LEST WE FORGET: Hunter Valley District Council of RSL sub-branches president Brian Boughton.Unlike many airline passengers, Basil Stemp was happy when Qantas crews went on strike shortly before his proposed trip.
Mr Stemp, from East Maitland, was a bren gunner in the Australian Army, destined to fly to Japan for intensive training before heading to fight the communists as part of the United Nations forces in Korea.
After being held up for some six months while the strike continued, Mr Stemp and 500 other members of his battalion finally made it to Korea – just in time for the ceasefire to be declared on July 27, 1953.
He stayed on in Korea as part of the Australian Army’s United Nations forces, patrolling the demilitarised zone and in constant danger.
“But the main fighting was over, which of course was a good thing as far as I was concerned,” Mr Stemp said.
Mr Stemp spoke to the Maitland Mercury on Friday when about 50 men and women had gathered at Maitland Park’s memorial garden in remembrance of servicemen who did not come home from the “forgotten war”.
Three-hundred-and-thirty-nine Australians lost their lives during that war and hundreds of others returned wounded.
After serving in Korea with 4RAR, Mr Stemp later served in Vietnam.
“Looking back at the Korean War, I believe we really did something to help that country to maintain its independence and to achieve the living standards it has now,” he said.
Hunter Valley District Council of RSL sub-branches president Brian Boughton addressed the service and said the young men of Australia had demonstrated to the world during the Korean conflict that their country was “truly a nation in partnership with the United Nations allies for a common cause”.
“We think of every man in those crucial years who died so the lights of freedom and humanity might continue to shine,” Mr Boughton said.
“We nurture too the obligations of showing gratitude for the peace we enjoy and the responsibility of ensuring the freedom and liberty so costly won is not lost by our own indifference.
“So let us mourn with pride, but let us also remember with equal pride those who served and who still live.”
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