The Galloping Ghost of the Korean Coast by Boy Seaman 1/C, Michael Stephens
I and my pal Ron Godsall were both Boy Seamen in the RN cruiser, H.M.S. Jamaica - often known as "the Galloping Ghost of the Korean Coast" as the reds have claimed us sunk no less than three times! We preferred the title the "Fighting J". It is little known, however, that H.M.S. Jamaica under Capt. Brown, was the first allied warship to engage in combat in this, the "Forgotten War" sinking two MTBs and grounding another and, I understand, severely damaging a troop transport. I was comms number in green 4" director and thus had a grandstand view of all that was happening around us. Ron Godsall was loading number on F2 pom-pom.
At Inchon, we moored astern of our sister ship, H.M.S. Kenya and went to action stations at about 16:00 the day prior to the landings. From then on it was almost constant bombardment with our 6 inches - first to Wolmi Do where I understand we wreaked the necessary havoc on the Japanese built defenses. Then we turned our fond attention to Inchon itself. We were pretty good, too - hit the main ammo dump in there. The explosion, far away though it was, served to even roll us - and I'm told our American friends were jubilant! We weren't all that dismayed ourselves!
That entire night we stayed at action stations swallowing mugs of steaming hot kai (cocoa) and chewing on ship's biscuits and bully beef sandwiches between the blasts from our 6 inch turrets. Delicious? Not really, but what the heck? At dawn on that fateful day and at almost the same moment the first wave of troops started shore ward, we received an urgent "enemy aircraft" alert from the USS Mount McKinnley on which General Mac was overseeing the operation. It was a Russian built Yak who, after missing the USS Mount McKinnley, turned his nasty attention to the two British cruisers. My thoughts since, is that the pilot must have been suicidal to have attacked such a formidable target.
As it was, he came in on our port quarter at about 100 ft altitude and about 50 ft off our side and proceeded to strafe our port side from stern to stem. Big mistake!! Our 4 inches were unable to engage but our pom-poms and bofors opened up almost instantly. Sitting in my tractor style seat in the director, I could plainly see him as he flashed down the opposite side, white/blue flames squirting from his wings - then he was out of my line of vision behind the superstructure. The next I saw, he was tumbling into a flaming dive with bits spraying from him. He hit the water just forward of our bow and the only recognizable part remaining bobbing down our starboard side was his right landing wheel and leg. Some bits went right through our focs'le into the Royal Marines' messdeck and paint locker below - which caused a tad of consternation.
Unhappily, he had hit F2 pom-pom and my mess-mate, Boy Seaman Ron Godsall suffered fatal wounds. Ironically, it was his F2 pom-pom that was credited with the shoot down - and the only time throughout the entire Korean War that a warship shot down an enemy aircraft. Boy Seaman Ron Godsall was transferred to the US hospital ship "Compassion" where he died of the wounds. The photo on the left is of Ron Godsall.
There are many tales to be told about Jamaica off the coast of Korea. As you may have known, we took a bunch of Seaforth Highlanders aboard in Singapore - austensibly for a trip down to Aussie (at least that's what the powers that be told us!). As we were so under-manned, these lads finished up by (very capably) manning H1 and H2 4" guns when we were rerouted to Korea at the immediate outbreak of hostilities. During a shore bombardment, we received return fire (probably from hull-down T34 tanks, so 88mm stuff). One amazingly lucky shot hit an upright of out after-mast and the ensuing shrapnel took out the lads on H1. The chances of them hitting an 18" dia mast support must have been millions to one. I'm not sure how many died - I think maybe five and as many wounded. We buried these lads at sea the following a.m.
Boy Seaman 1/C, Michael Stephens
We the webmasters are very grateful to Michael for taking the time to tell us of his time on H.M.S. Jamaica during the Korean War.