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Page One

The History and Story of a Very Special Ship!

The TSMV Wanganella had quite an amazing forty-one year history during which she served four owners extremely well! Although she was owned for the majority of her days at sea by the famed Huddart Parker Ltd and in 1961 she was obtained McIlwraith McEacharn but this was a short engagement as she was obtained just over a year later by a Chinese Hong Kong based Company - Hang Fung Ltd late in 1962. Thereafter she was sold again to become a workers accommodation ship in New Zealand and this feature will cover all these aspects.

But let us start from the very beginning and cover the story in short regarding a well-known Melbourne based Australian Coastal Shipping Company that in due course ventured further afield!

Huddart Parker Ltd.

Huddart Parker Ltd was officially formed on August 1, 1876 by James Huddart, who was also the nephew associated to T.J Parker, as well as John Trail and Captain Webb who made up the company board members.

The Huddart Parker Ltd - House Flag

Although the firm, under various operating names, commenced operating their first vessel in 1854, being the 199-ton schooner-rigged iron steamer named “Express,” which operated a service between Geelong and Melbourne in the southern parts of Australia. Over the years the company grew from strength to strength, and obtained bigger and better ships and slowly commenced services further afield to Sydney, Newcastle as well as Tasmania. But is would be the SS Ulimaroa that would make inroads for Huddart Parker and sailed as far as New Zealand!

SS Ulimaroa.

It was not until 1908, when the delightful 5,777-GRT SS Ulimaroa came into service and commenced the company’s service on the Trans Tasman service, between Australia and New Zealand. Although, she was still considered as a partial coastal liner considering that she sailed from Sydney via Melbourne to Hobart and only then she would cross the Tasman to New Zealand. She would then sail back to Sydney. Thus she carried passengers on both coastal voyages and well as Trans Tasman sailings. Then there were those who preferred to book a full round voyage for their vacations, and make it what we would call today “a cruise.”

A postcard on the SS Ulimaroa

Postcard is from the author’s private collection

The 5,777 GRT, all steel, twin screw SS Ulimaroa was built by Gourlay Bros & Co ship builders at Dundee in 1908. She had twin triple expansion engines producing some 1,095 NHP. She has passenger accommodations for 190 First Class, 120 Second Class, and 120 in Third Class. She was sold to Japanese breakers in 1934.

TSMV Wanganella – The all-British ship that became a Great Australian Liner!

Personally I love to think back to the days of my youth, for as a child I always loved passenger ships. Then when I was a teenager I came to New Zealand in May 1958 on an elegant Dutch passenger liner, the MS Sibajak of the Rotterdam Lloyd. I clearly remember the two remarkable “Express Trans-Tasman Liners” that operated at the time between New Zealand and Australia. The senior of the pair being the Union Steamship Co, 1925 built, accommodating 386 passengers, 11,036-ton, TSS Monowai and the ship in question, the TSMV Wanganella. Amazingly neither ship was built nor designed for their owners or the service they were operating, but both did the job extremely well and they became much loved and each had their own charm as well as countless followers!

The Wanganella was built by Harland and Wolff shipyards at Belfast, but she was originally ordered by one of the Royal Mail / Elder Dempster Group of Companies and she was to be named “Achimota,” and she was to be operated by the “British and African Steam Navigation Company” for their Britain to West Africa mail service. She was launched and officially named Achimota on December 17, 1929, and upon completion some ten months later, due to financial difficulties within the Royal Mail Group the ship was not handed over to her intended owners and instead she was laid up for around a year. Harland and Wolff then placed her on the market and Huddart Parker Ltd of Melbourne Australia immediately showed interest in the ship. Still having the name Achimota on her bow she undertook her deep-sea trials from Belfast in September 1932 as well as another voyage with the Huddart Parker executives on board.

MS Achimota seen on her second trails with the Huddart Parker executives on board

Obviously she still has her original Elder Dempster livery, which would soon change

Photo – Ulster Folk and Transport Museum

That same month Huddart Parker decided to purchase her, although they advised Harland & Wolff that a refit would be required to make her suitable for the Australian trade as she would required considerable upgrading, as she had originally been built to accommodate just 236 First Class and 64 Second Class passengers as well as some Third Class and Deck passengers, between port in Africa. In addition, the crew quarters as built would certainly not meet “Australian Maritime Standards,” thus these also required upgrading as Australian standards are very much higher than the British requirements at the time. In addition the Bridge as built was set back with a walk by deck in front of it, and her new owners required the Bridge to be placed flush with the promenade deck, which was done (See the photographs above and below). With all the work completed the ex Achimota became a fine ship indeed and soon the new TSMV Wanganella was ready for her duties Down Under!

It is believed that her original cost was £520.000 (UK pounds), but with the cancelation of her original order, it is believed that Huddart Parker purchased her at a bargain price of just £346.376 fully completed and delivered to them in Sydney Australia.

For interest: There seems to be some debate of timing regarding the purchase and from whom she was obtained, as some historians claim she was obtained from Royal Mail, whilst others state it was whilst she was being built, which is quite wrong. Be assured that the official records agree with what I have written above.

There was no doubt that Huddart Parker had obtained themselves a very special ship, a ship that was never intended for the service that she would soon be operating on Down Under, and there was no doubt that she was a very British ship indeed! She had a delightfully striking profile with a rather strong rectangular, yet elegant lines, enhanced by her twin rather squad buff coloured funnels (the forward funnel being a dummy one) and her two tall masts. She would prove to be the perfect ship for the “Express Trans Tasman” service and she became a popular ship indeed and she outlasted her rivals, the Union Steamship Monowai and Awatea.

The elegant Twin Screw Motor Ship Wanganella

From the author’s private collection

As can be seen below, Wanganella was of a similar design to other ships of that time being built for the Royal Mail Line, as well as its associated companies such as the Elder Dempster Lines, including Royal mail’s 22,000-ton sisters the MS Asturias and Alcantara, built just after the Achimota in 1926 and 27 respectively.

The Royal Mail Lines Liner MS Asturias

From the author’s private collection

Interiors – Sheer elegance personified!

The Wanganella featured a fine range of elegant lounges in both classes, especially the First Class lounges in the manner of the Main Lounge located forward on Promenade Deck. This supreme venue featured fine timbered panelled walls and in the centre of the ceiling the main feature being a dome reaching high up to Boat Deck and superb light fittings and décor mouldings that gave every part of this room a touch of class. The windows were offset by elegant columns on both sides, and featured luxuriant drapes. Located forward of the room in the center there was a massive traditional fireplace that would offer artificial heating on cooler days. Throughout the lounge, Grecian style carved pillars graced the room and it featuring a fine Persian carpet in the middle as well as a grand piano. Yet somehow, there was also a touch of understated luxury, which was “Ever so British!”

The magnificent domed First Class Main Lounge

Photo by Mr. W.H. Raine

Just aft of the Main Lounge was the Library and Reading Room. Going further aft past the machinery section, you would first reach the Smoking Lounge, which was a much lighter venue and this Lounge also featured that ever so British traditional fireplace and it was a far more casual venue both for ladies as well as the younger set on board.

The lighter and brighter Smoke Lounge had some delicately carved timber furnishings

Photographer unknown – *Please see photo notes at bottom of page

The last venue on Promenade Deck, far aft was the somewhat sombre, but elegant dark timbered and velvet wallpapered Smoking Room, which was very much the Gentleman’s Lounge. It offered luxuriant leather chairs and sofas and the floor featured several tones of inlaid marble. It overlooked the aft decks and the Verandah Café.

The First Class Smoking Room located aft on Promenade Deck

Photographer unknown – *Please see photo notes at bottom of page

One deck down on A (Bridge) Deck aft was the Second Class Main Lounge, as well as the Library, Card and Games Rooms.

Located forward on C (Main) Deck was the First Class rather grandiose Dinning Room with its huge dome and its lattice-glazed windows and its unique concealed decorative lighting. The Second Class Dining Rooms was located aft, and although smaller it certainly had a similar charm, but obviously on a lesser scale.

Wanganella’s First Class Dinning Room was grand in every possible way!

Photo by Mr. W.H. Raine

Wanganella’s accommodations were simply superb for the day as she offered superb First Class cabins for one, two and three for 304 passengers who would live in style and comfort, as well as 104 Second Class passengers who enjoyed accommodations well up to standard! To attend to all their needs there were 160 crewmembers on board. Although these were not days where air-conditioning was standard and forced air ventilation was the norm, as well as windows and portholes that could be opened. 

One of the luxury First Class Twin bedded cabins that converted into a lounge during the day

Provided by Neil Higgins

Her Career.

TSMV Wanganella departed Belfast on November 29, 1932 under the command of one of Huddart Parkers other fine Coastal ships, the Westralia’s former Master, Captain Bates. She made a voyage of record proportions of just thirty-one days to Sydney. Her arrival in Sydney made the news and she was featured in the “Sydney Morning Herald” on January 2, 1933, which stated, “The arrival of Wanganella provided the occasion for an unusual reunion. Mr. L. S. Brew, the guarantee engineer sent out with the ship by the builders, Harland and Wolff, found that the pilot who brought the ship into Sydney Harbour was his brother (Captain A. Brew), whom he had not seen for 20 years.”

It so happened that Harland and Wolff had appointed Leonard Septimus Brew, their Guarantee Chief Engineer to officially deliver the ship to Huddart Parker in Sydney, and he was rather surprised that it was his brother that would meet him on board.

An artist impression of the TSMV Wanganella

The artist is unknown -*See photo notes at the bottom of the page

Ten days later after the ship had been fully stored, and her crew trained, the Wanganella was ready for her maiden departure from Sydney and head for New Zealand, which she would do for many years, except during the war years when she would become a Hospital Ship. She departed Sydney on January 12, 1933 and commenced her regular Trans Tasman Express service sailing between from Sydney via Melbourne to Auckland, Wellington and back to Sydney. She would take three and a half days to cross the Tasman Sea, unless there were unusual weather conditions, which did happen knowing the Tasman Sea! For her return to Australia during this first voyage she would sail down the South Island of New Zealand and visit the famed Fordland’s of the South Island and visit Milford Sound before heading back to Australia.

The Wanganella is seen here in Milford Sound during her

maiden round voyage from Sydney to New Zealand in January 1933

Photo by Mr. W.H. Raine

Wanganella soon became the darling of all Trans Tasman liners with both Australian’s and New Zealanders, for she was indeed the luxury liner they felt they deserved, and although the Monowai was an excellent ship, the Wanganella certainly had the edge of superiority!

Here we see the Wanganella (left) and the Monowai (center) berthed at Darling Harbour Sydney in the late 30’s

Provided by Frank G. Farquhar

 

The TSS Monowai is seen here heading under the Sydney Harbour Bridge

Provided by Frank G. Farquhar

Over the years there were many other ships that competed with her on the Trans Tasman service, the Monowai and in due course ships such as the Union Steamship Company’s newer liner the Awatea. There were also a good number of much larger liners owned by, Orient Line, P&O, Shaw Savill, the American Matson Line, and the Dutch, Italian and Greek companies would also take passengers between Australia and New Zealand or visa versa depending on their itineraries when operating Tasman cruises, but the Wanganella continued to do very well having a very strong following.

In 1937 the Wanganella did have an accident at sea when she collided with a trawler just off the New South Wales Coast, although no great damage or injuries on Wanganella were recorded, I have no details on the outcome of what happened to the trawler and its crew.

Then on June 19, 1940, Wanganella went to the assistance to the ill-fated Union Steamship liner Niagara that had hit a German mine and Wanganella’s crew managed to rescue the survivors, both passengers and crew, from the Pacific, just north of New Zealand.

Wanganella looking superb as she is seen here fully dressed with flags

Photo from the author’s private collection

At some time in the late thirties she did have windows fitted aft on A (Bridge) Deck being part of the Second Class Promenade Deck, thus providing an enclosed space and shelter being a great improvement considering the occasional windy weather that can occur on the Tasman.

Wanganella seen heading out to sea – Note her new Second Class windows aft

Photo from the author’s private collection

 

TSMV Wanganella - Dimensions:

Built at:         Harland and Wolff – Belfast.

Launched:      December 17, 1929.

Length:          144.5 m - 474ft.

Beam:            19.5m - 64ft.

Draft:            7.6m – 25ft.

Tonnage:        9,876 GRT – 5,625 Net.

Engines:         2 x 4 stroke Burmeister & Wain 8 Cylinder diesels - 6750 BHP.

Screws:          Twin

Speed:           15 Knots - Service Speed.

Passengers:    304 First Class - 104 Second Class.

                     316 First Class - 108 Second Class - post war.

                     292 First Class - 108 Second Class - 1960.

Crew:            160/130/150 - Originally/HMAHS/1960.

 

Wanganella becomes a Wartime Hospital Ship.

His Majesty Australian Hospital Ship - HMAHS Wanganella Number 45, is seen departing Melbourne

From the Victoria State Library collection

The Wanganella was commissioned to serve as a Hospital Ship in World War II for the Australian Government. Australian registered and crewed, the ship officially became HMAHS Wanganella and she served from May 1941, through to 1946. During this time she carried and cared for Australia and New Zealand soldiers, and the many wounded and sick evacuees from Europe, the Middle East, New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Borneo and the South Pacific. Thus she became a very hard working ship!

HMAHS Wanganella at anchor at the Solomon Islands

Provided by “The Australian War Museum” #118509

On May 19, 1941, the Wanganella was converted in Melbourne to become a Hospital Ship allowing her to transport equipment and medical personnel as well as to be fully operational as a hospital complete with operating theatres. She was painted white, with the conventional broad green band circling her hull, broken at intervals for large red crosses. During the night the ship would be fully illuminated according to International law. HMAHS Wanganella could accommodate some 434 patients, which was increased to 550 late in 1943. She carried a large medical staff of around 110, which were sourced from the Royal Australian Army Medical Corps. The ships crew was decreased slightly to 123.

The Wanganella was officially commissioned July 21, 1941 in Melbourne and was designated as HMAHS Wanganella number 45 and she departed for Singapore. She sailed first to Sydney, then returned to Melbourne and continued her voyage via Fremantle transporting the “2/13th AGH” (Australian General Hospital). She arrived in Singapore on September 15, after which she returned to Sydney transporting her first load of patients, being Australian troops with various health issues. Also on board were some 216 passengers, some being Government representatives as well as senior Military personal, but most were and civilians.

Her second voyage she headed to Suez where she embarked wounded men from the Middle East campaign and returned first to Sydney and then to Brisbane. It was during this voyage that she experienced first enemy attack. Whilst the Wanganella was at Port Tewfik in Egypt, a bombing raid occurred and a good number of bombs fell very close to her, however luckily she came through it without any damage, whereas the famed English liner the Georgic, which was operating as a troop transport ship, was badly hit and she was on fire in the harbour.

Stern view of the HMAHS Wanganella #45 - as she returns from yet another rescue voyage

Image source unknown – *Please see photo notes at bottom of page

The Wanganella was also involved with a rather famed incident off the coast of Western Australia related to a Shell Tanker the MS Ondina. Although Wanganella only came into the story late in the incident, she certainly assisted to save precious lives at sea. I suggest that you read the whole story The MS Ondina Story.

During the war years HMAHS Wanganella sailed to many far away ports and carried large numbers of wounded and sick evacuees from countless destinations around the globe. In addition she had many other close calls, but the most famed one is the one that became known as the “Bombay Explosion”!

Her 13th.voyage to this day the most recorded one of HMAHS Wanganella’s service record, and here are just some of the details: She departed Sydney late in March 1944, and she sailed via Fremantle to Bombay India. On April 14, 1944 whilst she was at anchor at Bombay, the Wanganella was shaken by what was obviously a several massive explosions and all on board would soon know this would be having a very serious effect upon the harbour and the nearby city. Apparently there was a ship in the harbour that was loaded with bales of cotton as well as a huge load of high explosives, and she had caught fire causing two massive explosions that shook the harbour and the city. The Wanganella just shook badly as the explosion waves from the blast struck her as she was a reasonable distance away. There were massive columns of fire and smoke as well as debris to be seen and it was flying hundreds of feet into the air. Very quickly the greater part of nearby Bombay was ablaze and destruction followed. It is said that around twenty-two ships were damaged and destroyed that day and some ships had capsized due to the explosion and others were a heap of twisted metal, whilst other vessels only had minor damage.

There were many gruesome scenes along the waterfront, including the many dead and the badly injured. As hospitals were filled to the brim, a request was made for the Wanganella to come to the assistance of Bombay, which Wanganella medical team did. Many of the wounded arrived on board and the surgical Staff operated without a break for days. The ship remained in Bombay for another week, then having discharged her patients.

With the week in Bombay completed, she headed for Italy, as she was to take on many New Zealand wounded soldiers and take them home to Wellington in the North Island, and Lyttleton, being the main the Port of Christchurch in the South Island.

The Private Stanley Charles Niel French Story:

Private Stanley French was with the 26 NZBN Regiment Number 254801 and he sailed from New Zealand on a troopship via Fremantle, Australia, where he was given shore leave. Whilst ashore, it was his good fortune to meet a young lady and somehow they seemed to like each other very much, so much so, they desired to keep in touch, when he would return from the war, God willing!

In the meantime as Stanley French was sailing to Europe, Italy was well into an extended battle that had been going on some time, it was known as the “Battle of Monte Cassino,” also known as the also known as the “Battle for Rome.” The time was coming close for the American units to be withdrawn and they were to be replaced by the New Zealand Corps, being the 2nd New Zealand Division and the 4th Indian Division when they arrived. The New Zealand Corps was commanded by Lt. Gen. Bernard Freyberg.

The Battle Fields of Cassino and the port of Anzio where the Wanganella collected the wounded soldiers to the left

Suddenly Pte Stanley French was fully involved in this ongoing and important Monte Cassino battlefield where he fought bravely, but sadly one day when the German shelling was extremely heavy, he was severely wounded and his body was riddled by a large amount of shrapnel and he required urgent medical attention!

These are the ruins of the town of Cassino seen after the great battle

With Private French so badly wounded, the field hospital took good care of him, well the best they possibly could under the circumstances, for they also were in the firing area and the surgery was based in just a battlefield hospital, which was nothing more than a tent. When Pte French was patched up, he was placed in the transport available and transferred to the port of Anzio where he was placed onboard the HMAHS Wanganella, which was sent there to collect the many wounded soldiers from this horrid battle. Many required urgent surgery onboard as well as a great deal of intensive and general nursing care as they were taken on their long voyage home to New Zealand. This was HMAHS Wanganella’s Voyage number 19.

Stanley was well cared for by the medical team onboard and there were two special nurses who were appointed to look after him during the voyage. One was Sister McDonald and the other being Sister Pollick. They were not just medically efficient, but they really cared for their patients and him, and this must have resonated with Stanley for he always he always remembered these two wonderful nursing Sisters!

 

Above & below: The photo taken of the two Sisters – McDonald and Pollick by Pte Stanley French - Note what he wrote on the back

 

As the voyage continued, Stanley improved and he even went out on deck and on one day he took a photograph of the two wonderful ladies who had given so much time and great medical care. He also kept one of the lunch menus from Wednesday May 31, 1944 and from looking at the menu, the food looked wonderful, for there would have been nothing like having a home style roast lamb and mint sauce, but there was also a rump steak cooked to order, now that was just like a really top class restaurant in those days. For a wounded soldier who had been eating typical Army supply canned food, this was just like food straight from heaven!

Charles put the menu in his kit bag, where sadly the menu became badly marked. This was due, because when they operated on him and removed all that shrapnel from his body, he decided to keep some as souvenirs from the war, and having leeched through its wrappings, it marked the menu and some other items. NOTE: I will show the original front and back cover of the menu directly below, which is followed by the restored front cover and then the inside showing the actual menu, both of which I cleaned up did per Photoshop, as I did the photo above!

 

Above & below:

This is the front & back cover of the lunch menu complete with all the shrapnel markings and the inside menu below

 

 

Below are the cleaned up versions

 

The front cover of the HMAHS Wanganella Luncheon Menu - Wednesday May 31, 1944

 

The actual Luncheon Menu, which was quite remarkable for a wartime ship!

Well to be honest, these men deserved everything that was good for they fought for their countries and laid their lives on the line!

Stanley French arrived home safely and when he was well enough and had been in contact with his now fiancée, he headed for Fremantle, Australia and soon enough he was married to the girl he had met there, what now seemed to be so long ago. They lived a full and happy life in Australia, but in the early 1950s they decided to head for and live in New Zealand. Sadly Stanley passed away in 1994, but he did have a number of children, including Judy who originally wrote me about her dear Dad in March 2014, and sent the menu and photograph. I am grateful to her, for it is an interesting story and certainly proves again how the HMAHS Wanganella served well as a Hospital Ship worldwide, she did herself, and Australasia proud!

After the Wanganella dropped off the wounded New Zealand soldiers in Wellington and Lyttleton, she returned to Sydney in June 1944 and berthed at Circular Quay.

HMAHS Wanganella arrives at Sydney’s Circular Quay in June 1944 - returning from New Zealand after the Bombay experience

Image source unknown – *Please see photo notes at bottom of page

During her war service HMAHS Wanganella sailed a good 251,611 nautical miles and carried 13,389 wounded and sick evacuees from the Various War Zones, comprising of Australian, New Zealand and American Service personnel. HMAHS Wanganella served her country with great pride!

Post War Years.

The Wanganella was returned to Huddart Parker Ltd late in 1945, and she was sent to Melbourne have her refit, returning her into the luxury passenger liner everyone loved. This refit would see a number of changes, with her accommodations increasing slightly to 316 in First Class and 108 in Second Class passengers. Externally it was obvious that there was a new two-lever superstructure placed on her aft decks, which contained vastly improved crew accommodations and facilities. In addition the aft section of the First Class A (Bridge) Deck promenade was plated and glazed in to provide protection from the Tasman winds. Along the First Class Promenade Deck, canvas covers could be raised or lowered, pending weather conditions. Obviously the weather was in the companies mind! The refit was completed in September 1946.

Having been completed it was decided by Huddart Parker that the fresh looking TSMV Wanganella would first operate a return voyage to Vancouver, sailing from Sydney sailing via Auckland and Honolulu, returning to Sydney on December 28. She departed Sydney for her first post war Express Trans Tasman Voyage, which would prove to be rather eventful!

Her first voyage after the war sailing as a full-fledged liner with some 400 passengers on board could easily have Wanganella’s very last voyage, for she had a narrow escape when she ran aground on Barrett Reef that is located at the entrance to Wellington Harbour in New Zealand. This reef is well known and it would later claim the Union Steamship newest Inter Island Ferry between Wellington and Lyttleton (Christchurch) the TMV Wahine with a tragic loss of 51 lives, on April 10, 1968.

The 8,944-ton Inter Island Ferry TEV Wahine

Postcard from the author’s private collection

The Barrett Reef incident at Wellington.

On January 19, 1947, the Wanganella struck Barrett Reef at 11.30 PM, whilst she was sailing at a speed of 13 knots. Apparently (and this is the short version) the Captain, Commander R Darroch, had mistaken the flashing buoy in front of Barrett Reef for the light to guide the ship into Wellington harbour. The Wanganella was firmly stuck on the reef and it would prove to be difficult to remove her from the Barrett Reef as she was stuck badly on the rocks, in addition she had two massive gashes below the waterline at her bow, with the larger of the two being some 12.2m long and up to 6.7m wide. Thankfully, there were no injuries on board. The next day all passengers were evacuated from the ship. For the duration she was stuck on the reef there were a number of attempts to free her, but it would eighteen days the Wanganella would spend on the rocks.

Wanganella is seen here on Barrett Reef - Some damage can be seen at her bow on water level

Photograph by an “Evening Post” staff photographer

Finally on February 6, when there was a combination of tides, good weather and hard work of the tugs and engines at full astern, Wanganella succeeded in being hauled free late in the day and she was towed into the Harbour, arriving at the Aotea Quay just before midnight and she remained there to undergo some internal repairs until she could be levelled and sail into the Floating Dock twelve days later.

Here we see a rather sad looking Wanganella whilst she was under repairs berthed at Aotea Quay, Wellington

Photograph by a Free Lance photographer, but obtained from “Alexander Turnbull Library” Wellington

Wanganella headed for the Jubilee floating dock under her own power on February 18, 1947, and the people of Wellington were there to cheer her in, and soon underwater repairs were underway. However with her extensive damage, it was going to be a very big repair job! Wanganella’s crew had by now been paid off and returned to Australia on board the rather small 4,436-ton Union Steamship Company liner Wahine. Although some of the engineers and electricians remained on aboard. She came out of the dock again on May 27, 1947 and she was berthed.

A much better looking TSMV Wanganella seen leaving stern first from the Wellington Jubilee Floating Dock on May 27, 1947

Photograph by an “Evening Post” staff photographer

 

The Wanganella is seen here in back in the Jubilee Floating dock

Photograph provided by John Davidson

The long wait was due to a partial new forepeak for the ship having to be built in the UK, and as soon as it arrived it had to be fitted, under supervision of a Harland & Wolff Assistant Works Manager, after she returned into the Jubilee floating dock. She returned to the dock and work continued, and it was finally completed on October 29, 1948. She undertook her trails on Cook Strait on November 29 and 30 and departed for Sydney on December 9, and as a bonus, she was fully a fully booked ship, for everyone was delighted to have their favourite liner back in service!

The Wanganella had indeed cheated death, but this fine ship would continue sailing and she certainly did have a good long life!

A Menu with a special history!

Recently I received an email from a lady in South Australia who discovered a very special Menu from the MV Wanganella in her Mother in Law’s belongings. It is obvious that she or a family member had sailed on her in 1947. However, what makes this Menu extremely special is this - 1: The date, and 2: A notation on the Menu in pencil.

The date was “Friday, 17th.January 1947,” which just happened to be two days Wanganella ill-fated conclusion of her voyage as she tragically hit Barratt Reef at Wellington and was firmly stuck there for some time and badly damaged. Therefore, this family member was obviously a passenger on the ship and experienced this ordeal.

The rather simple notation in pencil on the Menu reads, “on rocks 11.30 pm Sunday.” Sue Laidler has been so kind to forward this rather valuable Menu to me for safekeeping and to make sure that it will be retained for historical safekeeping.

Below you can relive the history as you view its cover and the interior of this Menu, knowing full well what was going to happen just less than 48 hours later, because the passengers certainly did not, they were having a wonderful evening! Call it the calm before the storm!

 Front cover on the MV Wanganella’s Menu dated January 17, 1947

The menu was provided by Sue Laidler and I am most grateful to her – Please do NOT copy it!

 

 Inside from cover of the menu with details of the evenings events

 

 The Menu as well as the passenger’s pencil notation!

on rocks 11-30 pm Sunday”

Return to Service.

From 1948 TSMV Wanganella continued her regular Trans Tasman service as well as operating various cruises. In 1952 the Wanganella was given an another refit, which saw her forward First Class Promenade Deck mostly glazed in leaving only a small aft section open. In addition her aft superstructure was in due course also extended gar aft and this provided a stewards recreation room.

The Wanganella is seen here towards the end of her Huddart Parker days heading under the Sydney Harbour Bridge

From this photograph you can see the glazed in Promenade Deck & that her forward funnel is a dummy

Originally a Huddart Parker publicity photo – From the author’s collection

In 1955/56 her public rooms and some of her accommodations were refurbished in an attempt to keep her up to date with the competition as well as the possibility to make her suitable as a cruise ship, and she did commence a series of Pacific and New Zealand cruises mid 1958. These did prove to be quite successful as her past passengers revelled not only in the tropical Pacific as it was winter at home, but the elegant surrounding of a ship they knew so well. Others just loved the relaxed way of cruising around New Zealand and the Fjordland’s, rather than just the express services.

But as I tend to say in so many of my features on passenger liners - “Times are-a-Changing” as a popular song was clearly telling us all in those days! Certainly, air travel had commenced to make inroads and with the arrival of the Jumbo Jet, the Boeing 747, fares had become cheaper and cheaper, thus passenger loadings on all ships, be they great or small, luxurious or budget, began to decline rapidly and thus shipping companies worldwide has to start rethinking their strategies.

Huddart Parker produced brochures some new proclaiming the Trans Tasman voyage as being a cruise, a vacation full of fun and relaxation. Although it was marginally successful, and there were even those who undertook round trips as a cruise, soon enough Huddart Parker Ltd decided to offload their very last passenger division, and sell this part of their operation to another great Australian shipping Company.

The logo on a silver Wanganella Napkin ring

On October 27, 1961 Huddart Parker and their ship the Wanganella came under the ownership of McIlwraith McEacharn Ltd, owners of the once famed coastal liner TSMV Kanimbla. She was delivered to her owners in Sydney, and the only change they made to the ship was to her funnel’s livery, which was repainted dark red with black tops (hats). However she remained on her regular service. Sadly this venture would not last very long as loadings did not improve, and she would change hands again within six months.

Captain William Uttley of the McEacharn Wanganella celebrates her first voyage with her new livery

Image source unknown – *Please see photo notes at bottom of page

 

A excellent photograph of the TSMV Wanganella in her McIlwraith McEacharn livery, which was so short lived!

Photographer unknown – *Please see photo notes at bottom of page

Sadly the ships service with the company ended abruptly due to an incident that occurred on March 26, 1962, due to problems with her port engine whilst she was mid Tasman on her way to Auckland. Continuing using just one engine under an obviously reduced speed she reached Auckland. She departed again with passengers and continuing using the one engine she arrived in Sydney on April 4, and repairs were completed by May 2. McIlwraith McEacharn Ltd decided to sell her at great haste and she was sold to a Chinese Company with the handover to take place in Sydney in August. However in the meantime Wanganella returned to service, but this again proved to be a costly problem for McIlwraith McEacharn, as on June 12, 1962 during manoeuvres in Sydney harbour having arrived from Auckland, she suffered an explosion in her engine room. Thankfully there were no casualties, and again as she has been in the past she was a lucky ship! She was repaired once again which were completed and she returned to service again. However, on July 25, 1962 she returned to Sydney from her final official Express Trans-Tasman crossing as an Australian owned liner, under the command of Captain William Uttley who had sailed on her for many years. She was dry docked and destored and soon all her crew were paid off. She was them laid up for several weeks.

Finally on August 15, 1962 the Wanganella was officially taken over by “Hang Fung Ltd” of Hong Kong who would at first intended to operate her between New Zealand, Australia and Hong Kong, but also as a Pacific cruise ship, and some Trans Tasman voyages. The only exterior change was that her funnels were repainted black having two silver bands. She was given a crew of 36 European officers and 120 Chinese stewards and other crewmembers. Noteworthy was that as of now the Wanganella had become a One Class ship!

The Wanganella is seen here with her Hang Fung Ltd funnels and looking very smart

Photo from the author’s private collection

 

The Wanganella is seen here arriving in Auckland in 1962, and she is ready for the “Melbourne Cup Cruise”

Photographer unknown – *Please see photo notes at bottom of page

She commenced by heading to Auckland and operating a “Melbourne Cup” cruise from there she operated Pacific cruises, as well as cruises covering various Australian port. In November 1962 it was announced that she would head for Fremantle in Western Australia where she would be used as a floating hotel during the “Perth Empire Games” (today called the Commonwealth Games). After the Games her official cruise schedules went as far as far January 1964, but we now know that was not going to be! However she did operate a few more cruises, but she was laid up in Sydney and placed o the market.

The Wanganella is seen berthed in Fremantle as an accommodation ship for the Games

Photo from the author’s private collection

The question was on the minds of all ship lovers, especially those who dearly loved the Wanganella, was her time up? Obviously, to ship lovers and all who dearly loved this superb ship clearly felt the end of the once superb Huddart Parker Liner was close, and as there was no doubt that Trans Tasman voyages were no longer viable and with air travel having taken over, and taking in consideration that the ship was aging, and with her ongoing engine problems, all felt that the elegant two funnelled TSMV Wanganella could well be sold to Asian breakers very soon.

However, there was a last-minute reprieve from her going to the breakers, for in mid in 1963 she was sold to an American consortium “Utah Constructions” who was going use her as an accommodation ship for workers at the construction site of the Manapouri Power Station, an Hydro-Electric Scheme in the South Island of New Zealand.

Maritime friend, Neil Higgins wrote: “I was with the Port Agent in Auckland and we did give her quite a send-off to Doubtful Sound on her last voyage (under her own power), with a skeleton crew including the Chief Steward. From memory (prior to this) she was part way through a South Pacific cruise and the balance of which was cancelled. It was all a last minute surprise to me.” (Words in italics added by the author).

She would be in use at the Hydro-Electric Scheme from 1963 to 1969 and she was moored in the beautiful surroundings of Doubtful Sounds whilst being used as a comfortable hostel for workers building tunnels and roads, etc.

The accommodation ship Wanganella is seen here berthed at Doubtful Sounds

 

The Dinning Room Buffet on Christmas Day 1967

Photograph by Aaron Nichoson

Although she was still at location, when the work was finally completed Wanganella’s days was finally at an end and she was sold to Australian Pacific Shipping Company late in 1969. Due to her having been idle for seven years, it was not possible for her engines to be restarted successfully and for her to sail under her own power, therefore early in 1970 the once proud TSMV Wanganella had to be towed to her final destination, she was taken to Hong Kong where her new owners sought out if her engines could be repaired satisfactorily, but the answer was that the costs would be prohibitive, or even an engine replacement. Thus, they quickly resold her to Taiwanese breakers Shyeh Sheng Fuat Steel and Iron Works Ltd, and she was towed to Kaohsiung, Taiwan where she was soon broken up late in 1970, aged 41 years.

The Wanganella is seen here in Taiwan mid 1970

Photographer unknown – *Please see photo notes at bottom of page

 

Memories of a fine Trans Tasman Express Liner!

As I stated earlier, there are ships that stand out in ones mind from the days of our youth, and TSMV Wanganella is just such as ship, as is the TSS Monowai for that matter, and there will be a page on her in the very near future. There is no doubt that the Wanganella was a graceful looking ship with her strong rectangular, yet elegant lines and she was a much loved ship by the many who sailed on her as well as those who would go to the harbour and gaze at her graceful lines when she was in port! I also recall my time as a young man who had just started in the shipping industry and I would go and visit the Wanganella and I loved her stately lounges and superb accommodations, they were quite something for those days! Being built for the British trade, obviously, she was so traditional, giving her that special appeal the kind of appeal that is just not found on the modern ships these days! But at least we can remember!

A superb painting of the TSS Monowai (left) and TSMV Wanganella (berthed)

Painting by Stan Stefaniak

I trust that these three pages on the Wanganella will provide you with many happy memories, especially for all who sailed on her, or those who may have served on this fine ship, be it whist a liner or a hospital ship. I trust that I have done this ship justice and if you have something to add, please let me know, my email link is located below!

THANK YOU: Once again, I wish to thank Mr. Neil Higgins for his excellent photographs, but also Mr Stanley Evans for providing other images that originally came from a variety of sources, but has been credited to their original source. There are other images sent by other supporters, for which I am very grateful, however I do not know the original owners details. Please see the note below re these! Thank you everyone, you have been of great assistance in making these pages what they are!

Reuben Goossens.

TSMV Wanganella INDEX:

Page One - Ships History Page

Page Two - Photo Page

Page Three - Deck Plan & Brochure

Also visit the … TSS Awatea & TSS Monowai of the Union Steam Ship Co, Ltd of New Zealand.

 

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Commenced in the passenger Shipping Industry in May 1960 

 

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Photographs on ssmaritime and associate pages are by the author or from the author’s private collection. In addition there are some images that have been provided by Shipping Companies and private photographers, collectors as well as by supporters. Thus, although credit is always given to all contributors, but there will be some photographs that have been provided to me without details regarding the photographer/owner concerned. I hereby invite if owners of these images would be so kind to make them-selves known to me (my email address may be found on www.ssmaritime.com only), in order that due credit may be given.

This notice covers all pages, although, and I have done my best to ensure that all photographs are duly credited and that this notice is displaced on each page, that is, when a page is updated!

 

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