Kirkby Lonsdale pensioner feted by Korea

Doug Leyland in Korea with the banner

Doug Leyland

First published in News The Westmorland Gazette: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter

WHEN a Kirkby Lonsdale pensioner decided to clear out his attic he had no idea of the fuss that would follow.

But Doug Leyland, 83, has since appeared on Korean national television, dined with the country’s ambassador and been immortalised in its cultural records – after accidentally throwing out a banner he created during national service in the 1950s.

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“I had to downsize to move house,” explained the former Royal Artillery signaller, who served in Korea for 14 months during its civil war.

“It ended up going to auction along with a lot of other things and I didn’t even realise I’d got rid of it.

“Then out of the blue I had a call from the Korean Embassy in Seoul asking if I was the originator of it. It’s been a whirlwind since then.”

Mr Leyland, who recently moved to Settle after 17 years in Kirkby Lonsdale, made the canvas banner in 1953 to commemorate the Queen’s coronation.

A designer by trade, he was fighting in Korea at the time, and spent three weeks creating it to mark celebrations on the front-line.

When he returned home he simply packed it away and forgot about it until it was accidentally sold as part of his house clearance last year.

After being resold several times, it was purchased by a Korean collector, Young-jun Kim, who donated it to the Korean Ministry of Culture (MCST) – the ‘public face’ of the country’s embassy.

The MCST has now restored and framed the banner and it was unveiled last week at a ceremony at London’s Korean Cultural Centre, when Mr Leyland was invited to dine with the ambassador.

“It’s brought back a lot of memories,” continued Mr Leyland. “And it’s been strange because I’ve had to discuss it so many times – even on the national news in Korea!

“It’s just a strange thing to happen at my age – it’s been quite surreal.”

Ambassador Sungnam Lim hailed the rediscovery of the banner, which will now be displayed at the Royal Artillery Museum.

“Through this donation the Republic of Korea would like to extend our most heartfelt thanks to the British servicemen and women whose sacrifices have made possible what Korea is today,” he said.

“We’re so pleased that it wil be displayed at the Royal Artillery Museum.”

The Royal Artillery Regiment was engaged on the front-line for the duration of the Korean War and one unit fired over 250,000 bombs during the conflict.

They paused for one day on June 2, to mark the coronation of Elizabeth II at home.

“I think the Koreans were grateful for what we did for them,” added Mr Leyland.

“So I think in a way it’s very important that British experience of the war is remembered – and Coronation Day was a big part of that.”

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