Morris J. Selwyn
Morris J. Selwyn was born April 28, 1939 in Taumarunui, New Zealand. One of eight siblings, he and his older brother joined the New Zealand Navy to relieve crowding and find employment after leaving school. After nine months of basic training, he left for Korea aboard the HMNZS Kaniere, knowing nothing about the region from his schooling. He was 15 at the time and had his 16th birthday in route to Korea in Japan. Because he deployed after the Korean War had ended, his duties involved patrolling the seas around Korea to protect shipping vessels and contain the spread of communism. Reflecting on his experiences, Morris Selwyn takes pride in his service in Korea and hopes to see the north and south reunited in his lifetime.
Joining the New Zealand Navy
Morris J. Selwyn joined the New Zealand Navy after leaving school. Influenced by a local MP and his older brother, he trained at Motuihi Island for nine months. After basic training, he boarded the HMNZS Kaniere, a frigate bound for Korea.
Tense Encounters with Formosan Gunboats
Morris Selwyn explains the role of the HMNZS Kaniere as a support vessel. The Korean War had ended and in 1954 the Kaniere was stationed in Japan with the role of escorting British shipping into China. Alliances between China, the United States, and Britain caused tense encounters at sea. At one point, a Formosan gunpoint challenged the Kaniere. Sometimes boats from opposing sides docked across from one another at the port in Kobe, Japan.
Patrolling for Communists
Morris J. Selwyn describes his arrival in Korea in 1954 as "bloomin' cold," with not trees of forests. Since the Korean war had ended, the Kaniere patrolled the Han River in 1954 to contain the spread of communism, but he faced no confrontations. During his second tour in 1957-58, patrols were much more intense, but he still encountered no real threats as his ship patrolled the sea.
Rude Soldiers at the American PX
Morris Selwyn's memories of his time in Korea do not involve any direct fighting during his service. Rather, he describes losing a fellow solider and friend to the Asian flu. Another particularly troubling memory is the way U.S. soldiers treated Korean women. While visiting an American PX, he disliked the way U.S. soldiers made rude demands on the Korean women. He has never forgiven the Americans for their behavior.
Seeing the World at Age Sixteen
Morris J. Selwyn enjoyed his experiences in Korea and beyond. As a boy of fifteen, he traveled around much of Asia, visiting Singapore, Hong Kong, and Korea. He celebrated his sixteenth birthday in Japan.
Morris J. Selwyn feels proud of his service in Korea and describes his amazement at South Korea's expanding economy. He wishes for the reunification of North and South Korea and hopes that Kim Jong-un will be able to help Korea reach that goal.
[Beginning of recorded material]
M: Yeah. My names is Morris James Selwyn. Selwyn, S E L W Y N.
I: What is your birthday?
M: Twenty-eighth of April, ’39.
I: Thirty-nine? So you’re very young.
M: Exceptionally young.
I: How old are you now?
M: I’m 80.
I: Eighty. And where were you born?
M: I was born in a place called Taumarunui.
I: Could you spell it?
M: T A U LM A R U N U I.
I: [INAUDIBLE] Hold on. T A U
M: M A R U N U I. It’s in the central of the North Island.
I: Um. T A U M A I U N U I
M: T A U M A R U N U I.
I: Got it.
Very. Could you pronounce it again?
I: Taumarunui. Okay. Tell me about your family when you were growing up, your parents and your siblings when you were a child.
M: When I was a child?
I: What, how was your parents? Your brothers and sisters if you have.
M: Yeah. There was eight of us in the family.
I: Eight of them.
M: My, my father worked on the railways.
M: Yeah, New Zealand railways.
I: Um hm.
M: And, obviously my mother stayed at home and looked after the, the brood which was obviously quite extensive.
I: Yeah. So your father was railway. So you, it was a very secure job. Tell me about the school you went through.
M: Went to, uh, a marvelous school, great teachers, um, and long-serving teachers, uh. They, you know, they were involved, uh. I can remember the, one teacher still being there when I left ,uh, from the, uh, from standard six, she would have been there more than 10 years.
Uh, I don’t think they get the same, uh, same today, um. My understanding, a lot of them may flit in and out and change jobs. Um, people didn’t change jobs in New Zealand in the 1940’s and early ‘50’s. They were more stable than they are today I think.
I: So let me ask this question. That great teacher, did they teach you anything about Korea?
M: Not at all.
I: Not at all.
M: Not at all. I learned about Korea when I joined the Navy in 1953.
I: And so you didn’t know anything about Korea.
M: Didn’t know anything about Korea. Went to school to play Rugby and, yeah.
That was about it.
I: And so before you joined the Navy in 1953, what did you do?
M: Well, apart from leaving school, I was probably, uh, without schooling or a job for about three to four months, and I joined the Navy.
I: Right away. And why Navy, not Air Force, not Army?
M: Uh, there’s a friend of ours, uh, the local MP, David Seath. He was in the Navy during the War and, uh, uh, I think we were, and my elder brother joined the Navy ahead of me. So
I: I see. So when did you, go ahead.
M: And with eight in the family, we, we got out of the family, uh, you know,
as soon as we could to release mother and father . We had a very, very small house, you know, with 10 of us were really brought up. So.
M: Yeah. We joined the Navy, and we, you know, obviously.
I: Where did you get the basic military training?
M: Well, they had military training at school because it was during the war years.
I: I see.
M: And, you know, they taught us how to march
and, and, uh, things like, you know, small, small, I call them Naval things because that’s where we, yeah, that’s where we started out our Naval life probably, at school.
M: It was a very, very good school. We were lucky then.
I: So tell me about it. Um,
you had a, just a very light training in the school. It was just walking and marching and so on. But you need, uh, drill and real basic training to be a Navy crewman, right?
M: Oh, they kick you into line when you join the Navy, yeah.
I: So you didn’t get the real basic training?
M: No, not at all.
I: Not at all.
M: No, no.
I: That’s ridiculous.
M: Oh, well we spent
the first nine months
M: down at a place called Motiti which is an island and, uh, that’s where we did all our
I: What did you do there?
M: Oh, basic Naval training. They
I: Oh, so you received the basic training.
M: Oh yeah, absolutely.
M: Yeah. When I joined the Navy
M: but not, not prior to that.
I: Right. And then from there, what did you do? What did you, where did you go?
M: I joined a ship. I joined the ship, the HMNZS Kaniere.
I: Uh huh
M: Kaniere spelled K N I
I: I’m sorry?
M: K A N I E R E, Kaniere. It’s named after one of the lakes in the South Island.
I: Yeah. What kind of ship was it?
M: It was a frigate, one 4” gun, and they had [INAUDIBLE]
I: Could you spell it?
M: What, Kaniere or
I: No, no, no, fre, frigate.
M: F R I G A T E, frigate.
I: So how many people there, soldiers were there?
M: One hundred and ten.
I: Hundred ten.
I: And what was the basic
mission of this, uh, the frigate ?
M: Oh, it was more of a support vehicle, uh.
I: Supporting what?
M: But, because the Korean War had finished when we sailed.
M: Uh, in ’53. So we went up there and initially, uh, we,
when we left Hong Kong for, uh, Japan, cause that’s where we were stationed
I: When was it?
M: In ’54.
I: Um hm. Yeah, go ahead.
M: We escorted British shipping into a South China port called Fujian.
I: Um hm.
M: And Formosa was against,
uh, England, um, being involved with shipping with, with, uh, with China, um. England, uh, supported and recognized Red China. The Americans recognized Formosa,
and, and at one stage when we were escorting British shipping in the Fujian, we were, um, not physically attacked, but we were [INAUDIBLE]
I: Um hm
M: and, and, uh, there was three Formosa gunboats with 6”
guns, and we had one 4” pop gun. And, uh, and they challenged us, um, any rate, it went over. And next day, would you believe, we went to, um, to Japan, uh, not Cooray. It was Kobe to
fuel, and opposite the wharf was two Formosa gunboats cause the Americans were, you know, they recognized the Formosa.
I: Um hm.
M: So it was a hell of a situation.
M: We were tied up on one side of the wharf and, and the, uh, Formosa gunboats were tied up opposite.
I: Um hm.
M: We could call out the,
anyway, that’s got nothing to do with the Korean War. But that was part of the
I: Part of the mission.
I: So what did you do, uh, on Korea? Any special mission you carried?
M: Well, we were on the East Coast, uh, [Payungdo], in uh, and, um
I: West Coast,[ Penyungdo].
M: [Penyungdo], yeah.
I: Yeah. That’s the West Coast.
M: Yeah, West Coast, yeah.
M: And what was the river? We, we went up
I: Hahn River?
M: Yeah, the Hahn.
M: We, we, uh, we sailed up that for a day. I can remember that.
I: So that was 1954?
M: ’54, yeah.
I: What did you do in [Penyungdo]?
M: All we did was just cruise up and down. We weren’t engaged in any warfare obviously.
M: It was blooming cold, mate. Gee whiskers. We had to chip
the guardrails with ice. And I’ve gotta tell you, our first, my first siting of Korea
M: and, uh, no trees, no forests, and I thought coming from Taumarunui what the hell are we doing up here fighting, fighting for this country? But, you know, uh
I: So how did you see it, when you were going up the Hahn River, that’s how you see that there was no trees?
M: No, no. Initially when we first got up there on our first patrol.
M: Um, off [Penyungdo].
I: Oh, okay.
I: So there were no trees in [Penyungdo] either.
M: No, no. I’m sure there wasn’t, you know. Yeah, yeah. But as I say, my initial reaction
was what the heck are we doing up here fighting for this country?
I: Did you know why you were there?
M: Because I was ordered to be there.
I: Yeah, right. And, because to contain the Communists, right, Communism?
M: Not really. We didn’t, you know.
I: Because you were there after the War. But, you know, the whole mission was about
fighting against Communism.
M: Yeah. the second time around, because I was up there another 18 months on the cruiser.
M: the Royalist. We were up there.
I: Oh, I see.
M: Um, and that was in ’57. Yeah, ’57, ’58.
M: We’re on the Royalist and, um,
I: That was much bigger.
M: Yeah, yeah.
We had 500, uh, you know, and we had all the pop guns in the world.
I: And what was your mission? Why did you went there?
M: Why did we go up there? Cause I was told to go up there. I didn’t, we, you didn’t query anything in the Navy.
I: Yeah. But what did you do there, mission? What was mission? Just patrol?
M: We, just, just patrolled, yeah.
I: Where, in West Sea or East Sea?
M: Uh, look, I can’t, I can’t remember.
I: Did anything special happen during your service there, any gunfight or
M: No, but I
I: [INAUDIBLE] with enemy?
M: We, no, no, not really. We, um, uh, we had the Asian Flu when we were up in, uh, in, uh, and, and one of our
personnel were buried in Seoul. And they have since repatriated him back to Hamilton. He was a classmate of mine and, and, uh,
I: What happened to him?
M: Oh, well he was, he, we, cause about 40 of us went down with Asian Flu.
I: Oh, Asian Flu.
I: Oh, I see.
I: I’m sorry. Any other
special episode that you remember with, uh, regard to your service in
M: Yeah, we, we, uh, we went ashore and, uh, the thing that really got up my nose and has always got up my nose, um, was we went ashore, and the Americans had a PX ashore.
And our guys were really [brassed] off with the way that the Americans treated the, um, the ladies from, uh, from Korea.
M: The American women
I: Um hm.
M: Or rather the, uh,
I: Korean women?
M: The Korean Woman.
I: And, how, how did she treat you?
I: How, what was the problem with her?
M: No, with American women as a whole that were involved, that worked at this PX in, uh, yeah. I don’t know where it was, but we went ashore, and the Americans, but they had everything there, you know. We didn’t have half the stuff on board our ship that they had. And, but the way, and it’s always stuck in my mind, the way the Americans
treated the Korean ladies.
M: And, um, yeah. And it wasn’t the Negroes or such. It was both fractions of the
M: of the Americans as such.
M: And I’ve never ever forgiven them.
I: What is it? How did they treat?
M: Well, you know. I think they were downright rude
and they, you know, if they asked, uh, for anything or demanded anything, uh, their demands were excessive, really brassed us off.
M: And there was a collection of us, probably half a dozen and, uh, you know, we wanted to get into fisticuffs with the Americans. But we went back on board. But that was a lasting impression
I: I see.
M: of how the Americans treated
the Korean females, a woman, yeah. And it reflected on me back here with Korean ladies as well in New Zealand. Anyway, that’s really
I: Yeah. How was it to, to live inside of the cruiser?
M: Oh, close. Close. You know, when we’re in the tropics, we all slept
I: Um hm.
M: on the upper deck. When we were in Korea and the wind at night, it was lemon cold. But, you know, we had a very, very good skipper. He was an English skipper, Dudley Pound, and I think we had a very good crew because, you know,
it was a very sporting crew. New Zealand is, as a whole, a very sporting, as you well know.
M: You know. But I’m pleased I went to Korea to see how, at the time, how the rest of the world because after having been to Korea, we came down, obviously we hopped off at Singapore,
Hong Kong, um, you know. And, and, and the intermediate places as well. So, you know, as a 16 year-old, my, you know.
I: Were you 16?
M: Yeah. Yeah. I had my 16th birthday up in
I: Did, did they accept you as a Navy?
M: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Fifteen years and three months early, I did join the Navy. And I was 15 years and two months
when I joined.
I: But to, to join the Army, you had to be 21 year -old.
M: Oh, I don’t know.
I: So that’s a real difference.
M: Yeah. You know, at 15 years and three months you’re allowed to join the Navy.
I: So you joined the Navy when you were 16 year old.
M: No, 15 year old.
M: Yeah. I had my 16th birthday in Japan.
I: I mean, so yeah.
Say that you were 15 or 16, it doesn’t really make a real difference. But I don’t think that was legal.
M: Yeah. It was legal all right.
I: Was it? Was it legal?
M: Yeah, yeah.
I: I cannot believe that.
I: So when did you come back from Korea?
M: Well, the first time I came back in, uh, and I gotta get this right, it’s, it was ’56 because we beat the Spring Box in Rugby.
M: And, uh, that’s how I remember the years. Yeah. You know, went up there in ’54 and came back in ’56.
I: Yeah. And then second time?
M: Second time went up and, uh, ‘50, ’58 and came back in ’59.
I: What did you do at the time then,
that second time? Did you patrol around the Korean Seas?
M: Yeah, yeah.
I: Where? What, anything special remember?
M: Nothing, no.
I: No, just patrolling.
M: Yeah, yeah, yeah
I: around the Korean Peninsula.
M: Yeah, yeah.
I: Uh huh.
M: Yeah, we, we were the biggest ship up there at the time. I know the, uh, the Americans left because they had, uh, Marty Moe was up there, and they had a couple of
aircraft carriers. But apart from that.
I: Wow. So you been just past the Korean Peninsula twice.
I: Um. Have you been back to Korea now?
I: No. So do you know what’s been
M: Yeah, obviously, yeah.
I: What do you know about the modern Korea?
M: Well, my wish is that
both Koreans get together and just, yeah. That’s my, you know. If I’d like something to happen, I’d like that to happen.
I: Um hm.
M: Both Koreans[INAUDIBLE] and, uh, get a life from both sides. I think they deserve it.
M: And, and, and I’m not
saying that because you’re sitting there. But I have, you know, a number of times now, uh, wished for that to happen.
I: Um hm.
M: Um, you know, I had Korean friends when I was, uh, married over the North Shore. that, uh, that we’ve been, well, I, they befriended us. I was gonna say
I befriended them. But I think it was probably the reverse.
I: Um hm. Did you know that Korean economy is now 11th largest in the world.
M: Absolutely. And growing.
M: And growing like, yeah.
I: And it’s one of the most substantive democracy in Asia.
I: So what do you think of the whole thing?
I: You didn’t even know where Korea was when you were growing up, right?
I: Yeah. And now you become a Korean War
M: Didn’t, didn’t have a clue, mate. Didn’t have a clue. Didn’t get it out of New Zealand. Got on the train and went from here to North Auckland, and that was a, my, I joined the Navy, and mate, I’ve been all over the world. I flew to, uh, England. Took five days to fly to England to pick up a ship in 1960.
And, uh, first time I’d been on an airplane.
I: So you’ve been all around, and you know how fast it was the Korean economy actually developed. And democracy. What do you think of the whole thing?
M: Oh, I think it’s marvelous. I do, not because you’re sitting there but because, you know, I just hope that in my small way I had something to do with it.
M: In a very, very small way.
But, you know,
I: Are you proud to be a Korean War veteran?
M: Absolutely. Well, I’m proud to have served in the Navy.
I: Um hm.
M: Oh, I, and that’s part of it.
I: What would you say to Korean people in the context of 70th anniversary of the Korean War break out? I mean, it’s been 70 years, since 1950, and we are still divided. We are still at, technically at war.
M: Yeah, but I think, you know, happened my time that, you know, you guys get together, you know. And, uh, and there’s only one guy gonna do that, isn’t there? Kim. He’s gonna do it, and I hope he does. And, and as an outsider looking in, I can see the change, you know, over the years that has happened with him particularly.
Um, and I hope it’s not all propaganda. I hope there’s an element of truth in it, you know, what he’s done and, you know.
I: I hope so, too.
M: Well, we have a wish.
I: Thank you, sir. Thank you.
M: We have a wish.
I: Yeah. Anything else you want to say to this?
M: Uh, my, enjoy your time. It’s your first time here?
I: It’s beautiful.
M: Yeah. Next time you come down, you spend a bit of time,
I: Oh, this is good, I mean, this my best time.
I: talking to veterans.
M: It’s all old farts, too, right.
I: Yeah. So Morris, it’s a great honor to meet you, and thank you for your service. We going to make sure that our young children will listen from you about your service.
you know. I, I think, uh, with, I grew up in a time where there was no tv. So, you know, today they’ve got tv, and they can learn a lot more.
I: Um hm.
M: You know, we went to school what to fill in the six hours a day probably. Eh, anyway.
I: Right. Thank you.
[End of Recorded Material]