CHONGIN ... NORTH KOREA
Tom Hamilton completed two tours of Korea, the first in HMAS WARRAMUNGA 1952, and the second in HMAS SYDNEY (1953-54). His long service in the Australian Defence Force includes RAN February 1946 to October 1957. RAN Fleet Reserve November 1959 to October 1964. CMF service October 1963 to March 1966. ARA service March 1966 to March 1972 and again CMF service from March 1972 to October 1987. He also had service as Warrant Officer Discipline (W.O.D.) with the RAAF Air Training Corps, and as an Officer of Cadets with Army Cadets. His Service Medals include the NGSM (Mine-sweeping), British Korea, UN Korea, RAFR Long Service and Good Conduct, National Medal.
In 1952, HMAS "WARRAMUNGA" soon found out that her main operational area was to be the Songin-Chongin area of North Korea, with the task of blockade and bombardment of the coast and also targets of opportunity. Chongin harbour is horse shoe shaped, with a light house on the northern end which was used as an observation post by the North Korean forces. As a result we had little hope of sneaking in for a bit of a "shoot-up" and sneaking out again. The Commo (Chinese forces) guns were placed on railway trolleys and backed into the tunnels dug into the hillside. This meant that we had to wait until they came out and had a shot at us before we could shoot back. So began our "Coaxing Runs". This meant that as we passed the light house we would fire a few shots at it then reduce speed to just enough to keep way on. This was supposed to present a very tempting target to the gunners. All hands keeping a very sharp lookout for the blink of light on the shore that meant they had fired and a shell was on its way to you, and then we could pinpoint the gun and shoot back. On our slow cruise around the harbour we would fire at known enemy gun positions in the hope they would stay inside.
On Monday 19th May 1952 HMAS WARRAMUNGA, in company with USS (United States Ship) DOYLE escorted Minesweepers into Chongin. The sweepers were working very close inshore for several hours and the temptation was too much for one Red Gunner and he had a shot at them. As soon as one gun fired the rest joined in, this meant that shells were coming from all sides. "DOYLE" was closer inshore than us and started to lay down a massive barrage from every gun she had. "WARRAMUNGA" headed in to place herself between the sweepers (mine sweepers) and the main guns. The weepers laid down a smoke screen and started heading out. Once they had passed WARRAMUNGA, our Skipper put us at full speed astern, this stopped us from making a much larger target than if we had turned broadside to the guns. DOYLE was still firing from her stern guns and she was fast becoming a hazard to us and the sweepers, so our Skipper asked them to cease firing. After what seemed to be forever to me, and being straddled time and again, we broke clear of the harbour and headed for YANGDO Island where we spent our nights between the Island and the mainland to prevent the many angry men ashore from attacking the weather station on the Island. After clearing and cleaning our guns we realised that the youngest lad on our gun crew had been hit in the leg by a bit of shrapnel. This started an immediate search for piece of iron for a souvenir. One lad picked up a chipping hammer and gave one of our life rafts a whack and yelled out that he had found a large piece of metal. At this time one of our young officers borrowed a seaman's knife and began cutting his way into the raft for his bit of iron. He was not amused when he finally got the message, he was being had.
Commander J M Ramsay, Commanding Officer of HMAS WARRAMUNGA was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) and the America Legion of Merit. We were also told that as part of the U.S. 7th Fleet we had been awarded the South Korean Presidential Unit Citation but due to rules and regulations we were not permitted to accept and wear it. Still it was nice to know we had been appreciated.
A Day on Duty in Sasebo - Tuesday 5th June 1952
Young "Tom's" duty began at 1130 hours (11.30 am) when the Skipper cleared lower deck and told the crew that the Peace Treaty had been ratified with Japan and that if anyone got into trouble ashore, they would be handled by the Japanese Police and not the Naval Shore Patrol. He added "If you want to thump someone, come back on board and thump the duty Quarter Master". As young Tom knew he would be on the Gangway between 2000 hours (8 PM) and 2359 hours he would be the one to be thumped, so he thanked the Skipper very much. All went well until 2130 hours when one of the American ships thought they had seen an Aircraft that should not have been there, so they sounded the "Air raid" alarm. This caused all other ships to sound sirens, hooters, bang symbols and make many other noises. The hardest part of young Tom's job was to convince the Officer of the Day and the few crew still on board that he had not sneaked ashore for a gutful of Kirin Beer. Feeling very heroic he dashed up to his "action station" and discovered that one sailor could not man two 40mm Bofors, One 4 inch gun and one eight barrelled pom pom, so he was very happy when the all clear was sounded. At the gangway, the Duty Officer is usually close at hand but out of sight, just in case one of the crew was to do what the Skipper had suggested and throw a punch. To hit an Officer is worth three years in the cast iron cottage, but to hit a Quartermaster is only worth extra duties, at sea usually, as we spent most of our time there. As was expected the pass word of the returning liberty men was "the Skipper said I could thump the Quartermaster". Fortunately most of the them were either too full or only kidding so young Tom did not have too many bad moments. Once the last liberty man was safely tucked in hammock the Officer of the Watch came out and said "Well done young Tom", and he too headed for his hammock after another duty day.
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