Appeal To Help Veteran Celebrate His 90th Birthday in Lockdown
Send Your Birthday Messages For Tommy!Mr Tommy Clough,
c/o The Soldiers of Gloucestershire Museum Back Badge Square
Custom House, 31 Commercial Road
The Soldiers of Gloucestershire Museum is appealing to the public to send birthday wishes to a Korean War veteran who is to spend his 90th birthday in isolation. Tommy Clough, who is registered blind and lives alone in Staverton near Gloucester, had been hoping to mark his 90th birthday along with the 70th anniversary of one of the most significant military battles since the second world war; the Battle of Imjin River in Korea – in 1951 – in which he saw active service.
A gunner with 170 Mortar Battery attached to the 1st Battalion The Gloucestershire Regiment, Tommy was part of a United Nations force despatched to Korea in 1950 when the Communist North Koreans invaded South Korea without warning, themselves bolstered by tens of thousands from the Chinese Communist Army.
Along with the remnants of the famous regiment, the GLORIOUS GLOSTERS, 18-year-old Tommy was captured by the Chinese after the regiment was completely overwhelmed by wave after wave of advancing Chinese, then spending two and half years as a prisoner of war.
Tommy’s birthday falls on 24th February, just two months before the famous battle’s anniversary and today he is one of barely a handful of survivors alive to tell the story.
Comments Tommy: “Being isolated during lockdown is obviously very difficult for us all, but having spent more than two years of my life in a Prisoner of War camp, I learnt what true isolation was. I wasn’t one to do what I was told, and as a result was punished by the Chinese more than once. On one occasion I was locked inside a small wooden crate and held there for over a month. So, although lockdown is clearly very difficult, I recognise that it could be a lot worse. We will get through it together!”
Tommy had planned to be in South Korea this April to mark the significant anniversary alongside other veterans, postponed because of the pandemic. However, he is hoping there might be an opportunity to participate in a new event later in the year, travel-restrictions permitting.
The Battle of Imjin River is especially significant and remembered by the people of South Korea, because Seoul – the country’s capital – lay only a short distance to its South as the Chinese forces advanced and the stubborn defence of the UN forces and the GLOSTERs in particular played a vital role in halting their speed of advance.
As a result of their action, the GLORIOUS GLOSTERS as they became known by the British press on their return to the UK, was awarded the US Presidential Citation, the only British infantry regiment to be so honoured. The Gloucestershire Regiment existed for over three hundred years until it became incorporated into the 1st Bn The Rifles as it is today. Its traditional recruiting area included Bristol as well as Gloucestershire and what is now South Gloucestershire and Avon.
A special service of remembrance is due to take place at Gloucester Cathedral to mark the Korean War and all who fought in it, taking place on Sunday 25th April. The service is private and due to Covid restrictions members of the public are not able to attend, but the Cathedral is planning to stream the service live on the day.
Vicki Hopson, Director of The Soldiers of Gloucestershire Museum said: “Tommy has been a stalwart friend of the museum and has done so much to help us over the years and we just hope we can rally enough public support to show how much he and other veterans of this war are appreciated. We are appealing to all members of the public to send us any messages or cards they might have for Tommy and we will collate and pass them on to him.”
Cards and messages can be sent to the museum at the following address:
Mr Tommy Clough, c/o The Soldiers of Gloucestershire Museum, Custom House, 31 Commercial Road, Gloucester, GL1 2HE