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RNZN Personnel killed and wounded on Active Service in Korea

Ordinary Seaman William Henry COOPER, DOB 18/2/1931 Cromwell.

William Cooper, a farm labourer, joined the RNZN for six years from 18 February 1949. He first went to HMNZS Bellona from September 1949 to February 1950.  That month on the 11th he was posted to the Loch-class frigate HMNZS Tutira.  With the outbreak of the Korean War, Tutira was deployed as part of New Zealand’s contribution to the UN naval forces.  While Tutira sailing in company with HMNZS Pukaki passing Yonakuni Island off the coast of Taiwan on the afternoon of 29 July 1950, Cooper was lost overboard and drowned.[1] He was standing on guardrails to spread awnings which was a very dangerous practice and firmly discouraged. He lost his footing and fell overboard into clam seas. Unfortunately, he could not swim. Despite searching for an hour, his body was not recovered.[2]

Able Seaman Robert Edward MARCHIONI, DOB 1/4/1932 Taihape.

Robert Marchioni, a labourer, joined the RNZN on 13 October 1949 as a 17 year old and was committed for six years from the 1 April 1950.  His first posting was on the Loch-class frigate HMNZS Tutira on 26 March 1950. His next sea posting was on another Loch-class frigate HMNZS Rotoiti.  He joined the ship’s company on 31 July 1950 and remained on this ship until his death. He was promoted to the rating of Able Seaman on 13 April 1951. Rotoiti was deployed to Korea as her sister-ships had been. On 26 August 1951, while a member of a shore party, Robert Marchioni was killed in action. He was given a posthumous Mention-in-Despatches. [3] On 26 August 1951, a raiding party was organised from Royal Marines off HMS Ceylon and seamen from Rotoiti. This party would land at Sogon-ni with the aim of taking prisoners and destroying any gun emplacements if located. Marchioni begged to be allowed to join the raid. Two boats from Rotoiti took the party ashore. As they attempted to assault a North Korean gun emplacement from the rear, they were taken under fire by a machinegun. Marchioni was hit as he rose to throw a grenade and was killed instantly.  His body was carried to the beach where the boats were but had to be left ashore as the party was under heavy fire from the defenders. The destroyer HMS Charity and Rotoiti proved covering fire from their 4-inch guns to allow the party to recover to the ships without further loss. [4] Lieutenant-Commander B.E. Turner described Marchioni ‘as one of the greatest seaman boys I ever had.’[5] Turner requested permission to recover the body in daylight but was refused. Marchioni’s body was never recovered. A funeral service was held on that morning after the raid for the dead sailor.[6]

Petty Officer H.N. Blizzard

Petty Officer Blizzard was aboard HMNZS Tutira operating off the port of Wosan in October 1950. On 24 October 1950, a loose mine was spotted and destroyed. Unfortunately, a stray piece of shrapnel from the mine struck Blizzard on head. He was Tutira’s only casualty during their deployments to Korea.[7]

 

[1] Posting Record Card for Cooper, W.H. Held at RNZN Museum

[2] Ian McGibbon, New Zealand and the Korean War: Volume II Combat Operations, Auckland: Oxford University Press, 1992, p. 18.

[3] Posting Record Card for Marchioni, R.E. Held at RNZN Museum

[4] Ian McGibbon, New Zealand and the Korean War: Volume II Combat Operations, Auckland: Oxford University Press, 1992, pp. 174-176.

[5] Ian McGibbon, New Zealand and the Korean War: Volume II Combat Operations, Auckland: Oxford University Press, 1992, p. 176.

[6] ibid.

[7] ibid., p. 30.

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