VALERIE Busby was overwhelmed by the gratitude of South Koreans when she finally managed to pay her family’s respects at the grave of her uncle, who died during the Korean War.
Mrs Busby, of Bicester, journeyed to Asia to visit her uncle Herbert Clifton’s final resting place.
- Herbert Clifton
Her visit came after the family, who had previously no idea where the war hero had been buried, were able to track down his burial site, thanks to generous war veterans.
The 68-year-old said: “The Korean people really couldn’t do enough for us.
“People came up in the streets and held our hands and said ‘thank you’.”
Mrs Busby has now returned from a week of commemorative services at the invitation of the South Korean government, joining about 100 Commonwealth war veterans and 30 or so of their family members.
Together with her 78-year-old partner Tom Selwood, she attended the special ceremony at the United Nations cemetery in Busan on Friday.
It was the first time anyone from her family had been able to attend the grave, following her uncle’s death during a battle on the Imjin River in 1951.
Nobody in the family knew where the remains of the Bicester lad were until a chance conversation with Mr Selwood last year put the couple in touch with war veterans.
One of them, Grenville Toomey, 80, of Appleton, whose infantry battalion took over from that of Uncle Herbert, was also on last week’s trip.
Mrs Busby to lay two crosses at her uncle’s grave, each inscribed by his remaining family members – her mother, Win May, 90, of Bicester, and Mrs May’s younger sister, Joan Smith, 87.
Although the headstone is small, it has huge emotional importance for the family. “It’s a square about two feet by two feet. It has his name, regiment number, and when he died.”
Mrs Busby visited her infirm mother on Monday to show her photographs of the cemetery.
She said of her mother: “She shed a few tears.”
The South Korean government also presented Uncle Herbert’s sisters with quilted blankets with the words: “The Republic of Korea will always remember your sacrifice.”
During her visit, Mrs Busby attended drinks and dinner at the Seoul residence of UK ambassador Scott Wainwright.
The group also visited to the Demilitarized Zone on the border with Communist North Korea.
Mrs Busby said: “It was quite an uneasy feeling.
“You could pick up the tension. We weren’t allowed to point or stare over the other side.”