HOMETOWN: Simcoe, Ont.
To mark the 60th anniversary of the Korean War armistice on July 27, Maclean’s teams up with the Historica-Dominion Institute to tell the stories of seven veterans of that brutal war.
Kendrick describes the night the HMCS Huron ran aground:
The night [13 July 1953] that we ran aground… and we were doing train-busting, and then we went out and then we were called to come back in and watch our guard, Yang-do Island, and a lot of us were asleep but there were shifts working. But I heard all sorts of stories about what happened. And the captain had, and what we heard he had finally said, well, he’d thought it was pretty easy now because we were just going to go and do patrol around this island. And he went to bed. And the young officer took over and a couple of them, and I know for a fact because I know one chap and he lives right here in Ottawa [Ontario], that was on the radar and that, and they had told him that we were heading for shore. And he ignored it and said, “No, your readings are wrong.” And we were going, not full steam because of the fog, we’d slowed down a bit, but the watchman had seen the land ahead and we ran right into this island we were protecting.
And like all the rest of them we started running up to the upper deck to see what was going on. And the engineering officer got a hold of me, Lieutenant Commander Manog got a hold of me, and he asked me to go down into the forward hold where the damage was. And I remember going down in there and looking and all I could see was big, black rocks and black water and a great big hole.
And, wow. So anyway I went up and told him what it was, and we’d have to do some shoring to protect the plates from being pushed further apart. And then I went to the engine room and I looked after the evaporator because I had knowledge of evaporators and they took the senior guy, I guess, and I had, that was to make fresh water. So I did, been all shook up with the jolt. And, being in the engine room, I was watching what was going on with the engines and the engineering officer and the chief ERA [engine room artificer] and chief stoker we were, they were all in there. And we waited for the tide to come in, and when it lifted us high enough, we started full steam astern to try and pull ourselves off the rocks. And it wasn’t working.
So what they did was shut one engine down and got the other one up to running level and pulled that way and then stopped it and pulled the other one. So we wiggled ourselves off the rocks. And then we pulled around to the side of the island where we were away from the shore batteries. And we went up and shored up the damage in the mess deck and the forward end.
And I think that was one of the strangest feelings in a sense, thinking that, “Wow, there’s all those ships and aircraft out and a horseshoe behind us and if the shore battery had opened up, they would have lambasted them and blown them right out of the…
So we’d shored up the ship and then we tried to go ahead. But because the plates on the front focsule had been pushed back and the water was pushing them back more and tearing more of the plates off, so we stopped and an American tug tried to blast the [sonar] dome that had dropped down, they tried to blast it off with dynamite. And it didn’t work, which scared us on board because it shook us. And then they took a big wire and attached it around it and onto one of the tugs, and then took a ram out and tried to break it off that way. Just about took the front end of the ship off, scared us again and they said, “That was enough of that.” They went and they brought a landing sea dock. That’s the first time I had ever seen one. It’s a big ship but it’s got an open back and then they almost sink it down with, the bridge is high on it , but they sink it down in the water and then tried to get us up into it, to look at some of the repairs or what they could do out there. And because of the dome being down, we couldn’t get into it, so that took that out of it.
And then there was two tugs, American tugs. One towed us and we went astern all the way from Korea back to Sasebo, Japan. And we got to the gates at Sasebo and the captain, he was a good guy. We really liked him. He was for the men and, we stopped and he wouldn’t let them tow us in the harbour. So we turned around and went into Sasebo Harbour on our own.
The full version of this post first appeared as part of the Historica-Dominion Institute’s Memory Project.