as an expression of thanks to British troops and the "shared history" with Korea.
The donation will enable the museum to revamp their Korean War display and tell the story of their regiment’s celebrations and tragedy in Korea.
One tragedy included the death of Commanding Officer of 1903 Flight Independent Air Observation Post, Major Wilf Harris, who was killed when an F84 Thunder Jet crashed into his jeep as he travelled to the celebrations.
His grandson Captain Will Harris, who currently serves at Headquarters London District, was also at the ceremony to meet his father’s comrades.
Republic of Korea ambassador His Excellency Ambassador Sungnam Lim said: "We are so pleased it will be displayed at the Royal Artillery Museum.
"It is a very important part of a shared moment in history between Korea and the UK and will go some way to ensuring that the Korean War is no longer the forgotten war."