Korean War Legacy Project

Raymond H. Champeau


Raymond H. Champeau was born in Canada in 1933.  After leaving school, he worked in a plywood manufacturing factory before volunteering to join the Royal Canadian Navy in 1952.  His initial training was in Cornwallis, Nova Scotia, and he was subsequently trained as a cook in Victoria, British Columbia.  After training, he worked as a cook aboard the HMCS Huron in September of 1952.  His ship, which was a destroyer, patrolled the East Coast of Korea during the Korean War.  The ship’s mission was to patrol island areas, and to engage in shore bombardments on enemy trains that were sighted emerging from tunnels near the border of North and South Korea.

Video Clips

Journey to the Korean Coast

Raymond H. Champeau was a sailor in the Royal Canadian Navy. He explains his journey to being stationed on the HMCS Huron, a Canadian Destroyer with nearly three hundred men aboard. He recalls the weapons and ammunition aboard ship, and becoming acclimated to life at sea.

Tags: East Sea,Basic training,Living conditions,Prior knowledge of Korea,Weapons

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The Canadian Mission at Sea

Raymond H. Champeau explains that sailors in the Royal Canadian Navy aboard the HMCS Huron had a mission to patrol the east coast of Korea from September 1952 until the end of the Korean War. He recalls that they never met up with any enemy ships. He explains what conditions were present when the destroyer fired bombs on enemy trains that could be spotted emerging from tunnels with supplies.

Tags: East Sea,Fear,Living conditions,North Koreans,Physical destruction,Weapons

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Life Aboard the HMCS Huron

Raymond H. Champeau details the job of working as a cook in a small kitchen for almost three hundred sailors in the Royal Canadian Navy aboard the HMCS Huron. He explains the sailor's preference to American rations over Australian rations when they ran aground in Sasebo, Japan. He recalls watching movies aboard ship, and sleeping in cramped hammock areas.

Tags: East Sea,Food,Living conditions,Rest and Relaxation (R&R)

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Video Transcript

[Beginning of recorded material]

R:        My name is Raymond Champeau, C-H-A-M-P-E-A-U.

I:          You have a middle initial?

R:        H.

I:          Harold.

R:        Harold.

I:          Yeah?  What is the ethnic origin of this Champeau?

R:        It’s French, Quebec.

I:          Oh.

R:        Yeah.  It, um, is a variation of the original Champeau family

I:          Um hm.

R:        Uh, the, all my aunts and uncles, their name was spelled C-H-A-M-P-O-U-X.


They made a mistake when my father was born, and they filled out the forms in, at the church.  They made that mistake and made it E-A-U.

I:          That’s, that was a mistake

R:        That was a mistake.

I:          What is your birthday?

R:        July 1, 1933.

I:          And where were you born?
R:        In Knowlton

I:          K-N-

R:        O-W

I:          W

R:        L-T-O-N, Quebec

I:          Ah.

R:        It’s just Southeast of Montreal.

I:          Tell me about your family


and siblings that you were growing up with.

R:        I had nine brothers and sisters.

I:          Nine.  Including you?

R:        No, it was, no, nine brothers and sisters.

I:          So it’s, uh, 10

R:        I was 10th, yes.  Yep.

I:          You were the 10th?

R:        No, I, actually I was the 7th.

I:          Um.

R:        I, there’s only three of us left, uh, my youngest sister, my younger brother and, uh, we had, um,


a good life.  It wasn’t a rich life in any case. whatsoever.  We, um, my father worked hard.

I:          Was, what was he doing?

R:        He, he was actually a farming engineer.

I:          Oh.

R:        But he ran a big sawmill.

I:          Um.

R:        that, uh, he ran the, the, uh, big, uh, farm boiler and the engines and kept everything sharp and running well.

I:          Um hm.

R:        Uh, I have to qualify, uh.


I was not in a career with the Army

I:          Um.

R:        I was in Korea with the Navy.

I:          Navy.  You are the first Canadian Navy soldier I ever met.

R:        Is that right?  Yeah.

I:          For interview.  For interview.

R:        Yes, yes.  I, um, I was in Korea from 1952 to the end of the Korean War in 1950, late ’53.

I:          Um hm.

R:        And, uh, I only got ashore once, and in, I couldn’t tell you the name of the, uh, little village, but it was


right down on the Southern tip of the, uh, Korean Peninsula.

I:          Um hm.

R:        And, uh, they allowed us ashore for four hours.  I’m not even sure they did, that they told us what the name of the place was for security reasons perhaps.

I:          Okay.

R:        Yeah.

I:          Uh, before you go into the detail about the service and the Korean War, tell me about the schools that you went through in Knowlton, Quebec.

R:        Ah, we had an English high school, went through the English high school in Quebec,


and I, I left the school in, at the end of grade 8 and worked for two years

I:          Uh huh

R:        and then joined the Navy

I:          When did you graduate high school?

R:        Um, I would guess 19, I would guess, um, 1944


cause I do remember the  end of the Second World War.  They had a big party at, uh, at the Police Station in, in [ST. JOHN], Quebec.

I:          And what did you do after, right after you graduate high school?

R:        I went to work.  I worked at a, um, plywood manufacturing, uh, factory.

I:          Um hm.

R:        And, uh, left there and joined the Navy.

I:          When did you  join the Navy?


R:        In 19, `9

I:          When did you join?

R:        Oh my goodness.

I:          Forty

R:        No, it would have been ’52 I think, yes, 1952.
I:          So you, you been working in that plywood factory for long, huh?
R:        Um hm, I’m still working.

I:          Why did you choose to enlist into Navy?

R:        Oh, I, I thought I’d be smart as a Navy personnel.


Only when I got in, they, they were mocking about with the, uh, trades, and I, they got me in as a cook.

I:          Navy cook.  Anyway, where did you get the basic military training?

R:        Uh, the initial training was in Cornwallis

I:          Um hm.

R:        Nova Scotia

I:          Nova Scotia.

R:        Um hm.

I:          Um hm.

R:        And my trade, uh, training was in, out in Van, Van, uh, Victoria, B.C..


I:          Um hm.  What kind of training was it?  Is it different from regular Army and Air Force training or is there any special,

R:        The day we had

I:          only special to the Navy?

R:        The Navy had their own training at that time.

I:          Yeah.  What kind?

R:        Well, it was, it was just different  than the Army and, and the Air Force, uh.  I, when you were marching, you’d, you did it at a faster pace and, uh, it was just different.

I:          How different?


R:        Well, the army

I:          Did you, did you have to swim a lot?

R:        You know, when, when I was in Cornwallis, that’s where we took our basic training,

I:          Yeah

R:        That just before we got there the, uh, area where the swimming pool was burnt down.

I:          Hm.

R:        So we didn’t have a swimming pool

I:          Okay.

R:        And I never did learn to swim.

I:          There are tons of sea there, Nova Scotia.

R:        If you’re out at sea and the ship goes down,


forget it.

I:          Okay.  So you didn’t have any training that you can call this only for Navy.

R:        Well, no.  The Navy had its’ own training, but it was, it was different than, than the Air Force.  The Air Force is called the Gentleman’s, uh, uh, troops and the Navy was something else, and the Army was boisterous and loud.


I:          Okay.  So in 1952, after basic training, what did you do?  Where did you go, and what did you do?

R:        Well, my initial training in, like I said, was in, um, Cornwallis, and I immediately got shipped out to British Columbia for my training as a cook.

I:          Um hm.
R:        And, uh, that was, that was funny.  It was different.  And from there, they shipped me to Halifax, and I was in Halifax for one year


and I call, I got called the day before the ship was sailing for Korea that I had to be on ship, on board ship.

I:          When was that?

R:        Uh, that would have been, uh, I guess, September of 1952.

MALE VOICE:  What was the name of that ship?

R:        HMZS Huron.


R:        Yeah.

I:          Did you know anything about Korea before you left for Korea?

R:        Nothing.

I:          You were in high


school, right?

R:        Um hm.  Oh I knew, I knew Korea was there.  We knew where it was because it was on the map, and they, they showed us the map

I:          Um hm.
R:        And on the globe, uh.  But as far as information about Korea, we got nothing.

I:          Hm.

R:        No, I didn’t know anything about Korea until they told me I was going there.  Is not very famous for teaching history of other countries other than England.


And the United States some.

I:          Um hm.

R:        Uh, you heard a little bit about France, a little bit about Italy.  But other than them showing you well, this is Korea, that would be about it.

I:          But do they teach about England when you were in high school?

R:        You mean, uh, instructions were on the Royalty part of it.  And, uh, we got that nailed into our head from 600 years ago up to present time and, or when I was in school at least.


I:          What about U.S.?  How did they teach about U.S.?

R:        Very little.

I:          Even

R:        It was South of us.

I:          That’s it?

R:        The, capital was Washington.  No, they didn’t teach very little about anything about England.

I:          In September of 1952, where did you depart from, and when did you arrive and where in Korea?
R:        We left Halifax

I:          Uh huh.


R:        Um, it was the first week of September, but I couldn’t give you the date.

I:          Right .
R:        And we went down through the, uh, Panama Canal over to, um, Hawaii

I:          Um.

R:        and from Hawaii over to Japan

I:          Um hm.

R:        We were stationed in, uh, Sasebo, Japan

I:          Yep.

R:        and did our tours of Korea

I:          From there, too.


R:        from there, yes.

I:          Uh, what was the name of the ship?  You mentioned it before, but

R:        HMCS Huron, H-U-N, H-U-R-O-N.

I:          H-U-R-O, Huron

R:        Yeah.

I:          Okay.  How many were soldiers there?

R:        Oh, 269 I believe.

I:          Wow, you remember that, uh?

R:        Oh, there’s a few things I remember about the Navy.
I:          And all Canadian Navy, right?
R:        Yes.


I:          What kind of ship was it?  Is it, was it destroyer or

R:        It was a destroyer, yes.

I:          Destroyer. Can you tell me some weapons in that ship?
R:        Well, they had, uh, two 4”, uh, uh, sorry, four 4” guns on the, on the bough

I:          Um hm.

R:        and they had two on the stern.  Plus they had, um, mines that they could, uh, deploy into the water and, of course, the normal armament, guns and, you know,


hand guns, etc.

I:          Did you know where you were headed and why you were going there and what you are supposed to do there?  Did you know before you left?

R:        Um

I:          Did they any, have a briefings for the soldiers?

R:        No, because I, I went on board at 8:00 the night before, and we sailed next, the next morning.  So I wasn’t even on a crew the next day until after, uh, we got out of the Harbor.  And the sad part of it was I’m sitting down in the Mess deck on the lower deck


never had been on a big ship before, and I’m thinking to myself I wonder if I’ll get seasick.  I wonder if I’ll get seasick.  And I did.  I got seasick.  I went up on the upper deck, we were still in Halifax Harbor.  I talked myself right into getting seasick.

I:          Um hm.

R:        Stupid.  From then on, it was fun.

I:          How fun?

R:        Well, I enjoyed it.  Uh, it was, it was a good life on board ship, uh.  Uh, I was a small number of people on it,


and you got to know most of them.  And, uh, our Commanding Officer was very, very nice.

I:          How much were you paid?

R:        Very little.

I:          Tell me.

R:        I think, uh, I think we started off something like $40 a month, and that, of course, that included our room and board and our, our clothing.  But by the time we got back


from Korea, it was up to $60 a month.  Big pay raise.

I:          Tell me about the trip from Halifax through [PANAMA] Canal, Panama Canal, Hawaii.  Did you stop at Hawaii?

R:        Yes.  We were there for four days.  Harbor area.  We weren’t allowed to go too far away.

I:          You were in Honolulu.

R:        Yes.

I:          What was the first impression that when you arrived in Japan, Sasebo?

R:        Uh, a large harbor


um, very well equipped, a lot of workers around all the time.  If you needed anything, you just had to ask and you got it, uh.  It was, it was, it was very nice.

I:          Um hm.

R:        Yeah.  I enjoyed it.

I:          So when did you depart for Korea from Sasebo?
R:        Would have been September, middle of September.

I:          What was the mission of HMCS Huron?


R:        We patrolled the East  coast of Korea.

I:          Ah ha.

R:        And there was a little island, um, right on the dividing line of North Korea and South Korea.

I:          Yeah.  [INAUDIBLE] or [INAUDIBLE]

R:        One of those little islands

I:          Okay.

R:        The Navy, American Navy used to patrol one end and go up.  We would do the other side and up.

I:          Ah.

R:        Well, we come up, come out to sea.


The navigation officer get the, gave the, um, directions, and we ended up running up on the end of the island.  Had to go back to Japan,  have a new dock put on, new bough put on the ship.

I:          Normally, how long did it take one mission?  From Sasebo and go to the island and then going back to Sasebo, how long?
R:        Oh, we, we were in the area of two weeks.

I:          Two weeks.

R:        Yes.

I:          And then you go back, right?


R:        Then we went back, mainly for reprovisioning and, uh,

I:          Yeah.
R:        Yeah.

I:          Were there any occasion where you met enemy Navy?

R:        No.

I:          No.  That’s, I’m sure I’d, I’d, I had a lot of interview with the American Navy, uh, soldiers

R:        Um hm.

I:          and they never met any enemy ship.

R:        No.

I:          Hm.

R:        Never seen them.

I:          So it wasn’t really war for you.

R:        Well,

I:          There was no enemy there.

R:        Not at that point.  But we did go South, uh,



a few hundred miles, and there was a, what you called a package where the train come out of a tunnel

I:          Um hm.
R:        went along the shoreline, back into another tunnel.  We sat there one night waiting.  And they did bombard that area.  They said there was a train come out of the tunnel, but we didn’t stay there long enough to find out whether there was any damage.

I:          So that was one of the mission.
R:        Yes.

I:          Yeah.  Did you actually, did that ship work independent of others or did you


really work together with, as a part of U.S. Navy?

R:        Mainly we worked on our own except when we were patrolling this little island.  When, then we worked with the Navy.

I:          Um hm.
R:        But mainly we were on our own.

I:          Your own.

R:        Um hm.

I:          Um hm.

R:        Um hm.

I:          How was it like to be inside of the ship when it’s bombarding, attacking North Korean

R:        Loud.

I:          Tell me details.

R:        Well, the, the big cannons, when they went off, they reverberated through the whole ship.


And the first time they, they went off it was just a gunnery prac, practice, and the gun was right over my head, and it went off and I was on my knees on the floor, on the deck cause I, I, I didn’t know they were gonna fire.  I didn’t know they were gonna fire.  And you can imagine those big guns.  They’re bolted to the deck, and when they fire, the whole reverberation comes right down through, very loud.

I:          Very loud and a lot of commotions


R:        Uh.  Yeah.

I:          You didn’t like it.

R:        No.

I:          No.  Nobody  likes it.

R:        No.

I:          Hm.

R:        Not if you’re, not if you are on lower deck.  Yeah.  It’s pretty sad.

I:          So about 300 Navy crew were there, right?

R:        Two hundred and sixty-nine.

I:          Sixty-nine.  And tell me about the life inside of the ship.

R:        We had our own, uh, uh, kitchen on board ship and, uh, our own food supplies.  And we provided three meals a day in the kitchen.


But our leisure time was in our mess tent.

I:          What kind of meals?  What kind of menu there?

R:        Could be chicken, could be roast beef.

I:          No, for, for example for breakfast, what did you provide to the crew?

R:        Bacon, fried eggs, poached eggs, boiled eggs, whatever, whatever they wanted, toast.  When you, you  have to imagine that this little kitchen was only 10’ x 8’.  Very seldom it would be too hearty of a meal, soup or sandwich or, um,


couple different soups and, yeah.  No, they enjoyed that.

I:          Dinner?

R:        Dinner could be roast tur, roast, uh, chicken or roast beef or roast pork or

I:          Steak?

R:        Occasionally we would have steak.

I:          Oh, that’s nice.

R:        Yeah, yeah.
I:          Um hm.

R:        When we were in Korea, we were living off of Canadian rations initially.

I:          Canadian rations, it wasn’t American?

R:        No.

I:          No.
R:        We had out own rations.
I:          Um hm.
R:        Then we ran aground

I:          What kind?  Explain those details inside.


R:        Well, it was, uh, it was our Canadian beef, Canadian pork and, uh, and all the vegetables and everything all came from Canada, um.  In big boxes, usually.  Most of it was frozen, frozen meals, not frozen meals but frozen food.  And when we ran aground in Korea and went back to Sasebo, we were in dry dock for four months, they put us on Australian rations.  That wasn’t good.


I:          Uh.

R:        A lot of what they call mutton, but it was, it, it was mutton.  I’m sorry, they called it, uh, lamb, but it was mutton.  Nobody would eat it.

I:          Oh.
R:        It, the smell when you were cooking it was terrible, very greasy smell.  And the, um, the men just wouldn’t eat it.

I:          Um hm.

R:        So they had a little insurrection if you wish to call it that

I:          Yeah, right.

R:        And, uh,

I:          Fasting?

R:        Yeah,


the Commanding officer radioed Ottawa and said we have to change to food rations, and we went on American rations.

I:          Um.  How was American

R:        Oh, fabulous.   Eh, there were movies.

I:          What kind of movie did you

R:        Uh,, well the old, um, war, I shouldn’t say wartime, uh.  They didn’t show those.  But the old, um, uh, romantic-type movies from, from, uh, from Hollywood and, had hammocks.  We slept in hammocks.  And they were two deep, one up and one down.


And, uh

I:          So only one three in a row in a column, right?
R:        Yep.

I:          Um hm.

R:        Yep.

I:          And?

R:        And occasionally, uh, if there was somebody that did not like to sleep in a hammock, there was, uh, lockers about this wide and long and, uh, um, 14, 16

I:          Sixteen?  Sixteen young men in one section?

R:        Yep.

I:          Any episode that you wanna tell me?

R:        That would have been, um,


early 1953, probably January or February, 1953.

I:          Uh huh.

R:        And, uh, we spent four months in dry dock having the bough replaced.

I:          Where in, where?
R:        In, in Sasebo.

I:          Sasebo,

R:        Yeah.

I:          Okay.

R:        And then when we left, we sailed from there, came back to Canada.  Want to know where I said that we, that we did go a little bit South from this island, and we sat waiting for trains to come out of the tunnels going into the other tunnel and, uh, that was, uh, that was nerve wracking,


nerve wracking, you know.  You, you’re sitting there waiting.  You don’t know whether the enemy has guns up on the hills there looking at you or, you have no idea.

MALE VOICE:  When you ran aground, were you afraid of sinking at all any time?  Was there any danger such as losing the ship?

R:        Uh, no.  Uh, they immediately, there were gun, uh, shell lockers up forward, and they immediately had everybody on board taking the shells from the front to the back so it, it would weight the stern of the ship.

I:          Um.  Where did you have that ran aground?


R:        On this little island just South,  uh, The dividing line of North Korea and South Korea, there  was a little island in there

I:          Yeah ,yeah, yeah, yeah, okay

R:        And, uh, we were at, run aground on this.   There were American troops on that island.  That’s why we were patrolling the, to protect them.

I:          Could you point in that map where that island was?

R:        Uh, we, it would have been probably just in here somewhere, just about in here.

I:          Yes.


That’s, uh, [INAUDIBLE] I think you are talking about.

R:        And then when we’d get, go South and they let us go ashore, uh, on the, it was right down here, right in here somewhere.

I:          Where was Sasebo in that map, in Japan?

R:        Sasebo, Japan would be down, uh, right in here.

I:          Okay.  That’s

R:        No, sorry.  Down, right down in here where this, uh, right on the very tip.


I:          Um hm.  And from there you went to the East Sea, right?
R:        Uh, yes.  Uh, from here, we left here and sailed up through here.

I:          Uh huh.  Right.  And do you remember where was that you, that your ship was at tacking the train?
R:        Uh, it would be, it would be just South of where we were.  We were in here somewhere, and it would be just down in here a little

I:          Right.

R:        Maybe, uh, 100 km from where we were at the time.

I:          Okay.  And any other


operation like, uh, bombing the North Koreans or North Korean

R:        No.  We, uh,

I:          That was the only occasion?
R:        That was the only occasion because we went back.  We were 4 ½ months in drydock and, the, the, sailed back to Canada.
I:          Um.

MALE VOICE:  What happened to the navigator?  Was he court martialed or what?

R:        He was court martialed, and the Captain was court martialed.  Yeah.  They had, uh, brought a, flew a Captain down from Ottawa, Commander Pullin.


I:          So, when did you actually finish your mission as a Korean War veteran, Korean War?

R:        It would have been just after the treaty was signed.

I:          Uh huh.

R:        So it had to be late ’53.

I:          Yeah.

R:        Nineteen fifty-three.

I:          So July.  July 27 we signed the Armistice.

R:        Yeah.  So it would have been after that, probably two months later, and we sailed back to Canada.

I:          Um.  Looking back all those years, you joined the Navy,


and you were in the Korean War.

R:        Um hm.

I:          What do you think about that?  How did it happen?  Why did it happen?  What do you think?  How can you put it into perspective?  What would you say about the Korean War and your role?

R:        Um, I think it was, it was very sad for, for one thing, uh.  But the, uh, North Koreans at that time were mainly controlled by the Communists and, uh, they were the big instigators.


Um, I can’t say that I really had a whole lot of feeling other than the fact that it was a sad situation for the Koreans.

I:          Um hm.
R:        It was not good.  It’s still not good.

I:          Um.  You never landed in Korean soil.

R:        Yes, right down here on the, uh, where are we?  Right down here.  There was a little village and, uh, we stayed out, the ship stayed out at sea, and they took us


ashore on the, on the big boats.

I:          Um hm.

R:        And, uh, we were there for about four hours, and got into the little village and had a look around.

I:          How was it?  Tell me about that.  How was the scene there, the housing, people, streets?
R:        Uh.

I:          Was it devastated or what, destroyed?
R:        No, it was not.

I:          Right.  That’s not the area that North Koreans were there.

R:        No.  It, it was, it  was very beautiful, typical Korean, uh, housing,


and the women wore their long

I:          Skirt.

R:        skirts, uh.  They were quite beautiful, very colorful, um.  We weren’t allowed to associate with them.  We could bow our head to them, but that was about it.  We weren’t allowed to try to talk to them.

I:          Have you been back to Korea?

R:        No.

I:          Hm.  Do you know what happened after the War, the Korean economy and


R:        No, uh.  Again, I, I don’t know much about the end, present economy.

I:          Um hm.

R:        Um, other than I think it’s doing very well

I:          Yeah.

R:        And it’s too bad that North Korea and South Korea couldn’t combine.  But as long as you got dictator in there, it’s not gonna happen.

I:          Any message to young Canadian students about military overall?
R:        Um, I think it has a good,


good opportunities for a lot of young people that are finding it difficult to find their way. Um, there are, there are good parts to the, un, Canadian service people and, um, I think a lot of them could do very well.


[End of Recorded Material]