HMS Mounts Bay in the Korean War
- By Don GILES, Royal Navy Korean War Veteran, HMS Mounts Bay 1950
- (December 1996)
In July 1950 "Mounts Bay" was engaged in duties off the coasts of MALAYA to prevent infiltration of men, weapons and supplies reaching communist led factions seeking to change the status quo in the Malay States. These duties in the main consisted of seeking out and intercepting vessels sailing within the three miles limit who's identitities were verified and cargoes checked. Those failing inspection on either count were taken in tow and handed over to the local authorities for further investigation. Much of this work was carried out during the hours of darkness using radar to locate and close target vessels usually medium to small sailing and powered junks.
This duty was not particularly arduous for the ship company although fresh water was at a premium and often turned off for long periods. Regular ban-yan parties to local beaches and atolls plus an issue of beer in the dogwatches eased the tedium of patrols and inconveniences. Occasional calls into SINGAPORE for stores and fuel provided the opportunity for rest and recreation in the fleet canteen or establishments ashore.
On the 25th June with "Mounts Bay" on patrol in the Johore straits, news flashed around the world of North Korea's invasion of the South by crossing of the 38th parallel on a broad front and racing south.The following day at a meeting of the United Nations a resolution was passed by 9 votes to 0 condemning this act of agression calling for North Korea's withdrawal. As no objections or abstentions were recorded at the meeting, failure on the diplomatic front quickly resulted in a slide to-wards armed conflict. On the 29th June units of the British Far East Fleet consisting of the carrier "Triumph", the cruiser "Jamaica" plus five escorts vessels sailed from Hong Kong for Japan. On the 1st July, 406 American soldiers of the 24th Infantry Division landed in Korea effectively committing the United Nations to War.
On the 4th July "Mounts Bay" sailed for Singapore for a self refit and replenishment of stores including expended ammunition. On the 12th July in all respects being ready for sea "Mounts Bay" sailed on passage to Hong Kong arriving on the 20th July. Already berthed at Hong Kong were "Whitesand Bay" and "St Brides Bay" along with HMNZS's Tutira and Pukaki, all destined to sail for Japan after a short work-up period. Over the next ten days "Mounts Bay" was worked hard testing all weapon systems and carrying out various exercises and evolutions. On completion of the final L.A. and H.A. shoots, magazines were topped up to a full war time compliment as were all 4" and 40mm ready-use lockers. On the 6th August after oiling from War Affridi "Mounts Bay" sailed for Sasebo. During the dog watches Captain Unwin addressed the ship's company explaining the current position and outlining the task ahead.
Ship's daily orders the following day were brief and to the point they simply stated:
PREPARE FOR WAR
One such preparation involved the removal and stowage below of all awnings including stanchions and fittings as they would 'not be needed in a war zone' according to Lt.. Cdr. A. Sangster the 1st Lieutenant.
On the 10th August "Mounts Bay" arrived at Sasebo and secured alongside Brown Ranger to fuel and the duty watch piped to SPREAD AWNINGS...
The following day "Mounts Bay" sailed to Pusan on the first of many convoy duties escorting vessels transporting men and material to the beleaguered forces holding the Pusan perimeter. The month of August consisted entirely of convoy duties and close inshore support bombardments assisted by HMCS Athabaskan, Cyuga and HMAS Bataan.
Constant seatime and little maintenance coupled with the damage sustained during the '49 Typhoon necessitated "Mounts Bay" returning to Sasebo at the end of August for docking and repairs. By working around the clock local dockyard maties completed this task on the 2nd of September and "Mounts Bay" sailed for Korean waters to resumed convoy and bombardment duties.
General Douglas McArthur was placed in overall command of the United Nations forces in Korea and quickly realised positive and decisive action was called for:
- a) to relieve the pressure around the Pusan perimeter
- b) to go over onto the offensive
On July the 4th McArthur called the first meeting of many to outline his plan for a seaborne landing behind enemy lines to attack communications and lines of supply. Operation Plan 100 subsequently code-named CHROMITE started to take shape and despite many objections McArthur's plan was adopted and the wheels of CHROMITE started to turn.
Placed in overall command of the ship-borne operation was Admiral Arthur Strubble, Commander in Chief of the U.S. Seventh Fleet. The naval force consisted of some 230 vessels including Royal Navy, Royal Australian, Canadian, New Zealand and French Navy. The largest vessel to take part in the landing was the U.S.S. Missouri (The Mighty Mo) an Iowa class battleship of some 45.000 tons armed with 9 x 19" guns in three turrets capable of firing a 1.2 ton shell over twenty miles.
In command of the landing force was Major General Edward Almond, United States Army. His command designated as X Corps consisted of the 1st and 5th Marine Corps and the 7th Infantry Division, a total of some 70.000 men.
On the 5th of September the main landing force sailed from Yokohama en route to join other forces and escorts off Pusan. Typhoon Kexia straddled the line of advance with winds up-to 125 mph causing mountainous seas and difficult conditions. Much damage was caused to ships and equipment and seasickness was rife.
Preliminary air strikes against the landing zone in and around Inchon commenced in earnest on the 10th of September with the remainder of the convoy sailing from Kobe on the 11th including the command ship "Mount McKinley" with General Douglas McArthur aboard.
On the 11th of September "Mounts Bay" sailed from Pusan to rendezvous with the main invasion force off the west coast of Kyushu Island to take up escort duties along with "Whitesand Bay", "Morecambe Bay", HMNZS Tutira and Pukaki, the French "La Grandière" plus the U.S.S. Bayonne, Newport and Evansville. The seas and wind had abated allowing a more comfortable passage through the Yellow Sea to the convoys ultimate destination the Flying Fish Channel off Inchon.
By the 13th of September the tempo of the air and sea bombardments increased in their intensity by the addition of the cruisers "Jamaica" and "Kenya" who were given the task of destroying five x 76mm shore batteries sited on Wolmi-Do island dominating the approach to Inchon harbour. Over the next twenty four hours shot and shell poured into the landing area in preparation for the assault scheduled to take place in the early hours of the 15th.
At 05.20 on Friday 15th September with all hands at action stations the combined assault force entered the Inchon narrows and the final pre-landing bombardment commenced. At 06.30 the American 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Corps landed on Wolmi-Do island (designated Green Beach) and within one hour and thirty minutes overcame its defenders. The island of So-Wolmi-Do on the southern tip of Wolmi-Do and connected by a causeway was also taken both at a combined cost of 17 men wounded. With both offshore islands secured the main force prepare to land at Inchon but due to a tidal range of some 32 feet conditions were not immediately favourable. At 17.30 on a flood tide the main assault on Red and Blue beaches took place at a cost of 20 men killed and 180 wounded. Within 24 hours the landing area was secured and the push inland to-wards Seoul commenced.
At 17.03 on 13th September whilst escorting the convoy through the Yellow Sea "Mounts Bay" 's ASDIC team reported a possible submarine contact and commenced a depth charge attack. A full pattern of depth charges were dropped without any distinguishable result. Further A.S. sweeps failed to regain contact and the attack was called off.
As the convoy sailed to-wards Pusan "Mounts Bay" sailed through the line of assault and support vessels where the ships company were able to give the combatants moral support by giving them a rousing "chuck-up".
Captain J.H. Unwin had been given the responsibility of forming an outer protection screen approximately 50 miles long and 40 miles to the south of the Inchon approaches.
The screen's task was to prevent interference within the landing zone from:
- a) enemy vessels
- b) suicide craft
- c) swimmers
- d) floating mines
- e) prevent movement between islands and mainland
- f) prevent movement between islands
- g) rescue downed aircrew
Placed under Captain Unwin's command were "Whitesand Bay" and "Morecambe Bay" along with the RNZS Tutira ex "Loch Morlich" and RNZS Pukaki ex "Loch Achanalt" both Loch Class Frigates armed with a single 4" gun, 20 & 40mm A.A. plus 2 squid A.S. weapons. The U.S. presence in the command were the U.S.S. Bayonne, Newport, and Evansville, all escort vessels of the Ashville Class (Lend lease River Class). All three lightly armed with three x 3" guns, ten x 20mm A.A. weapons and depth charges.
The final link in the screen was the French contribution F.M.S. "La Grandière", a Tropical Type Sloop of some 2,000 tons armed with three x 5,5" (138mm) guns in single mountings, plus eleven 20mm oerlikons and four 40mm bofors A.A., depth charges and A.S. weapons. "Mounts Bay" in company with La Grandière had previously been engaged on convoy escort duties and when in harbour, cemented this working relationship by the exchange of rum, wine, gauloises and hospitality. Red wine mixed with rum produced a 'tot' of 200% octane rating, more suited to aircraft fuel than social drinking but even so very much appreciated.
During the landing of 15th September the ships of the outer screen all at action stations remained on patrol keeping constant vigil for signs of reaction by the NKPA. At 20.30 on the 16th September the radar watch of "Mounts Bay" picked up a contact which failed to respond to light challenges; B gun opened fire with six x 2" illumination rockets. The resultant pyrotechnics revealed an R.O.K. minesweeper on passage to join the U.N. minesweeping flottilla operating in the Inchon approaches.
On the 18th September "Mounts Bay" opened fire with 40mm bofors destroying a floating mine. North Korea had in stock a number of Russian contact mines being laid by junks and sampans operating in the area.
On Tuesday 19th September at 16.30 "Mounts Bay's" ASDIC team reported a contact in position latitude 36°56'6" north and longitude 126°06' west, identified as a possible submarine. With hands at action stations and A.S. teams closed up the first attack commenced at 17.05 and a full pattern of depth charges dropped. In the vicinity was the USS Missouri who signalled asking why a black pennent was being flow at the yard arm. On being told of a possible submarine threat all ahead flank speed was rung down to the engine room and the Missouri's stern quickly disappeared over the horizon. No result was apparent after the first attack but with the contact still being held by the ASDIC team a second run developed. At 15.15 the full compliment of 24 A.S. bombs were fired from the foreward hedgehog but once again results were inconclusive. Subsequent sweeps over the area with the assistance of RNZS Tutira and USS Rowan ASDIC teams, failed to re-established contact and the attack called off.
Increased ennemy activity ashore was noticed by ships of the screen, further investigations revealed elements of the IN MIN GUN (North Korean People's Army) constructing gun emplacement's near the shore line. Initially use of armed landing party's was considered to remove the potential threat but in the even common sense prevailed and bombardment considered the most appropriate course of action.
At 08.55 on Sunday 23rd September with hands at action stations "Mounts Bay" closed the shoreline to within 1,000 yards opening fire at 09.55, engaging the partly constructed works and N.K.P.A. personnel in the area. The initial bombardment lasted some 10 minutes when a turn to port was necessary to remain in deep water. Firing run number two commenced at 10.19 with the range reduced further to maximise hits and damage. At 10.34 "Mounts Bay" ran aground on uncharted mud bank coming to a sudden stop with the stem and some twenty feet of keel stuck in thick glutinous mud. An emergency full astern was rung down to the engine room and with spare hands jumping up and down on the quarterdeck the ship slowly edged back into deeper water. The bombardment was abandoned and "Mounts Bay" returned on the patrol line. Damage below the waterline was minimal, mud was drawn into salt water inlet pipes and the asdic dome rendered inoperative, however the overall fighting capacity was not seriously impaired. During the bombardment a total of 118 x 4" shells were fired destroying the target and causing many casualties ashore.
On 25th September with the U.N. forces about to enter Seoul and the link up with the 8th Army from the South imminent, Naval priorities were re-assessed and as a result the outer protection screen was disbanded. "Mounts Bay" entered Inchon harbour securing alongside USS Winston for stores.
In the reorganisation of Naval strategy it was considered necessary to take into account the increase danger from sea mines both moored and floating. A total of 54 mines had been sighted to-date, both the USS Mansfield and the USS Brush were mined causing damage and casualties. Two R.O.K. minesweepers (ex USS Albatross class auxiliary motor minesweepers of some 270 tons armed with one x 3" and 20mm A.A. weapons) were also mined and damaged. The U.S. minesweeper Magpie would be sunk by a moored mine later off Pohang. Ships relieved from escort duties were placed in minesweeping group TG 95.6, under the command of Captain Spofford USN. Included were "Mounts Bay", the French La Grandière, HMS Whitesand Bay, RNZS Pukaki and Tutira, plus two R.O.K. minesweepers.
On completion of storing "Mounts Bay" returned on patrol in company with ROK 502 to search inlets and bays for minelaying junks and sampans. At 02.30 on the 2nd October "Mounts Bay' s" radar watch detected a 'skunk' which failed to reply to light challenges. On closing the target a shot was put across her bows bringing the vessel to a stop. Interrogation of the crew proved difficult due to the language problem and the vessel, a junk, was taken in tow and handed over the ROK 502 the following day for further investigation. Opposition from North Korean naval units was minimal however the threat from Russian manufactured moored and floating mines was on the increase.
On the 7th October American troops crossed the 38th parallel into North Korea and "Mounts Bay" entered Inchon harbour to disembark a number of the ships company returning to the U.K. The draft was transferred to HMS Ceylon for passage to Sasebo and then HMS Warrior for onward passage to Portsmouth.
On the 10th of October "Mounts Bay" returned from patrol and secured alongside the USS Piedmont a fleet repair ship anchored off Inchon, for a self-refit and replenishment of stores. Shore leave was not granted. Air raid warning reds were an everyday occurrence during this period but in the event failed to materialize. This was due in the main to friendly aircraft using the recently captured airfield at Kimpo, overflying the harbour area and failing to activate their IFF equipment, resulting in ships constantly closing up at action stations.
Naval requirements and strategy were further re-assessed on the 14th October, with the decision to disband Minesweeping Group TG 95.6 and return all units to convoy and general duties. The minesweeping operation in the area being downgraded reflecting the success of the R.O.K. sweepers and others operating in the area.
At 04.30 in the morning watch of the 17th October "Mounts Bay" sailed under new orders on convoy duties escorting vessels to and from the port of Inchon and Sasebo.
On the 19th October the American 8th Army captured Pyong Yang the capitol city of North Korea.
On the 26th the "Mounts Bay" was relieved and sailed for Sasebo arriving on the 27th, oiled and sailed on passage for Kure arriving the following day and securing alongside number 3 berth.
On the 29th "Mounts Bay" entered dry dock for ASDIC dome repairs, inspection of shafts and propellers plus maintenance of all underwater fittings. This work was completed by the 2nd of November and a complete paint ship undertaken. At 19.00 on the 6th November "Mounts Bay" sailed on passage to Sasebo arriving the following day and securing alongside HMS Cossack. On the 12th of November after oiling from the Brown Ranger "Mounts Bay" sailed in company with HMS Charity for Hong Kong arriving on the 5th December securing to number 7 buoy.
On the 20th November Captain J.H. UNWIN was relieved by Captain J.B. FREWIN.
On the 27th November units of Chinese 'Volunteer' Army (over 500,000 men) launched an attack against the Eighth Army and X Corps, introducing a new dimension to the conflict....
15th December "Mounts Bay" sailed from Hong Kong on passage to Singapore, arriving on the 23rd where Christmas and the delights of Singapore would be enjoyed before once again returning to
NAVY LIST - Dated May 1950
Officer complement HMS Mounts Bay
- Captain : J.H. UNWIN DSC
- Lt. Cdr. : A.T. SANGSTER
- Lt. C.S. Upton Lt. J.R. Lane
- Lt. G.B. Evans Lt. C.W. Ryan
- Lt. (S) A.J. Jury Lt. (E) J.A. Darley
- Surg. Lt. J.V. Deakin
- W.J. Kennedy Commissioned Gunner P.J. May Commissioner Electrical Officer
HMS MOUNTS BAY
- Laid down in 1944 as a Loch Class Frigate: HMS LOCH KILBERNIE. K 627. Designed for Anti-Submarine and Escort duties.
- Built by William Pickersgill & Sons Ltd at Sunderland. Launched 8th June 1945. Not completed.
- 1948 : re-designed for A.A. Escort and Convoy duties and re-classed a BAY CLASS FRIGATE.
- Completed at Southampton by J I Thorneycroft and re-named "MOUNTS BAY" F627
- Displacement 1,600 tons. Length overall 307 ft 4 ins. Beam 38 ft 6 ins. Draught 12 ft 9 ins.
- Armament Four x 4" guns in two mountains. Six x 40mm Bofor`s. Two 20mm Oerlikons.
- A/S weapons Depth charge and Hedgehog.
- Propulsion : Two admiralty boilers serving a Triple Expansion Engine producing I.H.P. 5,500 on two screws giving a maximum speed of 19 knots.
- Commissioned April 1949. Complement 157 officers and men.
- Commissions : Far east - America & West Indies - South Atlantic & South Africa.
- Decommissionned May 1961 - Sold to Portugal and re-named "VASCO DA GAMA"
- Scrapped December 1971.
- A.A. anti - aircraft
- A.S. anti - submarine
- ASDIC electronic means of underwater detection
- ASDIC DOME electronic detection gear housing
- AWNING canvas spread above decks for sun and weather protection
- BAN- YAN informal beach party with refreshments
- CHUCK UP cheering or showing approval
- DOCKYARD MATIES dockyard workmen
- DRAFT personnel moving to or from ships/barracks etc.
- H.A. high angle (relating to anti-aircraft weapons)
- HEDGEHOG ahead throwing anti submarine weapon
- I.F.F. electronic indicator friend or foe
- L.A. low angle (relating to surface target)
- PENNANT large triangular shaped flag
- READY USE LOCKERS for stowage of ammunition in close vicinity to weapon
- SKUNK unidentified target
- SQUID ahead throwing anti submarine weapon
- TOT an issue of rum
Note about the Author:
Name and addresse:
- Don GILES, 14, Thonock Close
- LINCOLN LN1 3SW Tel. 01522 523365
- Ex RN Seaman "HMS Mounts Bay" - Korea 1950 - 1952
- Member of the Royal Navy Korean Veteran Association (RNKVA)
- Hon.Secretary RNKVA:
- Ken COX, 22, Lacey Avenue
- Old Coulsdon, Surrey, CR5 1LQ Tel. 01737 551733
- Email : KenCox@supanet.com
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