Veteran Stories:
Ken Kelbough

Navy

  • Able Seaman Ken Kelbough and Able Seaman Wyber in 1953. Both served aboard HMCS Crusader.

    Ken Kelbough
  • Ken Kelbough in Victoria, British Columbia, November 2011.

    Historica Canada
  • A funeral held for an individual who served on HMCS Cayuga, Tokyo, Japan, 1953.

    Ken Kelbough
  • A farmer and oxen in Sasebo, Japan, 1952.

    Ken Kelbough
  • Ken Kelbough in his Class 2 uniform, 1958.

    Ken Kelbough
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"The North Koreans used to run supplies through these tunnels and we’d sit there waiting for them in the middle of the night and you could hear the train engine going and just as soon as they were in this package, as they called it, or they were referred as, we opened fire and that’s when we were credited as a train busting champion for the United Nations fleet. And I think it was 3.5 or four trains we blew up."

Transcript

I was training, took my training, ordinary seaman as they call it, training on the cruiser [HMCS] Ontario. And when the war broke out, they had to man the three destroyers [fast, maneuverable warship intended to escort larger vessels and defend them against smaller, powerful, short-range attackers], to bring them up to war footing and they drafted 90 of us ordinary seaman from our training on the Ontario to the three destroyers. And I ended up the first one on the [HMCS] Sioux, which I was very happy about because it had bunks compared to the hammocks. So you know, it was kind of nice there. So that’s where my start of the war was when we went over in June of 1950.

I was an ordinary seaman and I had just been trained on the cruiser Ontario and so I had no active trades training. But when I went on the Sioux, I was assigned the Oerlikon gun, which is about 10 millimetres [20mm Oerlikon automatic cannon]. But that’s my action in cruising station on the Oerlikon gun and from there, when you went to sea, that’s where you went and stood your watch. I was credited with blowing up three mines on that particular gun, without any training, so that was kind of interesting.

Our home base was in Sasebo, Japan and we spent a lot of time, when we went to sea, it was on patrols, playing guard for the carriers or sometimes doing bombardments, whatever it was. That’s when I lost my hearing in the service. But yeah, you didn’t see anything of Korea other than at a distance when you were shelling or something like that.

The action for us sort of limited because we were at sea and there was no action at sea. There was a danger there of mines being dropped off and floated down. And if you got too close and then you took a shell from a shore battery or something, but, or took fire, you didn’t take a shell. So that was the gist of it, it was just, you know, prevent any landings farther down the coast from North Koreans and make go over land, that’s about what it was.

I was posted back to the [HMCS] Crusader, for the first trip on the Crusader back to Korea [June 1952 to June 1953]. That one, we lasted three months there and saw a lot more action, with carrier action and bombardments. And as I had mentioned earlier, packages they were called, they were called, tunnels in the trains. The North Koreans used to run supplies through these tunnels and we’d sit there waiting for them in the middle of the night and you could hear the train engine going and just as soon as they were in this package, as they called it, or they were referred as, we opened fire and that’s when we were credited as a train busting champion for the United Nations fleet. And I think it was 3.5 or four trains we blew up. And anyway, some of them were spectacular because they had ammunition on them, but you know, they lived right in the tunnels and the next morning, they would be out there clearing up the mess and the trains would be running again in the night. But the aircraft would try to shell them and bomb them, put bombs through them as they … Yeah, it was very interesting. We had to get out of there because they would bring up shore batteries and you’re a sitting duck on a ship if you don’t know if shore batteries are there. So we had to pull out. And then the United States Air Force took over, they did some shelling and bombing.

We were very, very close. One of the things we did do is we sent in one of our small boats to within 500 yards of the shore, very close, and sat there from when it was dark and they could hear the trains coming then, they had radio contact and communications with the ship. And they could spot, see the ship then from there and they would order us to say you can open fire now that they’re going to be entering into things. So our guns were already loaded ready to fire, just as soon as they got into that package and pass through the tunnel. And of course, the guns would level off and then foom, foom, and blew them up. Yeah, it was very, yeah, very interesting.

When we come back it was January the 1st and there was over 20,000 people lined up on dock to meet us as we came in. 20,000, that’s a large amount of people. I can recall that very much because they were all over the rocks and the roads and the dockyard, you could just tell that there was a lot of people there. And of course, the newspapers estimated it at 20,000 people.

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