Dr Chris Parry will talk about the strategic background to the Korean crisis and the context within which major powers, the United States, China, Russia and Britain, became involved. He will explain why the Labour administration of Clement Attlee decided to commit British forces, despite widespread war-weariness, concerns about the security of western Europe and a difficult emergence from austerity.
At first, the British Chiefs of Staff were reluctant to commit ground forces from Germany, Malaya and Hong Kong, but, as the situation deteriorated, the government decided that the political benefits of doing so (not least the effect on American strategic choices and public opinion) outweighed the military disadvantages.
He will outline the main features and phases of the war and highlight the distinctive contribution of British forces, notably the invasion of South Korea by North Korea in June 1950; the initial deployments by the United Nations; the Inchon landings and the defeat of the North Korean forces in October 1950. He will then describe the decisive intervention by China, leading to the battle of the Imjin River and the eventual stabilisation of the front around the 38th parallel in May 1951, although with continued fierce fighting for two more years while negotiations took place that led to an armistice in July 1953.
Chris will also review the lessons from the war and the difficulties of operating as a junior partner in a US-led coalition. He will describe how the war was reported in Britain, the effects of the intervention on political attitudes and its influence on subsequent events. He will show how echoes from the war persist right up to the present day and into the future.
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