Doc Dockstader believes he may be the only Korean War veteran in Ladysmith, and during the war, he served on a naval ship that destroyed more trains than any other Canadian ship.
Dockstader was 19 when he joined the Royal Canadian Navy.
An Able Seaman, he served aboard HMCS Crusader during the winter of 1952-53, the final year of the Korean War.
Dockstader describes the Korean War as more of a ground operation, but the Royal Canadian Navy did send eight destroyers to Korea.
“The Canadian Navy was mostly used for patrolling the east and west coast of Korea to prevent North Koreans from laying mines,” explained Dockstader. “We were playing guard for U.S. aircraft carriers and shelling and destroying troops and supply chains from North Korea. We had a club called the Trainbusters’ Club made up of American, British and Canadian destroyers.”
Trainbusting meant running in close to shore, usually at night, and risking damage from Chinese and North Korean artillery to destroy trains or tunnels on Korea’s coastal railway, according to the Canadian War Museum.
“I think between all the ships, we destroyed 28 trains — eight of those were Canadian destroyers that destroyed them, and four of those were destroyed by HMCS Crusader,” said Dockstader. “That put her at the top of the Trainbusters’ Club.”
Five hundred and 16 Canadians died in the Korean War, and three of the casualties were ex-shipmates of Dockstader’s.
“They were aboard HMCS Iroquois when it took a direct hit from a ship battery on B Gun Deck,” he said.
Dockstader, who turned 81 this past August, was born in Saskatoon, and it was there that he joined the Navy. He lived in Victoria for 47 years before moving to Ladysmith in 1990.
Dockstader was a member of the Royal Canadian Legion in Langford before transferring to the Ladysmith branch.
For the last 10 or 12 years, Dockstader has been laying the wreath for the Korean veterans during the Remembrance Day ceremony in Ladysmith.
He recently donated the book Valour Remembered: Canadians in Korea to the library at Branch 171.
“As far as I know, I’m the only Korean veteran in town,” noted Dockstader.