Captain J.A. Charles C.D., RCN.
29 October, 1953 - 15 December, 1954
HMCS HAIDA - RECOLLECTIONS OF THE SECOND TOUR OF DUTY IN KOREA
After refit in Halifax, HAIDA was re-manned with a crew of 266. Following a short workup, we sailed on 14 Dec, 1953. Along the way the ship fuelled at Bermuda, Canal Zone, Manzanillo and Long Beach California. Christmas was spent at sea and the youngest sailor aboard was appointed as captain for the day. At Pearl Harbor, the USN provided target facilities for gunnery and anti-submarine exercises. We had a capable, efficient and ready ship. Departing Hawaii, HAIDA fuelled at Kwajalein, Guam and arrived at Sasebo, Japan on 5th Feb 1954. As I was now a Captain and command of Destroyers Far East, a broad black band had been painted on the forward funnel.
Our destroyers, HAIDA, CAYUGA and CRUSADER were assigned to the United Nations Command and we used Sasebo, Japan as our base. There was a ceasefire in the Korean war but peace negotiations were tense and Allied forces were on ready alert. For each of our destroyers, the assigned task was to spend 17 days of each month on patrol in the Yellow Sea and protect the USAF radar station on the Island of Paengyong Do from sabotage or punitive raids. We would frequently anchor but always had steam, a officer on the Bridge Plot , radar operating and guns crew ready. Usually we had two ships on station at a time plus 4 to 6 Republic of Korea minesweepers.
To maintain these numbers, the RN, RAN and the RNZN provided destroyers plus a frigate from the Netherlands and Columbia were rotated in this patrol. Our assigned dates were made in co-operation with the staff of our U.N. Commander. The remaining days of the month were allocated for maintenance, training and filling requests from External Affairs for port visits. Patrol duty was not exciting. We organized on board games and competitions of every sort and everyone was encouraged to take part in a friendly informal manner. The U.S.N. provided us with a very good supply of first-run films and because we had radioteletype aboard, at night we could receive Canadian news and sports from Esquimalt radio. During the summer months, there were excellent sandy beaches to be found where the crew swam and played sports during their recreational hours. When coming to or from patrol, we would try to get together for exercises, particularly AA firings at drogues towed by US Marine pilots. On the first such occasion, the layer at HAIDA's 3"50 gun shot down all the drogues the aircraft carried. After that, HAIDA was only permitted to fire last in sequence!
Captain J.A. Charles as he appeared in 1954. (Photo courtesy HMCS HAIDA archives).
On 12 March HAIDA, CAYUGA and CRUSADER were in Tokyo for a review by Prime Minister St. Laurent. I believe all of our people appreciated the opportunity to see and hear him and of course the media coverage did no harm. While we were returning to Canada, HAIDA participated in A/S exercises south of Tokyo Bay and visited Kamakura to see the big Buddha and then to Kure which was the Commonwealth base and later on to Hiroshima. At the end of March, after patrol, HAIDA stopped at Inchon and the Canadian Infantry Brigade asked a few of our people up to their camp on the demarcation line. There was also an opportunity to visit Seoul. Korea which at the time was ravaged by war and the in the depth of poverty.
In mid-May, HAIDA was in Hongkong for a little dockyard visit and the ship's company enjoyed the opportunity to shop in the the city's diversified shops and stores. After concluding another patrol, the three destroyers sailed to Buckner Bay, Okinawa for operational exercises. Crews participated in track and field activities along with a sailing competition. On 1 July, HAIDA was in Tokyo during Canada's Dominion Day. Later we paid visits to the ports of Kobe and Kyoto. The ship's crew participated in Japanese style baseball whenever possible but it took a while to get used to the technique. It was now typhoon season and HAIDA had to ride one out in the Yellow Sea. Here the water is shallow and with winds over 100 knots, the waves are like breakers in a surf. With tons of water recklessly cascading over the foc'sle, considerable damage was inflicted on guard rails, the breakwater and motorboats. With revolutions at 10 knots, the old girl creaked and groaned but held well under the forces of nature. A quick visit to Sasebo Shipbuilding got the ship back up to scratch.
CRUSADER was returning to Esquimalt via Alaska so HAIDA and CAYUGA kept her company up to the port of Otaru on Hokaido. It was a pleasant place and the scenery was very much like that of British Columbia. There was little damage here from the war. After another patrol, HAIDA was ordered to make a visit to Manila between September 15th and 19th, It was certainly a change in venue - very friendly but socially exhausting. The ship then headed west to Halifax thus circumnavigating the world on her return. Our on-station relief met us in Hong Kong. I was ordered to fly back to take over Royal Roads. The first Lieutenant, Mark Mayo, took command of HAIDA heading via Singapore, Ceylon, Bombay, Aden , Naples, Gibraltar and Bermuda. He brought the ship safely into Halifax Harbour on 1st November 1954.
In closing, HAIDA had 10 years of hard service. The ship was not designed for long Pacific ocean passages or typhoon weather. In spite of that, she made it though the year 1954 thanks entirely to the to the competence of the people who manned her. HAIDA's port visits gave many people an opportunity to express their kindness to the ship's crew. Japan and Korea were filled with war orphans. Under the leadership of Father Murphy, we entertained large numbers of these children at each port. I can still see the energetic number of our own senior hands acting as parents in a way that brought real joy and appreciation on the faces of the children. It was a great honour to be in the company of such men.
A Short Bio on Captain Charles:
* Born in Rouleau Saskatchewan 27 Mar 1918, John Charles joined the R.C.N. directly from the Royal Military College on 1 September 1937.
* Immediately sent to the Royal Navy for cadet, mid-shipmen and Sub-Lieutant training. At the start of war of WWII, was a mid-shipman in H.M.S. BERWICK which patrolled northern waters and later, Norwegian operations. After the fall of France in 1940, was second in command of a party mounting guns around the south coast of England.
* That fall, joined HMCS RESTIGOUCHE for convoy duty as part of the Clyde Escort Force. In 1942, after a signals course in the U.K., joined HMS LAFOREY for operations as Signal Officer, 19th Destroyer Flotilla in the Mediterranean for operations in North Africa, Sicily, Salerno, Anzio and points in between.
* Upon returning to Canada in 1944 for staff signal duties at St. Hyacinthe, Esquimalt and Washington, DC.
* Took command HMCS CRESCENT on 1 Jan 1948. After RN and JSSC staff course, joined HMCS. MAGNIFICENT.
* Appointed Director Naval Communications and in the fall of 1953 took command of HMCS. HAIDA.
* On arrival in Korea, became Commander Canadian Destroyer Far East and promoted to Captain then as Commandant, Royal Roads College for three years then back to Ottawa as Director of Naval Operations.
* Returned to Esquimalt as Commander 2nd Escort Squadron and in 1961 assigned as Commodore, R.C.N. Barracks Esquimalt. After a National Defence College course, returned to NDHQ as Assistant Chief of Naval Staff.
* On 1 Aug 1966, back to the west coast as Maritime Force Commander Pacific as Rear-Admiral.
* Returned to Ottawa in 1969 as Assistant C.D.S. Plans and later as Chief of Maritime Operations.
* Retired in 1974 from the post of Deputy Chief of Defence Staff.
Rear-Admiral John A. Charles passed away suddenly on Sept 25, 2010. He had been in great health and excellent form until the end.