Veteran Stories:
David Campbell

Navy

  • An "Ambassador of Peace" certificate issued to David Cambell by the Republic of Korea.

    David Cambell
  • A photo of David Cambell taken at the Memory Project event in Victoria, BC on November 2nd, 2011.

    David Cambell
  • David Cambell's medals (from left to right): The Canadian Korea Medal, the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal for Korea, the United Nations Service Medal, the Canadian Forces Decoration and the Syngman Rhee Medal issued by South Korea.

    David Cambell
Enlarge Image
Listen to this story

"When the Chinese were coming down, we went up the Taedong River to bombard and help the Americans with some more time so they could retreat."

Transcript

What we do, we were plane guard, we would follow behind an aircraft carrier in case an American plane dumped itself into the ocean. We’d go pick up the crew. We inspected junks [small coastal vessels] that were going up and down the coast to see if they were North Korean or South Korean. And you couldn’t tell anyhow because when they saw you coming, they put up whichever flag of convenience they had. And we were in the evacuation of Inchon and then we went up, actually, when the Chinese were coming down, we went up the Taedong River to bombard and help the Americans with some more time so they could retreat. And HMCS Athabasca and the HMCS Cayuga went up there okay, we had a day marker and got this huge cable wrapped around our starboard prop. And so we had to get out of there, so we backed out.

And then we were, let’s see, about three days, there was a British cruiser there, I forget the name of it, they sent divers down, they couldn’t cut the cable and they had a hell of a job. And they finally got some of it cut, it was a day marker and I was on the evaporators making fresh water and Chief ERA [Engine Room Artificer] was on the throttles, we were backing out, or going ahead rather, and then there was this bang, bang, on the side of the ship. And the Chief ERA said, “Jesus, that’s a goddamn mine.” And he went up from the deck on the engine room floor where the throttles were, he went up through two decks through a hatch this big on the upper deck and I’m standing there saying, what the hell’s the matter with him. Because if it had been a mine, we would have been gone, you know. So I was making my water and this fellow, Tommy Bly who was a chief ERA, he was on the throttles and we backed out and then we just had to wait until somebody could help us.

We got fired upon by some small arms like maybe 40, 50 caliber guns, 40mm guns like Bofors. But you could see them, they were tracers but they weren’t even getting out to us. A lot of mines, we blew up lots of mines, they were old World War II mines but you know, they broke their cables after a few years and they were floating around.

What the captain would do, he’d say, anybody want to take a shot at the mines, so we’d all grab a 303 [caliber Enfield] rifle and go and pop away at them. Nobody hit anything. And then there was a gunner, Davey Marsh. Geez, I haven’t remembered his name for years. He was on the Bofors, 40mm, one shot, boom and I just happened to catch it through the porthole.

We were in Inchon when they were evacuating Inchon, we went alongside there because the Americans were burning everything so that the Chinese wouldn’t get a hold of too much. One funny story is that we were alongside and they said, “if you guys want groceries, pull in, we’ve got barges loaded, you get what you want.” So this barge came alongside and there was canned salmon. Todd’s Canneries, which was in Victoria, canned salmon. Cans of peaches and pears, they all went down to stoker’s mess, we got the good stuff. And then this one chief, he was a storesman, Van Haff was his name, I think he just died. And there were boxes of frozen meat coming aboard and on the side it said, mutton. So as the boxes came up the port side, they went over the starboard side. Didn’t want any mutton, they would just throw it over the side.

Follow us