Don’t Forget the Boys in Korea’: British Soldiers’ Experience of the Korean War 1950-1953.

Ryder, Drew James (2020) Don’t Forget the Boys in Korea’: British Soldiers’ Experience of the Korean War 1950-1953. Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.

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Abstract

The experience of the British soldier throughout the Twentieth Century may seem to be well covered in new military histories, however there is a conspicuous gap in the literature. The Korean War is one of the most globally significant conflicts of the past century, over 80,000 British personnel served in Korea and 1,109 were lost or killed in action. Yet in the year of the conflict’s 70th anniversary, the experience of the men who fought there has been largely overlooked. This thesis makes an important contribution to knowledge by examining the experiences of a previously unstudied cohort of British veterans who served on the frontlines of Britain’s biggest ‘Forgotten War’. By analysing oral testimonies and recollections, this study recentres the experience of individuals to its rightful place in the narratives of the Korean War and also sheds new light upon wider British Society in the mid-Twentieth Century. This in turn brings studies of the Korean War more into line with the wider body of new military histories. With the inclusion of material from men who served as Regulars and Reservists, as well as National Servicemen, this work also adds to existing scholarly work in the field which has focused predominantly on the experience of conscription. In doing so this research demonstrates firstly that the experience of men who fought in Korea is not uniform and does not fit neatly into either a Cold War narrative or as a continuation of the Second World War. Instead it shows that the experience of Korea could be reflective of the narratives of past conflicts whilst remaining a unique in its own right. Additionally, this thesis also shows how the Korean War never developed its own narrative tropes in popular memory and failed to make a lasting impression with wider post-war society. The most prominent theme of Korea in popular memory was that of being an archetypal ‘Forgotten War’, which this thesis shows, has also led to a reliance in veterans’ recollections on comparison with other conflicts. This study also demonstrates that veterans of Korea were keenly aware of their collective status of being forgotten, which also plays into their reactions to the war and their identity. The agency of these men is made clear through their individual testimonies, showing that not all men who served in Korea did so reluctantly or without choice, and that they formed their own opinions and reactions to their situation. Thereby this work opens the door for an even greater understanding of the most significant conflict of the early post-war era, as well as a wider understanding of conflict throughout the Twentieth Century.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Oral History, Personal Accounts, British Army, 20th Century, Individual Experience
Subjects: L900 Others in Social studies
V300 History by topic
Department: Faculties > Arts, Design and Social Sciences > Humanities
University Services > Graduate School > Doctor of Philosophy
Depositing User: John Coen
Date Deposited: 31 Mar 2021 07:52
Last Modified: 31 May 2021 14:40
URI: http://nrl.northumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/45840

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