"[...] there was a number of Korean islands, some were inhabited, some were uninhabited. And we would work in that area. Watching for infiltration from the north to the south [...]"
We knew that we were going to be deployed with the United Nations and we arrived in Sasebo, Japan where the Americans, where their major base was, and when really we were deployed by the Americans, yeah. And we worked with the American aircraft carriers, other ships and ended our patrols on the west and the east coast of Korea [Mr. Davidge served with the Royal Canadian Navy in HMCS Crusader during the Korean War].
You had to get your ammunition onboard, food, water, fuel and then there of course, the officers basically were briefed in headquarter situations and away we went.
On the patrols up on the west coast especially, that’s where we spent most of our time, there was a number of Korean islands, some were inhabited, some were uninhabited. And we would work in that area. Watching for infiltration from the north to the south and intercepting small junks. Some were armed and some weren’t and you would go alongside or bring them alongside and inspect them and question them. We had a Japanese Canadian who was our interpreter, he did a magnificent job. He wasn’t that fluent in Japanese and certainly not in Korean but he did really well. And as a matter of fact, he still lives here in Victoria and I see him periodically. We would take him onboard and then at the first opportunity, we would transfer him to South Koreans. Or the Americans, either one.
The basic daily routine would be you would be on watch for four hours and in the evening, you would only be on watch for two hours, so that would break it up so that he didn’t stay on the same watch in 24 hours. For example, if you were on watch from 8:00 am to noon, then you were off, you had to work the rest of the day on the upper deck, but then your next watch would be from 8:00 pm to midnight and then you would have from midnight to 4:00 until 8:00 or when you were woken at 6:30 in the morning. And that routine, every day was a different watch.
And as a radar operator, you sat in the radar compartment, generally two people, one guy would be fixed on the radar display and the other one would be recording and transferring the information to the bridge. And you did that in a voice pipe, you didn’t have microphones in those days.
We would watch the radar of course for aircraft and surface vessels and they would keep, those surface vessels especially, were plotted on a table and you kept track of where it was and how close, who was going to come to you, you had to identify it.
We were away from Canada for over 13 months. We went to Hong Kong for R&R [Rest & Relaxation], recreation. We were there for two weeks and there was work to be done on the ships, so the dockyards in Hong Kong would do that. And as I say, the small sandpans with the girls onboard would come and clean the ship. And yeah, you would have the two weeks.
Morale was pretty good, yeah. We had to entertain yourselves. And of course, in those days, the rum issue was there every day, you had your daily tot of rum every day and the galley was situated in the centre of the ship but you had to designate somebody to go get the food and bring it back to your mess or where you were sleeping and eating and lived. I lived in a mess back on the back part of the ship, on the stern. And it was quite a walk when it was rough out and getting a tray of food back to your mess. And of course, you were designated to do this, everybody had to take their turn, wash the dishes and put them away. And of course every morning, you had to take your hammock down and tie it up and store it away. It was just basic routine and if there was work to be done on the upper deck or wherever, you had to clean the ship, scrub the deck every morning. It was a routine, you got into a routine and time went by.
We came back to Canada in 1953 and the war ended then. But the [HMCS] Crusader, she went back to Korea after we were discharged off the ship and new crew was put onboard and she went back again for, I think it was another few months. Yeah. But as I say, that was the longest we were away. Those ships came from Halifax all the way around to the Panama and across the Pacific and some of those chaps were away a little longer maybe.