Veteran Stories:
Peter Wilkins


  • The Memory Project, Historica Canada
Enlarge Image
Listen to this story

"We were on our way out and the first thing we did was we were being fired upon. We weren’t hit, but the shells landed astern of us... The captain turned around and took the ship in, and opened up with everything we had, and that was our first encounter. "


Around 1949 I was transferred to HMCS Stadacona,* and there I did training as a torpedo detector, as they called it in those days.  And my first ship was another aircraft carrier, HMCS Magnificent.** That was a good trip.  Did my training, I suppose you’d call it training there, although I was already fully trained.  But one of the incidents happening there, I asked my division officer if I could be marked “trained” because of my background, my training in the Royal Navy and stuff like that.  And he said if I could answer, if I could answer the examination that he was going to give me, then perhaps he’d think about it.

I passed the examination and then I went to Stadacona and did my TD [torpedo detector] training.  And before you know it I was posted aboard a ship, a destroyer, which was heading for Korea.  So I hadn’t been in the country more than just over a year, and I was on my way to Korea.  I didn’t know what Canada was all about at all.  All I’d seen was Halifax and [HMCS] Cornwallis*** [Annapolis, Nova Scotia], and then I was on my way to Korea.

So, because of my training, the skipper of HMS, HMCS Nootka**** made me his coxswain,^ so I, we hit a storm going, leaving Halifax going down to Bermuda.  And we lost the captain’s boat because it, the storm smashed it.  And so we, the captain and I, spent the evenings at sea scrubbing down and sanding, and re-varnishing the dinghy, which was a 14-foot boat, which the captain said he was going to use as his boat.

So we went to Hawaii.  We went to Kwajalein [Marshall Islands] and […], Kwajalein, and while we were at Kwajalein, the captain went to shore and bought a 10 horsepower engine, a board motor, so as to drive his boat.

Now, you can imagine when we arrived in Korea and went, started up to, we were, our first trip was to Inchon and we were HMCS Nootka was the first Canadian ship to be fired upon by the enemy since 1945.  We had a little run in with the shore batteries there.  We put some of them out of action because the captain called the American boss, who was aboard the Missouri, USS Missouri,^^ and asked what was going on.  And the Missouri skipper said that they were just firing at broadside every 15 minutes or something like that because they, Inchon was changing hands so often.

Anyway, we were on our way out and the first thing we did was we were being fired upon.  We weren’t hit, but the shells landed astern of us.  And the old man turned, the captain turned around and took the ship in, and opened up with everything we had, and that was our first encounter.

In Korea, we were sent up the coast looking after the intelligence groups of the Republic of Korea troops and sailors.  We did capture a bunch of junks that were laying mines, and sank them and took the crews of them prisoner, and turned them over to the South Koreans.  And other than, oh, yes, we did send a landing party ashore to blow up the stanchions or the supports of the bridge because we kept shelling it at night, or we’re shelling it during the daytime, and the enemy would build it up during the night again, the spans.  So the captain thought that if we went ashore with demolitions, we’d blow up the supports and they wouldn’t be able to blow up the, build the bridge.

Well, we got within 50 yards of the shore and a bunch of North Korean soldiers came out of the tunnels, and opened fire on us, so we turned around and came back to the ship.  But we did blast the ship again.

We did go up a river and there was an American destroyer ahead of us, and the American destroyer hit a mine and we missed it.  But we blew up mines and shore batteries, and things like that.  And, as I said, took intelligence people ashore and that sort of thing.  So that was our whole thing about Korea.


* HMCS Stadacona is part of the Royal Canadian Navy’s east coast base at Halifax.

** The HMCS Magnificent was a Royal Canadian Navy aircraft carrier that served until the mid-1950s.

*** HMCS Cornwallis was a training facility for new sailors and officers.

**** The HMCS Nootka was a Canadian naval vessel that patrolled the Korean coastline involved in surveillance operations, and intercepting enemy supply boats and minelayers.

^ The coxswain is a chief petty officer in charge of a vessel, responsible for steering and navigation.

^^ The USS Missouri, a legendary battleship, was extensively involved in providing major gunfire support for UN forces fighting along the Korean coast.


Follow us