My Account


1 December 2017


The idea of creating a memorial was first raised within the Lothians and West of Scotland Branch of the British Korean Veterans Association based in Bathgate in 1994 when Major George Duncan, late KOSB was President of the Branch. When he retired due to ill health his successor, Lieutenant Colonel J.C.McQ. (Johnny) Johnston, late KOSB took on the project very actively. It was proposed that the memorial consist of an arboretum of native Scottish trees, one for every serviceman killed, and a memorial shrine containing boards with the names of all the fallen, located between two mounds in the shape of the Ying and Yang on the Korean flag. The proposal was put to the National Council of the BKVA and to the other two Branches in Scotland but they declined to take part. The Branch decided to continue on its own and approached West Lothian Council for a site and they kindly gave us the site at Witch Craig for a nominal fee.
A charitable Trust was established to build and maintain the Memorial, the Trustees of which were all members of the Branch, including Major David Sturrock, TD, WS, KOSB from Jedburgh who acted as our lawyer pro bono. The Branch started to raise funds by approaching all District and City Councils in Scotland, the Regimental Headquarters of all regiments and corps that had personnel killed in Korea, the Royal Navy, the Royal Air Force and various companies and wealthy donors, including donations of £10,000 each from Sir William Purves, CBE, DSO and David Tennant of the Tennant’s brewing family, both of whom had served in Korea as subalterns. In addition the Branch carried out can collections at sites in Livingston and Edinburgh. A total of about £90,000 was raised. Johnny Johnston was the driving force behind this but members of the Branch embraced the task enthusiastically, especially Jim McGuigan who did most of the Council visits. Only a couple of Councils resisted his efforts. The Korean government originally offered to send us 100 one metre tall Korean firs but the trust was unable to obtain an import permit for them so they sent us seeds instead. The Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh were asked to grow the Korean firs from seed for us, which were later transferred to Shotts prison for growing on as the RBGE did not have room for them all in pots. The Architecture Department of Heriot Watt University was approached for their students to provide designs of the shrine as an exercise in their degree course, one of which was selected by the Trustees to be constructed.
Over the next six years the site was prepared, 1,100 trees were planted (one for every serviceman killed), paths laid, memorial gates and the shrine built and name boards created. The shrine built was not in accordance with the student’s design but the contractor said he was unable to build it like that. He could not make a curved roof. It was a small wooden building with glass doors and wooden panels with the names of all the fallen painted in gold. The roof did not have a Korean type curve but had two slopes and was roofed with red pantiles. This was accepted by Johnny Johnston as he was dying of lung cancer and wished to see the project completed before he died. On 25th July 2000, the 50thAnniversary of the start of the War, the Memorial was dedicated. Soon after the dedication of the Memorial Johnny became so ill that he had to resign as President of the Branch and Major Allan Cameron, late KOSB was elected President in his place.
A Visitors Book was kept in the pagoda together with some leaflets about the Memorial and over the next few years showed that visitors had come from all over the UK, USA and Canada. Several comments were received about names missed off or misspelt on the name boards and following a review, new metallic boards were created. There are the names of 1109 Servicemen, two Merchant Seamen and four War Correspondents engraved on the boards. In 2004 West Lothian Council took over responsibility for the upkeep of the Memorial. This was carried out by their Cemeteries Officer, George Downey. The original intention was that the Trust would hand over all remaining funds to the Council when they assumed responsibility for the maintenance but, it was found that they could not operate a Charity account. So it was agreed that the Council would do the work and charge the Trust but they have never charged us and when this was queried the Council said they had accepted the task as being of benefit to the community.
In February 2005 it occurred to the President that the Branch and its Trustees had a finite life and we should do something about the future of the Trust after we had gone. West Lothian Council and later the Royal British Legion Scotland were asked if they would be prepared to appoint Trustees. It was suggested that the Trust Committee should consist of two Trustees from the Branch, as long as they could carry out their duties, three from West Lothian Council including the Secretary/Treasurer and two from the Royal British Legion Scotland. We were anxious that the Legion provide an Armed Forces element to the trustees so that it would not be seen as a purely West Lothian matter. Both the Council and the Legion agreed and the new Trust deed was eventually signed in July 2006. The first meeting of the new Trust committee took place on 21st December 2006.
At the November 2007 meeting the President raised concerns about the quality and maintenance of the memorial shrine, or pagoda as it was referred to at that time. He thought that it was an unimpressive building which required steady maintenance to its woodwork and glass doors. It was not a long lasting construction. There had been one incident of vandalism, where the glass door on the east side had been kicked in. There was quite an outrage in the local paper when this was reported. Unfortunately for the perpetrators, one of them had very distinctive shoes and had left an identifiable footprint on the door. So the two culprits were caught by the police and fined £500 each. The Council Architects Department were asked to consider designing a new, more permanent structure.
Raphael Dunbar, an architect in the Construction Services Department of West Lothian Council, was tasked to produce a more suitable design which would be more enduring and need little maintenance. He carried out a lot of research into the design of Korean shrines and their construction, liasing with a man called George Drake who he had located on the internet as having built a Korean type memorial in the USA. Raphael eventually produced a design with two semi-circular walls, to hold the name boards and a cabinet for a Visitors Book, and a Korean style tiled roof. He had found through George Drake an agent in Seoul, Mr Sungchang Hong, who could arrange the purchase and shipping of traditional Korean roof tiles and a specialist in that type of tiling to tile the roof. He had carried out a preliminary estimate of costs, which came to about £60,000. After quite a bit of discussion about the finance available, in 2008 the Trustees decided to rebuild it if we could raise the money required. Another round of fundraising took place. All the Regiments and Corps were written to as before and all the Scottish city and district councils. Due to the financial crash in 2008 the result was much poorer than the previous appeal, only £14,468 was raised. Together with the Branch’s can collections in Livingston, which had raised about another £10,000 and with what was left from the original funding we had about £95,000 and it was decided that we had enough to go ahead. The work was put out for tender by the Council Architects and a building firm in Newbridge, ERDC Group, was awarded the contract in July 2010. A fixed price contract of £72,973 was negotiated with a firm called ERDC with us providing the tiles and tiler for about £14,000. Considerably more than we had been given as a provisional estimate. There were several delays in starting work but eventually it was due to start in October 2010 but unfortunately ERDC went into administration just before they were due to start work. We held off for a few months hoping that the firm would be bought and could restart but eventually had to accept that we would have to start again.
When the President suggested to Rafael that we should start looking for another contractor, he said that he had further researched the design and construction of Korean shrines and felt that he should redesign it and it was agreed, expecting that it would only take a couple of months. A draft re-design was agreed at the Trustee Meeting on 17th March 2011 subject to finalisation of a few details. Also at this meeting Tom Conn mentioned that we might get some funding from the West Lothian Land Trust if we applied for it. It was left for him to do this as he is a member of the Trust board and a grant of £45,000 was awarded.
Despite the fact that it was only supposed to take one or two weeks to complete the re-design it was not until the Trustee Meeting on 7thSeptember 2012 that we received the final drawings fit for Tender purposes. The new design was a true copy of a Korean shrine. Unfortunately it could not accommodate a cabinet for a Visitors Book Tender documents were sent to five local building contractors suggested by the Council and tenders were received from three of the firms, Murdoch Smith in Stenhousemuir, Ashwood in Bathgate and Bryce Construction in West Calder. A Trustee Meeting on 23rd November 2012 discussed the tender analysis and the Trustees agreed to go ahead with Murdoch Smith’s quote of £60,880 plus VAT. The Trust would pay for the tiles and tiler from Korea.
Mr Sungchang Hong was contacted and again agreed to act as our agent for the provision and despatch of traditional Korean roof tiles and the expert tiler to place them.
Murdoch Smith had demolished the old pagoda before Christmas and did the foundations for the new shrine in January but there was nothing else to be done until the timber frame was erected. There was a considerable delay in getting design approval of the timber roof by our structural engineer and this led to a significant delay in construction. The original building schedule gave completion of the timber works by 20th April 2013. The tiles were ordered and shipping arranged through t.ward & co of Leith. The consignment was estimated at 10.5 metric tons on five pallets and would take six weeks to deliver via Felixstowe. They arrived in late April.
The timber work by Alba Green Oak Co was not completed till Sunday 19th May and Mr Lee, the Korean tiler arrived that day and started work on Monday 20th May. He was adamant that he would complete the tiling, with the assistance of three apprentices from West Lothian Council, by the Friday evening and he did.
Murdoch Smith finished all the walls and groundworks at the end of June and the new shrine was officially dedicated on 27th July 2013,the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Armistice in the Korean War.

Allan Cameron

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