WHILE thousands gathered at Vansittart Park Soldiers Memorial today to remember the bravery and sacrifice of those who defended the nation’s freedom and values, the first wreath was laid yesterday when a small group met to commemorate a war forgotten by many.
Around 40 people attended the service to recognise the Battle of Kapyong, the most significant and important battle for Australian troops in Korea.
“Following the Battle of Kapyong, Australian troops received a US citation for their bravery,” Lyndon Manser of the Royal South Australian Regiment Association said during the service.
“17,000 Australians served in the Korean War, with 339 killed and 1216 wounded.
“Today we say thank you to all those who fought in Korea and it is very appropriate that this battle is commemorated today, the day before Anzac Day.
“Korean veterans are true Anzacs for their efforts in keeping Australia the free society it is.”
Mount Gambier’s last surviving Korean War veterans Eric Watson and Roy Underwood laid wreaths to pay tribute to their fallen comrades, while Sergeant David McDonald read the US presidential citation bestowed upon the 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, following the battle at Kapyong.
“The 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, is cited for extraordinary heroism and outstanding performances of combat duties in action against the armed enemy near Kapyong, Korea, on the 24th and 25th of April, 1951,” he said.
“The enemy had broken through the main lines of resistance and the unit was deployed to stem the assault.
“The enemy attacked savagely again and again and threw waves of troops at the gallant defenders.
“Ammunition ran low, there was no time for food and still they stood their ground in resolute defiance of the enemy.
“Their gallantry and determination in accomplishing unit missions under extreme difficulties set them apart and above other units in the campaign.”
For the first time, school students attended the service and laid a wreath in a show of respect.
“Thank you to Reidy Park Primary School students for coming today – this is the first time we have ever had a school here at this service,” Mount Gambier Community RSL president Bob Sandow said.
“Hopefully one day some of these young people will stand up and take over the values and traditions of the RSL.”
Following the service, students placed white crosses under the Lone Pine tree.