Langley-Aldergrove MP Tako van Popta will be at a ceremony marking 70 years since Canadian soldiers fought at the Battle of Kapyong, held at the Gapyeong Memorial in Langley’s Derek Doubleday Arboretum on Friday, April 16. (Special to the Langley Advance Times)

Langley-Aldergrove MP Tako van Popta will be at a ceremony marking 70 years since Canadian soldiers fought at the Battle of Kapyong, held at the Gapyeong Memorial in Langley’s Derek Doubleday Arboretum on Friday, April 16. (Special to the Langley Advance Times)

Langley battle memorial marks 70 years since pivotal clash in Korean War

The Gapyeong Memorial will host a small, private ceremony this Friday

Members of the Korean-Canadian community, local politicians, and a historian are all expected to mark a historical anniversary of the Korean War on Friday, April 16 in Langley.

The event marks the April 22-25 Battle of Kapyong, where Canadian, Australian, and New Zealand troops blocked an advance towards South Korean capital Seoul by a full division of the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army.

Guy Black, a military historian from Coquitlam, is walking between markers commemorating the battle and will finish his walk in Langley on April 16, at the Gapyeong Stone Korean War Memorial in the Derek Doubleday Arboretum in Langley.

He started his trek on Wednesday, April 7, at the Kap’Yong Memorial on Radar Hill in Tofino, and aims to complete his journey by 11 a.m. on Friday, April 16, at the Gapyeong Stone Korean War Memorial in Langley.

He said he’s always wanted to do a long-distance walk to mark a Korean War anniversary, and that this year marks the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Kapyong in 1951.

“There was a Canadian battalion that held back Chinese soldiers from invading further south into Korea and capturing the capital city of Seoul. The Canadian soldiers stood alone on this hill and fought for two days. The odds were like seven-to-one.”

So far, he’s headed through snow and has endured some very sore feet as he treks 30-plus kilometres per day.

“COVID has made too many important anniversaries slip by, so that is why I am doing the walk, something kind of significant to honour Korean War veterans,” Black said. “Much more needs to be done to highlight veterans.”

Also planning to be present at Friday’s ceremony is Langley-Aldergrove MP Tako van Popta.

“I want to thank the veterans in our community and pay tribute to the more than 26,000 Canadians who served in the Korean War,” said van Popta.

The battle took place over a little over two days, as a massive Chinese offensive headed south with the aim of capturing Seoul, resulting in fierce fighting with Republic of Korean, American, and British troops.

The Canadians, Australians, and New Zealanders were part of a reduced brigade of Commonwealth troops that were called up to what is now known as Gapeyong County. The Australians and Canadians took up positions on a pair of hills, with the New Zealand artillery backing them up.

The Australians took the brunt of the fighting on the first day, with the Canadians defending their positions on the second day.

After halting the advance, the Commonwealth forces were relieved by a larger American battalion. Seoul was largely out of danger as the advance had been blunted.

A total of 10 Canadians died in the battle, and about 23 were wounded.

The memorial in Langley was installed in 2019.

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Donation of the memorial was facilitated by the Gapyeong Stone Committee, made up of members of the Korea Veterans Association of Canada, the Korean War Veterans Association, the Korean Veterans Association, and the Vietnam War Veterans Association.

The stone itself was quarried in Gapyeong, and the memorial joined the community’s other significant war memorials, including the Walk to Remember and commemorative structure for soldiers who fell in Afghanistan, as well as an oak tree grown from an acorn from Vimy Ridge.

Last year, the citizens of Gapyeong donated 8,000 disposable masks to Langley as the coronavirus pandemic was causing mass lockdowns, in honour of the connection between the two cities due to the memorial.

Black, the historian, can be reached by email at korea19501953@yahoo.com for anyone who would like to reach out to him.

– with files from Black Press Media

LangleyNorth KoreaParksvilleTofino,Veterans