Twelve feet from death

Navy vet Jack Moxam recalls the horrible day three crewmen were killed when enemy fire hit the HMCS Iroquois off the coast of Korea in 1952.

Jack 'Scotty' Moxam mans B Gun on the HMCS Iroquois during a training session offshore of Korea.

Royal Canadian Navy veteran Jack “Scotty” Moxam remembers the day his ship was hit by shell fire during the Korean War.

The photo brings it all back.

He was a young man when the picture was taken, just 21 years old. It shows the ‘B’ gun crew on the HMCS Iroquois, during training off shore in Korea.

Moxam, standing, mans the gun, and four other seamen are assembled to his right.

During action on Oct. 2, 1952, two of those men in the photo were killed, along with the ship’s gunnery officer, Lt.-Cdr. John Quinn, and 10 wounded. They were to be the only Canadian naval casualties of the war.

“The gun deck was hit by shore battery by North Koreans or Chinese, we don’t know which,” he recalls.

About 12 feet from where he was standing, a 120-mm mortar landed that blasted a “bloody great hole in the gun deck,” killing three men, and spraying shrapnel everywhere.

“I was standing where you see me in the photo, when it hit. I got a little shrapnel in my nose, which I pulled out, and that was it, thank goodness.”

The blast ripped a hole from B gun deck to A gun deck on the lower level of the ship. Bakey, one of the loaders, was wearing Moxam’s jacket.

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“I had loaned him the jacket, because it was a bit of a cool day – a horrible day,” he says. “Everybody on A gun thought, ‘Oh my God, there goes Scotty.’”

Moxam wasn’t terribly injured because he was standing by the gun, which was on a platform that was a couple of feet higher than the deck where the rest of the crew stood.

One of the wounded men wound up at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto. His injuries were so severe, he never left, and died in 1968.

Moxam spent five years in the Royal Canadian Navy. He joined in 1949 and got out in 1954. He served as a gunner on two ships – the Huron and the HMCS Iroquois.

“You’re a kid, you’re looking for adventure and we got lots of that,” he told the Reporter, answering our callout for stories and memories from local veterans and their families.

The Iroquois was a destroyer that fought during the Second World War and Korea. It was one of eight Canadian ships joining the United Nations and Republic of Korea in maintaining a blockade.

Moxam was stationed first out of Sasebo, the British Navy Base in Japan, and later Kure, for a span of three years.

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“You work out of Japan doing patrol in Korea.”

He was born in Belleville, Ontario, in 1931.

When his five years in the navy were up, he joined the Ontario Provincial Police, got married and started a family, raising six children.

They moved out west, where Moxam rejoined the Air Force as an air force policeman, and then left to open his own business – a security/investigation company. He says his time in the armed forces taught him discipline and attention to detail.

Today, at his home in Cloverdale, his office is filled with navy books, and books on war and military history.

He lived in South Surrey and Pender Island before moving here five years ago.

He’s a proud member of Royal Canadian Legion Branch 6 (Cloverdale) and the Canadian Naval Veterans Association.