Donald C. Hay
Donald Clouston Hay served in the New Zealand Navy during the Korean War. He grew up in Gisborne, New Zealand on a dairy farm. Leaving high school at 15, Donald joined the Navy as a Seaman Boy in 1948. The New Zealand Navy continued with the education of boys while they served. Donald C. Hay served aboard the HMNZS Rotoiti. This ship was the third New Zealand vessel to join in the Korean War. Donald Hay manned the anti-aircraft gun and saw action along the West coast of Korea including around Inchon and up the Han River.
Engaging North Korea
Donald C. Hay describes engaging the North Korean military. The Royal Marines would land ashore and engage the North Koreans. The New Zealand Navy would provide cover to Royal Marines. On one occasion the Royal Marines took two North Koreans prisoner. However, on another engagement, the marines lost a man. The HMNZS Rotoiti would get fairly close to the shore to provide support. On one occasion Donald Hay felt uncomfortably close to the enemy.
15 year old Seaman
Donald C. Hay describes leaving high school and joining the New Zealand Navy at 15. In addition to his naval duties, he had to continue attending school onboard the ship. Something unique about the New Zealand Navy is they provided a teacher on board the ship. All boys were required to take English and Math classes for a couple of hours a day.
Action on the Han
Donald C. Hay describes his service aboard the HMNZS Rotoiti. The ship completed three missions up the Han River attacking enemy positions. He describes one occasion when an Australian ship patrolled further up the Han River. This ship was attacked and received substantial damage. On many occasions, Donald Hay would see dead bodies floating down river.
[Beginning of recorded material]
D: My name is Donald Clouston Hay. Donald is D O N A L D. Clouston: C L O U S T O N, and Hay: H A Y.
I: What is your birthday?
D: Thirty-first of January, 1933.
I: So how old are you now? 85?
I’ve just had my birthday the end of last month.
I: Um. You look young. Much young
D: Thank you. I’ll take that compliment.
I: Great. So where were you born?
I: In Gisborne?
D: In Gisborne.
I: Oh, beautiful city. I just arrived yesterday, and it is beautiful and clean.
I: Yes. So tell me about your family background when you were growing up, when you were a child, your parents and your siblings pleas.
D: My parents were on a small dairy farm, uh, on the way to [Tikaroka], a small, uh, shall I say, village.
I: Um hm.
D: And that is where I did all my schooling, um.
I: How about your siblings?
D: They were, did all their schoolings there as well.
I: How many siblings did you have?
D: I had four, and one is now deceased. Um, none of them served in the services.
I: I see.
I: All boys or girls?
D: All boys.
I: All boys. So four of you, you’re the eldest?
D: I’m the eldest.
I: Ah hah. Tell me about the school you went through, the names of the schools.
D: It was the [ Tiklaroka] District High School.
I: Um hm.
D: Well, it was the primary, Tikaroka Primary. Then I went to the Tijaroka District High School. I left
D: in my second year at high school. I didn’t even finish it.
I: When was it?
D: Uh, 1950.
I: Nineteen fifty?
D: No, 1948, sorry, sorry, sorry. I forget the year. Nineteen forty-eight
I: And what did you do?
D: I joined the Navy at 15.
I: Wow. So you were at age of 15.
I: And joined the Navy.
I: Did the Navy allow you to join them?
D: It was legal and that’s because as a seaman boy, uh, the age to join as a seaman boy was from 15 years, three months to 17, I’m guessing here and there, around about
seven. No, it was more than that.
I: So you were not afraid?
D: Seventeen-six or something like that.
I: And you were not afraid to join the Navy?
I: At age of 15.
I: These days, those are impossible.
I: Yeah, So what, where did you go to get the basic military training?
D: Went to Auckland, HMNS Tamiki.
I: Tamaki. Could you spell it?
D: T A M A K I., yeah.
I: So it’s a
D: And that was based on Motuihe Island, out in the Gulf.
I: Um hm. And what kind of training did you receive?
D: Basic seamanship.
I: Like what, swimming?
D: Yes. We had to swim,
sail, um, learn our military drones, um, yes. We slept in a hammock.
D: Yes. Had to look after ourselves, and I can tell you at that age, the Navy had schoolteachers, and we still went back to school. We had to do so much schooling.
I: So there was a school besides that basic training camp.
D: Um. hm. Well, they had teacher, and we went to a particular area and still carried on schooling.
I: Um hm.
D: Even when I went to sea,
D: we had a school teacher on board, and we still went to school.
I: Oh, really?
I: Nobody tell me about it. Tell me. So even in the, even in the, uh, naval vessel
I: You had to learn?
D: We still had to do, go to school.
I: What kind of school? I mean the, what kind of, uh, uh, clases did you take? What do they teach?
D: They had you, uh, uh, not the ordinary, gosh now. I can’t remember. Uh,
MALE VOICE: [INAUDIBLE]
D: Yeah. That’s what it was.
I: So like, uh, English?
I: How, how many hours in the ship?
You had to serve as a seaman, right?
D: I was doing, I was a seaman boy. Well, first under training,
D: then on board ship, and they had school teachers that us young boys still had to carry on with our education.
I: Do you remember how many hours a day did you have to take?
D: No. I think it was only about one or two, something like that.
I: One or two?
I: Um hm. And did they grade you?
D: Well, you had to pass exams.
I: And you did?
I: Very goo.
I: I didn’t know about that. I did interview many seamen here in New Zealand.\
I: But they never told me that you had to, had to take the classes in the ship.
D: That was for us young seamen boys
I: Um hm.
D: who joined fifteen to sixteen.
I: Yes. So
from, after you finish your basic military training, where did you go, and what did you do?
D: We then went on board a, a cruiser, HMNZ Bellona.
D: B E L L O N A.
I: B E
D: L L O N A.
I: And cruiser, and what did you do?
D: Well, we did a, uh, we were part of the crew.
I: Um hm.
D: We had to do our duties on board, but, uh, we still carried on, as I said, with school, um. Yeah, yeah, carry on with our schooling, uh,
D: that we were definitely part of the crew and had to do our duties on board.
I: Um hm. Where, when did you leave for Korea?
D: I first of, on the Bellona, we did a trip to Australia, then around New Zealand, and then we did an island trip with the Captain, the General and his family, took them around the islands. On the way around the islands, I think that’s when it all happened in Korea, uh.
We did not hear on board. But arriving back in Auckland, we were sent on leave, and then I was what the term was the, drafter, to HMNZ Rotoiti.
I: What is, could you spell it?
D: R O T O
I: Um hm.
D: I T I.
I: I T I.
I: And what kind of ship was it?
D: It was a, a frigate.
I: So you are the first batch.
D: No. When Korea happened, they sent two frigates up immediately. Was the, um, Kaniere and
D: Kaniere and Tutira.
I: Tutira. And then you are the second.
D: We were then the third ship up. We relieved
Tutira or whatever, yeah, Tutira. They were up there about six months, uh. We did 13 months up there.
I: So when did you leave for Korea? 1950
D: No, the seventh of October, 1950 we left Auckland
I: And where did you arrive? When?
D: We arrived in, uh, Hong Kong,
and then Kura,
D: which was our base, British Commonwealth base, Kura, uh, I’ll just look at this if you don’t mind. Uh, arriving in Japan on the 5th of November to relieve Pukaki. We will relieve Pukaki.
I: Um hm. And then from there, when did you leave for Korea?
Leave for Korea? When
D: Uh, well, it doesn’t state. But we firstly, uh, were there for a short time. And then we went on patrol.
I: In West Sea, right?
D: On the West side.
I: Yes, yes.
D: In fact, um, I think we were there, uh, Inchon.
We patrolled off Inchon.
D: Uh, were there six weeks patrolling off Inchon when things were getting pretty desperate. We had to search all fishing vessels and so on, make sure there was nothing on them.
I: Were there anything dangerous stuff in the fishing boats?
D: No, we never
I: Did you find.
D: We never found anything.
I: You never found.
D: No. But
things were desperate, and we had to make sure.
I: Yeah. So what was your specialty?
D: Well, as seamen boys,, we didn’t have a specialty.
I: Um hm.
D: Uh, but my action stations were on the, um, uh, Pom Pom, the four-barreled anti-aircraft gun.
I: What was your specialty? Anti-aircraft gun you were
D: It was a, anti-aircraft gun.
I: Um hm.
And had you ever shot those guns?
D: No. I loaded. I was, they’re four barrels, and I was on the side loading two.
I: Um hm.
D: There was a chap on the other side loading the other two.
I: But you were never, you, you di, you didn’t have any chance to shot it actually?
D: No, no.
I: Enemies, but there are no enemies around.
D: I haven’t, well, we certainly used the guns
I: Um hm.
D: Oh yes.
I: For what?
D: Uh, shelling ashore. One, one pick, one particular incident where men, we had a landing, yeah. Guys went ashore,, and at Chinhae,, uh, [Songnongri]
D: [Songnongni] point
they killed a couple of the enemy and brought it back two, two prisoners, and then we had another landing, not me, I was too young
D: we had another landing with Royal Marines from British Cruiser Ceylon, and we lost a chap. He was killed, the only New Zealand Naval rating killed in Korea
D: in ac, under, yeah, in action.
I: What’s his name?
D: Uh, Bob, uh, Robert Marcione. And they never got his body back. Don’t know.
I: How did it happen? He was shot by the enemy or
D: He was shot by the enemy.
I: Uh huh.
D: Yeah. And our men tried to get him back, but in the end, they had to leave him there. It, the chap told me personally that
he got up to the beach and he covered with stones. But he thinks the next guard maybe got him.
D: Uh, then there was another landing where the Royal Marines went in by themselves, and we escorted them right in. They got to the beach, all quiet. Soon as they hit the beach, all hell was loose.
D: And they were in desperate strikes, and we reversed right up to the beach,, and that’s when we had, we were using everything we had. Our pom pom was just four barrels gone. And then the guns behind us, ever, everything we had we were using just to get these Marines off again.
I: So that you rescued them?
D: They got back off, yes.
I: You were there, too?
D: I was on the gun firing.
D: In fact, it was two of us, one either side. We were the closes to the beach. And I thought afterwards here we are standing up. If somebody had taken a pot shot of us, we were so close they could have gotten us. But we,
we were firing so, so much.
I: Um hm.
D: at them they were keeping their heads down. And, uh, the Royal Marines got off. We got them back to their ship. They were in desperate straits.
I: All of them rescued without
D: All of them were rescued. There was none actually killed. But they suffered wounds.
I: Was that in the North, North of Korean Peninsula?
D: It was in North Korea.
D: Yes, yes.
I: On the West side of it, right?
D: On the West side.
I: Yes. I never heard of any real battle situation.
D: I’ve got it in that book of mine.
I: Yeah. So tell me, show me that book right there.
D: That’s that one.
I: Um hm. Who wrote that?
I: Uh, Pete Desmond, yeah.
D: Pete Desmond, yes.
I: There’s a page for you?
D: There’s a whole chapter and a whole story for me.
I: Yes. Wow, you look amazingly handsome.
D: Oh, thank you.
I: You could be a movie star. And so in that page that describes the action that you just, uh, explained to me
I : Hm.
D: of the, yes.
It’s in there. And that chap there is the one that was actually killed in action earlier.
I: Who was killed?
D: Uh, well, I say Bob Marcione.
I: Who, could you point it? He’s the one.
D: He’s the one.
I: I’m so sorry. And
So I never heard of from other seamen who were in the Korean War, and, heard about any battle like that. That’s a very, um, rare thing happen because the U.N. Forces Navy was dominant, right?
I: There were no enemy vessel, Navy vessels, around there, and nobody challenged you, right?
D: As far as vessels. But we did, uh, we fired at, uh, targets ashore
uh, whenever we could find one.
D: Uh, we used to up the Hahn River
D: and be given a target [INAUDIBLE] big gun
I: Um hm.
D: used to fire at this target. We didn’t know what it was. But way up the Hahn River, and while we were up at the Hahn River, we
did two or three trips up there, and we used to see bodies floating past, uh. We, this particular time, we went up to relieve the Australian frigate, um, I’ve got it in the book, anyway, to relieve them
I: From where?
D: They were up there, and we were going up to relieve, they were, we were replacing them. They were coming off,
and we were the next frigate
I: In Hahn River?
D: Up the Hahn River
I: Uh huh
D: And they said oh no. We’ll take out Captain, they were going up further than we went before. We’ll take our Captain up there to show them. Well, we were anchored with our big gun, with the way the tide was poking out to sea, and we hear an almighty racket.
D: Rushed up on deck, and the North Koreans had been waiting. And here’s the frigate, Australian frigate, coming down the river as fast as it can, with great spouts of water all around it, should have been our troop doing that.
I: Um hm.
D: great spouts of water all around, and it’s twin guns on the stern going flat out.
I’ve never seen them go fast, so fast. And, um, it finally got back to us, and it was shot full of holes. Must have been using armor plating cause the shells were going straight through. After that, the Air Force came over with Napalm and Napalmed the whole area where these North Koreans were.
I: So you, you were not on
D: No, no. We only, we were only watching that.
D: We were back safe. and we were only watching it.
I: Yeah. Any other occasion where you engaged kind of battle situation?
I: Um. Have you been back to Korea then?
D: I’ve never been back.
I: You never been. So when did you finish your mission in the Korean Seas?
we were there 30 months. I think we arrived back in, uh, New Zealand around about September ‘51/
I: Um. So you know, you never seen any cities in the Korea, right? Were you able
D: We, we never set foot on the mainland of Korea.
D: Uh, we went to Pusan
D: and anchored there or we tied up. But never set foot ashore, uh. One of the outlying islands we did go ashore. I can’t remember which one.
I: Right. Um, but you, you never learn anything about Korea from the school, right?
I: Do you know what’s going on in Korea right now?
D: Oh, I’ve been, yes. I’ve been.
I: Tell me about it. What do you know about Korea now?
I: Uh, well North Korea is, uh,
I: Developing nuclear weapons.
D: Yeah, and nuclear weapons and everything. South Korea has now a power of its own. It’s, it’s certainly a different place to when we were there. It’s, it’s a, I think South Korea is now a force to be reckoned with. And, uh, yeah.
I: South Korean economy now is 11th largest in the world.
D: Yes. Yes.
I: Can you believe that?
D: Not at the time.
I At the time, no.
D: No. But yes. I watch everything I can on Korea.
I: So tell me more about what you know on South Korea now.
D: Uh, not a lot really. They’re just, it’s just, it’s, it’s, it’s just come up
so well, um. It’s recovered so well. It’s, it’s, it’s just amazing to where it was 70 years ago
I: Um hm.
D: to where it is now. Yes.
I: You wanna go back and see what’s
D: I’d love to se it but, uh,
I: Have you applied to Revisit program?
D: No, I’ve never done that. I’ve never done, and otherwise I, I couldn’t go now.
I: You wouldn’t go now.
D: No, I couldn’t. I couldn’t.
I: Um hm. Next year will be t he 70th anniversary of the Korean War.
D: Yes. Yes.
I: Is there any special message, is there anything that you wanna say to the Korean people?
D: I am so proud of them for what they have done. Yes, we helped them. We got them through that tough time. But what they have done since, I think they should be so proud.
I: What about to young students in New Zealand, about the war that you fought for? What would you say to them?
D: That I’ve got it in the book. I was so young that I never heard of Korea. I had no idea where it was.
D: I didn’t ask to go there. I was sent, uh.
But I’m so proud that I did go. In fact, when I got back to New Zealand, I volunteered to go straight back.
I: To Korea?
D: To Korea, and do it again.
I: So did you go?
D: No. It wasn’t allowed.
D: They had a new [INAUDIBLE] ship turned around and went straight back with a new crew. And, but
there was quite a few of us volunteered to go straight back and carry on. But no, it was refused.
I: Um hm.
D: Uh hm.
I: Any other episodes that you want to leave to this interview that you remember?
D: In Korea, uh, in winter it was so cold. It was so cold.
But being in the Navy different than the Army, when our shift upstairs was finished, we could go down below, and it was warm. But when, when we’re up top, man it, in fact, I think Christmas 1950 was one of t he coldest ones they had at the time. Yes.
I: And because you sacrificed
for Korea, now we have a chance to rebuild our nation. Economy is going to be stronger than France by 2030.
D: I can believe that.
D: I can believe it.
I: And we are one of the most substantive democracy in East Asia. So
I: We want to thank you for that, and we want to preserve your memory. And you share those stories about the Royal British landed in the [INAUDIBLE]
I: and you rescued them.
I: That’s one of the rare, um, kind of actions that I never heard of before. So thank you again, sir, sharing your story with us. Thank you.
D: Thank you very much.
[End of Recorded Material]