Easter is about the hope that flows from one man's sacrifice for the sins of the world two thousand years ago. But in our own lifetimes many thousands of our country men and women have made their own sacrifices to defend the values that we must never take for granted.

This Easter, my ministerial duties took me to an immensely moving and important commemoration on the other side of the world - to Korea to mark the 60th anniversaries of the Battles of Imjin and of Kapyong. And the first of those battles, of immense significance to the people of Korea and one in which the Cold War became pretty hot, is also one of local importance too.

The Korean War is less well remembered than it should be. British casualties include over a thousand killed in action, some 2,600 wounded and another thousand missing or taken prisoner. The Americans lost nearly 40,000, the South Koreans some 46,000. No one knows how many North Koreans and Chinese died, but the estimates are around 600,000 - perhaps much higher.

We fought alongside our Commonwealth cousins - indeed the war was the first test of the new United Nations and the last martial adventure of the old Commonwealth. That is why I was accompanied, among others, by the Prime Minister of Australia and the Chief of the New Zealand army.

But the main reason I was there - the 60th anniversary of battle of the Imjin River - has strong local links. In the UK this battle is perhaps best remembered for the extraordinary courage of the 1st Batallion, the Gloucestershire Regiment, "the Glosters". Just 773 men, including members of the Royal Artillery and the reserves, faced a furious assault from thousands of Chinese troops. The battle was inevitably lost, but only after a staggeringly courageous action by the Glosters enabled the bulk of the UN forces to withdraw and regroup safely. The regiment won two VCs in the action.

Remembering these sacrifices is important for the veterans and for the people of South Korea, whose freedom today owes everything to the bravery of the Glosters and others like them sixty years ago. But it is also important that we in the UK recall the courage of British service men and women who have died for freedom in all save one single year since the Second World War.


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