Real Lives

Jewish Care resident, Korean War Veteran, Alan Katz, attends Buckingham Palace 70 years after war

Alan Katz served as the battalion barber for the Gloucestershire Army regiment in the Korean War and later went on to train as a hairdresser under the watchful eye of Adoph Cohen, who also taught Vidal Sassoon. He is now a resident at Jewish Care’s Vi & John Ruben’s House care home in Redbridge and was recently invited to Buckingham Palace to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the War’s Armistice.

Born in Whitechapel in 1932, the 92-year-old Jewish Care resident was conscripted into the army on 24th August 1950, where he was posted to Korea for two years, until 7th September 1952.

Alan’s family moved to Edgware when he was a teenager and he later moved to Stanmore up until 2023, when he moved to Jewish Care’s Vi & John Ruben’s House care home in Redbridge.

Phil, Alan’s son describes his dad as a “cheerful chappy who is always smiling” and says his dad was delighted to be invited to the Royal Reception at Buckingham Palace, hosted by Their Royal Highness The Princess Royal, Anne, and The Duchess of Edinburgh. The reception, which was attended by over 200 Korean War Veterans, marked the 70-year anniversary of the Korean War Armistice. 1,100 British soldiers were killed in the war of the 60,000 British men and women who served.

The Princess Royal delivered a speech on behalf of The King, in which His Majesty thanked the veterans for their service and for ensuring the people of the Republic of Korea could continue to experience democracy and freedom. He said, “In a world where freedoms are continually being challenged and our values scrutinised, your selfless courage and steadfast pursuit of peace are guiding principles which have not been forgotten and continue to inspire generations to come. We salute all those who remain among us and offer our most heartfelt and undying gratitude for those who have gone before. Your service and sacrifice will echo through the ages.”

He further emphasised how important it was for us to remember, what has become known as “the Forgotten War”. He also expressed how disappointed he was not to be able to attend the ceremony in person.

For Alan’s family, the stories from his past when he served in the Korean War only came to light when his children discovered old photographs and documents in a memorabilia box dating back to 1950.

The discovery of Alan’s memorabilia sparked further questions for Phil and his siblings, Caroline, and Steve.

Phil said, “Everything was all just lying in a tin. There were medals and photographs from his time  in Korea. We knew he went to Korea, but that was about it,  he never spoke about it.”

Although Alan was unable to recall much about his service, they were able to search through official certificates and army discharge forms to understand a little more about his time spent in the army.

Speaking after they attended the reception at Buckingham Palace, Phil says, “My father has never done anything like this in his life, because he kept so quiet. He never attended any army reunions, Jewish Serviceman events or memorial services.

“Funnily enough,” Phil continued, “The invitation came about because my neighbour is actually the ex-UK Ambassador for South Korea and the Chairman of the British Korean Society. He explained to me that the British Legion were organising an event to honour veterans of the Korean War and Dad and I were subsequently sent invitations.

“When I visited Dad at the care home, I asked him if he wanted to come along and have a cup of tea and some smoked salmon bagels at Buckingham Palace and he said yes!”

“It was a very special moment for Dad. It’s not every day you get invited to Buckingham Palace and I felt it was a monumental way for him to finally be acknowledged and honoured for putting his life on the line all those years ago.

“He really enjoyed the journey up there on the day of the reception and we were both met by all the royal household who catered amazingly for Dad who remained in his wheelchair. The reception was so lovely, and he was able to meet other veterans in his battalion.

“I introduced my father to The Princess Royal and explained his role in the British Army during the war and they had a really nice conversation. She was polite and kind and told Dad stories of when she visited the Korean War Memorial.”

After serving in the war, Alan stayed in North London to continue his developing career as a successful hairdresser and salon owner. His clientele knew him as ‘Anthony Alan’.

Alan is adored by his three children, Steve, Caroline, and Phil, 10 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren, who describe him as a “family-oriented man who used to have a passion for travel.”

The staff at the care home in Redbridge all adore Alan, who is always so warm and friendly. Naderia Mangroo, Jewish Care’s Vi & John Ruben’s House Care Manager, said, “we are so delighted that Alan was invited to Buckingham Palace alongside his son, Phil, to acknowledge and pay tribute to the courage shown by those who served during the wars and since, especially in this ‘Forgotten War’, so that we can live in freedom today. We continue to be inspired by their stories and to honour them and the memory of those who sadly lost their lives.”





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