The Rangitiki, Rangitata & Rangitane were conceived of in 1925 and ordered in 1927 for the New Zealand Shipping Company for use on their United Kingdom - New Zealand service, as competition for other shipping lines. The order was placed with the John Brown Co, Glasgow, all three ships entered service during 1929. The regular service route was London - Curacao - Panama - Papeete - Wellington & Auckland. As an added attraction for the passengers the ships were routed to include Tahiti and Pitcairn Island, at the latter a two hour stopover allowed the local islanders to come out to the ship to trade their hand made curios with the passengers.
These were the first diesel powered ships ordered for the New Zealand Shipping Company. The existance of a contract between the British postal authorities and the shipping company allowed the use of the title 'Royal Mail Ship' for these three vessels.
The ships could be expected to make two and a half round trips each year. It would take thirty five days to travel from London to Auckland followed by twenty eight days to unload & reload the ship. Then it was another thirty five days back to London followed by forty two days to unload & reload prior to heading back to New Zealand.
Initially the ships operated from Plymouth but by the mid-1930's were operating out of the docks in London's East End. During the World War II their sailings were transferred to Liverpool.
October 1936 - The New Zealand Shipping Co., Ltd., announced that, commencing with the sailing of 'Rangltiki' from New Zealand, November 19th 1936 they are doing away with Third Class In their motor vessels 'Rangitiki,' 'Rangitata,' and 'Rangitane' (each 17,000 tons), and substituting a new class called Tourist 'B' at reduced fares. The rates vary from £38 to £44 single and £69 to £80 return, according to the accommodation selected, and included passage from Australia to New Zealand. All fares are subject to exchange, but even with this addition the rates are extremely low for the accommodation, service, and table provided.
The Rangitiki was launched on August 29th 1928, her trials revealed an unstable condition when in ballast. Topside modifications were made to alleviate this condition prior to entering regular service. The Rangitiki departed Southampton on her maiden voyage February 15th, 1929 to Wellington, New Zealand, sailing via Madeira and the Panama Canal. Journey time was about five weeks. After completing the return trip to the United Kingdom the ship underwent further modifications to improve her stability. These alterations affected the bridge structure including the associated deck, shortening of the two funnels, and the adding of more permanent ballast. These changes were made to the other two vessels prior to their delivery from the shipyard.
The next ten years would see the three ships working between the United Kingdom and New Zealand. The ships would provide an avenue of emigration for many starting a new life in New Zealand, whilst on the return the ships, with their large refridgerated holds would carry much meat, dairy products and wool.
With the arrival of World War II the ships continued to make their long journeys across the globe, though their 'passengers' would now have special needs, such as the transport of many children from the United Kingdom to safer places such as Australia, and later for the movement of troops to many destinations. These movements were fraught with danger, particularly on the North Atlantic crossing with the threat of attack by U-Boats, surface raiders and aircraft. In November 1940 the Rangitiki sailed with thirty seven ships as part of Convoy HX84 from the USA to the UK, the ship's large profile with its two funnels would make it a prime target should the convoy be attacked. The German pocket battleship Admiral Scheer located and attacked the convoy, which was ordered to scatter. The only Allied escort, the Armed Merchant Cruiser HMS Jervis Bay drew fire from the Admiral Scheer allowing the prime target of the Rangitiki to escape along with thirty one other members of the convoy.
Another German capital ship to set its sights on a convoy that included the Rangitiki was the heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper. Whilst sailing as part of Convoy WS5 late in December 1940 the Admiral Hipper commenced shadowing the convoy southwards some seven hundred miles west of Cape Finnesterre. The Admiral Hipper chose to wait for the daylight of Christmas Day 1940 prior to attacking what it thought was a normal trade convoy. This assumption was quickly proved wrong to the Admiral Hipper when the first ship it attacked was the heavy cruiser Berwick. The Hipper diverted its fire to the scattering convoy and was able to seriously damage the Empire Trooper. The threat of a torpedo attack from the Allied destroyers led to the Hipper breaking off the action. The convoy reconstituted and reached Freetown on January 6th 1941, spending two days here prior to sailing for Cape Town, reaching here on January 21st 1941. After passage through the Red Sea the convoy reached Suez on February 16th 1941.
On August 3rd 1941 the Rangitiki sailed with convoy WS 10 from the United Kingdom bound for Suez. Freetown was reached on August 17th 1941, leaving on August 21st 1941, Rangitiki was in the section of ships bound for Durban for refuelling. Suez was reached late in September 1941. Also sailing as part of this convoy was the Sulzer powered Indrapoera. By late October Rangitiki was noted at Columbo, sailing from here on October 31st 1941 as part of convoy WS 11X for Singapore, arriving here on November 6th 1941.
The Rangitiki sailed from the Clyde on June 29th 1942 as part of convoy WS 21. Also in the convoy was the Sulzer powered Aorangi. Freetown was reached on August 10th 1942, departing August 15th 1942. Cape Town was passed on August 27th 1942, the Rangitiki being in the group of ships set to refuel at Durban, though the ultimate destination for the Rangitiki is not recorded.
On December 12th 1942 the Rangitiki sailed from the United Kindom as part of convoy WS 25. The convoy arrived at Freetown on New Year's Eve 1942 and departed on January 3rd 1943. Durban was reached on January 18th 1943 where the ships dispersed to various destinations.
The Rangitiki sailed from the United Kingdom on June 21st 1943 as part of the joint convoys WS 31 & KMF 17. The latter convoy was bound for the Mediterranean, the split occurring on June 26th 1943, the Rangitiki going east with convoy KMF 17.
The Rangitiki was equipped with a stern mounted gun and possibly anti-aircraft guns.
Troop movements included visits to ports on the North African coast, the ship was present at Mers-el-Kebir, Algeria having brought in troops from the United Kingdom for the invasion of North Africa.
The end of the war saw no rest for the ship, ferrying immigrants from Europe to Australia, war brides to the United States and returning soon to be demobbed servicemen back to civvy street.
After a decade and a half of long distance service, including the challenges of five years of wartime operations the time had arrived for refurbishment of the two remaining ships prior to their long term return to their bread & butter workings. Thus for ten months during 1947/48 each ship was refurbished at a cost of £1,500.000. This included the removal of the Sulzer engines with replacement Doxford vertically opposed two-stroke diesels, providing an increased output of 12,920bhp.
The first voyage of the refurbished Rangitiki commenced on September 26th 1948. The trip from Southampton to Wellington took five weeks, arriving on October 27th 1948. Passengers and crew on this trip encountered very mixed weather conditions - a week of hurricane force conditions was followed by a heatwave towards the end of the voyage.
During 1961 on the fourth to last voyage whilst crossing the Pacific heading towards Panama the bottom skirt of a piston became disconnected and dropped out of the piston liner. The engine stopped quickly but caused serious damage. The one good engine took the ship to Callao, Peru where engineers dismantled the unit and sealed off the scavenges with welded steel plates, allowing the ship to make it home to London with the damaged engine operating with five pistons.
As with many other ocean passenger services, times had changed for Rangitiki with air travel and newer ships creating declining passenger loadings for this veteran. A replacement vessel was obtained, being the retired Cunard passenger-cargo liner Parthia, which was renamed Remuera. On the last voyage out to New Zealand the Rangitiki passed the Rangitata on her final voyage to the UK. The ships passed close enough for passengers and crew to raise a cheer and recognise that this event would not happen again for these two ships. The final voyage (number 87) from Wellington occured in May 1962 arriving at London on July 13th 1962.
The ship was sold for scrap, with a skeleton crew it made the brief voyage to Santander, Spain arriving on July 26th 1962. She was later broken up for scrap in Valencia.
From a postcard of the Rangitata.
Rangitata was completed in October 1929 and commenced her maiden voyage to New Zealand on November 22, 1929.
In July, 1930 a little over one year into her long career, Rangitata was in the news having rescued the crew of the cargo ship Targis, which had caught fire in the South Atlantic.
As well as her passenger complement the Rangitata carried a wide variety of cargo. On a sailing from London to Wellington in March 1935 the ship carried four crated Vickers Vildebeest aircraft for the New Zealand Air Force. The planes arrived safely in Auckland on April 1935. Most of this shipment of aircraft had relatively short flying careers, most had been written off in accidents by 1940. However the second of the batch shipped, number NZ102 Mk III Type 277 survived at least until 1944 and eventually was put on display at RNZAF Museum, Wigram.
In 1937 the Rangitata carried Anzac troops to England in celebration of the coronation of King George VI.
During December 1939 the Rangitata was requisitioned as a personnel carrier and served as a passenger transport ship until 1941 when it was converted to a troopship with a capacity of 2,600 troops.
With the bombing of many cities in the United Kingdom a plan was set in motion to transport children to safer areas within the colonies. One such sailing took place from Liverpool during September 1940 to New Zealand arriving there during the first week of October 1940
On February 9th 1941 the Rangitata set sail from the United Kingdom as part of convoy WS6A bound for Suez. The convoy reached Freetown on March 1st 1941, it is not recorded as to whether the Rangitata then sailed for the next stop of Cape Town or Durban. The convoy reached Suez late in April 1941.
On June 30th 1941 the Rangitata formed part of convoy WS 9B bound for Suez. The convoy arrived at Freetown on July 13th 1941 and sailed out on July 16th 1941, with the Rangitata bound for Cape Town. The Rangitata detached from the convoy here, its destination is not known.
On April 15th 1942 the Rangitata sailed from the United Kingdom as part of convoy WS 18. Freetown was reached on April 29th 1942, departing here on May 3rd 1942. The convoy arrived off Capetown on May 15th 1942, the Rangitata was in that part of the convoy due to refuel at Durban. However a minefield had been laid recently by the raider Doggerbank, two ships fell victim to the mines. After unloading at Durban it appears the Rangitata returned to the United Kingdom.
The Rangitata sailed from the United Kingdom on August 29th 1942 as part of convoy WS 22, also sailing in the convoy was the Sulzer powered Johan Van Oldenbarnevelt. Freetown was reached on September 9th 1942, departure was on September 13th 1942, joining the convoy at Freetown was the Sibajak, another Sulzer engined ship. The convoy reached Cape Town on September 25th 1942, however for the Rangitata the refuelling would take place at Durban, arriving here on September 29th 1942. Here the convoy was joined by several other ships including the Sulzer engined Felix Roussel & Indrapoera! These five ships would not remain together long, the Rangitata arrived at Mombasa on October 12th 1942, the others split between Aden/Suez & Bombay.
Joint convoy WS 28 & KMF 11 sailed from the United Kingdom on March 16th 1943 including the Rangitata & the Johan Van Oldenbarnevelt. On March 21st 1943 the convoys split with KMF 11 heading into the Mediterranean which included the two Sulzer engined ships.
Convoys KMF 20 & WS 32 sailed from the United Kingdom on July 27th 1943, included in the WS 32 section was the Rangitata. On the evening of July 25th 1943 the KMF 20 section headed east, whilst WS 32 headed south, reaching Freetown on July 28th 1943. At Freetown the convoy increased by two ships and sailed on August 5th 1943, reaching Cape Town on August 18th 1943 and Durban on August 22nd 1943. Five ships sailed on from here to Aden/Suez & Bombay but the Rangitata was not one of them.
The Rangitata was returned to civilian control August 15th 1946. Like the Rangitiki it returned to its familiar London - Panama - Wellington route, including the transport of many people leaving the United Kingdom for a hoped for better life in New Zealand.
During 1957 Sir Anthony Eden, the former Conservative Prime Minister, took a cruise on the Rangitata.
On a northbound crossing December 1959/ January 1960 the Rangitata ran into a storm in the Atlantic some 1,600 miles out from England. During the storm the timing chain on the starboard engine broke, putting the engine out of action. It took quite a while to fix the timing chain, the remaining engine providing steerage to combat the stormy weather.
After her final voyage to the United Kingdom in May 1962 the Rangitiki was sold to Dutch breakers who renamed her Rang. However the reprieve was brief, she was duly sold to a Yugoslavian Company who had her broken up by a breaker in Split.
From a postcard of the Rangitane. Hull #522 from John Brown
Rangitane was the last of the trio to be built by John Brown of Clydebank. She was completed in November 1929, and departed Southampton on December 20, 1929 for her maiden voyage to New Zealand. And like her two sisters the Rangitane would spend the next ten years plying between the United Kingdom and New Zealand.
Rangitane = Chieftan
1929 - 1930
December 20th 1929 departed London for New Zealand (maiden voyage), Southampton (21st), Madeira (25th)
March 2nd 1930 departed Wellington for London, April 4th Southampton & April 7th arrived London
May 8th departed London for NZ, June 13th arrived Auckland
July 20th departed Wellington for London, Aug 8th Colon, Aug 20th Southampton
September 26th departed London for NZ, Oct 11th Panama, Oct 29th arrived Auckland
Nov 15th departed Wellington for London, Dec 6th Auckland, Dec 30th Colon, Jan 11th 1931 arrived London
The Rangitane arrived at Southampton on Wednesday August 22nd 1930, having completed her voyage from Wellington in 31 days and 9 hours at sea, which was believed to be a record. The average time for fast ships for this trip would be 33 to 34 days.
February 12th departed London for NZ, Feb 27th at Colon, March 19th arrived Wellington
April 25th* departed Wellington? for London, May 29th Southampton for London
July 4th departed Southampton for NZ, July 10th Panama, Aug 6th 1931 arrived Auckland
Sept 2nd departed Wellington for London, Sept 12th Auckland, Oct 3rd Colon, Oct 15th Southampton, Oct 16th London
Nov 18th departed London for NZ, Nov 19th Southampton, Dec 4th Panama, Dec 22nd arrived Wellington
Jan 30th departed Wellington for London, Feb 19th Panama, Feb 20th Colon, Mar 5th Southampton, Mar 6th arrived London
April 23rd Colon, May 13th arrived Auckland
June 14th* departed Wellington for London, July 5th Colon, July 18th arrived London
November 5th Colon, Nov 24th arrived Wellington
December 23rd departed Wellington for London.
December 1932 - Macdonald, Hamilton, and Co., the Brisbane agents of the New Zealand Shipping Co., Ltd., with reference to their service via Panama Canal, advise that in the Rangitiki, Rangitata, and Rangitane the second saloon accommodation will in future be rated as tourist saloon, and the minimum single fare will be £45 in four berth cabins. The new rating will come into force with the Rangitane leaving Wellington on December 23rd.
January 12th Panama, Jan 26th arrived London
April 13th departed Wellington for London, May 5th Panama, May 17th arrived London
June 29th departed London for NZ, July 1st Plymouth, August 3rd arrived Auckland
Sept 1st* departed Wellington for London, Sept 20th Panama, Oct 4th arrived London
October 19th departed London for NZ, Oct 21st Plymouth, Nov 2nd Panama, Nov 22nd arrived Wellington
December 16th departed Wellington for London
January 10th Panama, Jan 12th Colon, Jan 25th arrived London
Feb 8th departed London for NZ, Feb 10th Plymouth, Feb 24th Colon, Mar 16th arrived Auckland
April 15th departed Wellington for London, May 5th Colon, May 18th arrived London
June 23rd departed London for NZ, June 30th Plymouth, July 12th Cristobal, July 16th Panama, July 31st Auckland
August 31st* departed Auckland?? for London, September 19th Balboa, Oct 4th arrived London
October 18th departed London for NZ, Nov 3rd Cristobal
December 21st 1934 departed Wellington for London
January 8th Balboa, Jan 23rd arrived London
February 8th departed London for NZ, Feb 21st Kingston, Feb 23rd Cristobal, Mar 13th arrived Wellington
Mar 28th departed Wellington for London, Apr 13th Auckland, May 2nd Balboa, May 16th Plymouth, May 18th arrived London
June 29th departed London for NZ, June 30th Plymouth, July 31st arrived Auckland
Sept 10th departed Wellington for London, Sept 27th Auckland, Oct 16th at Balboa, Oct 30th arrived London
Nov 15th departed London for NZ, Nov 30th Colon, Dec 17th arrived Wellington
August 1935 Auckland - An unexpected voyage round the world has fallen to the lot of 12 valuable young homing pigeons which arrived at Auckland by the Rangitane. Sixteen pigeons were taking part in races from England to France, in which the King was competing, but they were evidently blown out of their course, and they fell exhausted on to the Rangitane on June 10th (or 30th?) when the vessel was 700 miles (?) from land. When an effort was made to care for them four of them tried to fly away but they fell into the sea and were drowned. The remaining 12 responded to treatment and recovered. They were returned to England, it is not known whether any of the birds belong to the King.
January 16th departed Wellington for London, Feb 4th Balboa, Feb 5th Colon, Feb 6th Kingston
March 5th departed London for NZ, Mar 21st Cristobal, April 7th arrived Auckland
May 8th departed Auckland for London, May 27th Balboa, May 30th Colon, June 10th arrived London
July 23rd departed London for NZ, July 25th Plymouth
Sept 25th departed Auckland for London, Oct 14th Balboa, Oct 17th Colon, Oct 27th arrived London
Nov 13th departed London for NZ, Nov 28th Cristobal, Dec 1st Panama, Dec 16th arrived Wellington
The Rangitane sailed on July 23rd 1936 from London for New Zealand, but en-route the shroud of the main driving wheel broke during the first week of August. By August 10th the ship was stopped at Christobal for repairs. A spare part was being shipped from Southampton by the United States liner Manhattan which is expected to reach New York on August 6th, from where it would travel by aeroplane to Panama.
September 2nd 1936 Wellington - Frederick James, 26, and Peter John Frederick Ransom, 17, stewards on the Rangitane, who were charged on arrival here from London on Monday with the theft between Panama and Wellington of money and drafts valued at £710, belonging to the New Zealand Shipping Company, pleaded guilty to-day and were committed to the Supreme Court for sentence. The chief steward on the Rangitane, Maughin, said in evidence that on returning to his cabin at 10.45 p.m. on August 15, when the ship was between Panama and Wellington, he examined the safe in the office adjoining and found that all the ship's cash, £410, and letters of credit and a bank draft, of a total of £300, were missing. The accused were interviewed, and they confessed, although Ransom at first denied the theft. Ransom was attached to the office. All the money had been recovered, but the accused said that the letters of credit had been thrown overboard. James had been on the boat for five and a half years, and Ransom for two years.
Mr. W. C. Gough, a Scotland Yard, London official, was aboard the Rangitane, coming to New Zealand on holiday, when it was discovered that the purser's safe had been robbed. His services were requisitioned and resulted in the rapid recovery of the money. The robbery occurred while the passengers were at dinner, the thieves escaping unseen. When the robbery became known and no immediate arrest or recovery of the property was made, some of the passengers impatiently scoffed, saying, 'What? We have a celebrated detective aboard, yet this sort of thing goes on Surely he can do something about it?' Mr. Gough. however, was quietly investigating, and as a result the property was recovered almost intact.
Jan 14th departed Wellington for London, Feb 2nd Balboa, Feb 4th Colon, Feb 17th arrived London
Mar 6th departed Plymouth for NZ, Mar 20th Cristobal, Mar 23rd Panama
May 6th departed Wellington for London, May 25th Balboa, June 8th arrived London
July 23rd departed London for NZ, July 24th Plymouth, Aug 6th Cristobal, Aug 10th Panama, Aug 25th arrived Wellington
Sept 23rd departed Auckland for London, Oct 13th Balboa, Oct 14th Colon
Nov 12th departed London for NZ, Nov 13th Plymouth, Nov 27th Cristobal, Nov 30th Panama, Dec 16th arrived Wellington
Feb 1937 (London) - Two young men aged 19 & 16 were charged with having stowed away in the Rangitane in New Zealand. It was alleged that they became troublesome on board, and although handcuffed, walked ashore in Jamaica. When found, they had filed their handcuffs through with a knife. John Green was sentenced to a month's imprisonment whilst his companion was sent to a remand home.
Shortly after leaving London for New Zealand the Rangitane fractured a piston and put into Plymouth on November 13th 1937 for repairs.
Jan 13th depart Auckland for London, Feb 6th Balboa, Feb 8th Kingston, Feb 22nd arrived London
Mar 6th departed Plymouth for NZ, Mar 22nd Panama
May 5th* departed Wellington? for London, May 31st Balbao, June 1st Colon, June 14th arrived London
July 22nd departed London for NZ, July 24th Plymouth, Aug 6th Cristobal, Aug 10th Panama
September 22nd* departed Wellington for London, October 15th Colon, Oct 28th arrived London
Nov 11th departed London for NZ, Nov 13th Plymouth, Nov 27th Cristobal, Nov 28th Panama
Jan 14th departed Wellington for London, Feb 7th Panama, Feb 8th Kingston, Feb 21st arrived London
Mar 4th departed London for NZ, Mar 5th Plymouth, Mar 19th Cristobal, Mar 21st Panama, April 7th arrived Wellington.
May 4th* departed Auckland?? for London, May 25th Cristobal, May 27th Colon, June 9th arrived London
July 21st departed London for NZ, Aug 4th Cristobal, Aug 11th Panama, Aug 24th arrived Auckland
Sept 23rd* departed Auckland for London
Jan 11th* departed Auckland? for London
Unlike her two sisters, which would see the war out, the Rangitane would become a casualty of hostilities during World War II.
The Rangitane's last southbound sailing started on September 25th 1940 from Liverpool bound for Wellington. Included in the passenger list were 113 children en-route to a safer life in New Zealand. Unfortunately a week before the City of Benares had been torpedoed and sunk with the loss of 77 children being evacuated from the UK. In the week following further children continued to sail out of the UK, but the Rangitane would reverse course and her young passengers disembarked back at Liverpool, with a quick turn round and her speed, the Rangitane was able to catch up with the convoy.
It would be late November before the Rangitane was ready to sail northwards, loading 14,000 tons of cargo was a time consuming task. And whilst making this voyage the Rangitane crossed paths with two German merchant raiders, the Komet and the Orion, some 320 miles north of East Cape, New Zealand. The story starts however with another vessel, the SS Holmwood, a 546 ton steamer which was travelling from the Chatham Islands bound for Lyttleton with several passengers and a cargo of sheep. Its journey would put it in close proximity to the Rangitane.
The two German raiders had been on patrol for eighteen days without achieving any successes when they came upon the SS Holmwood. The lack of their success in finding Allied shipping also meant that their location and movements remained unknown to the Allied authorities. The SS Holmwood was an easy victim for the heavily armed raiders, providing them with useful supplies including fresh sheep! The significant non-event of major import to the Rangitane was that the SS Holmwood did not transmit any radio messages during this confrontation. Any attempts to send messages or attempts by the Germans to jam them would have been picked up by authorities in New Zealand and subsequently relayed to ships such as the Rangitane.
The Rangitane had cleared Auckland harbor and overnighted clear of the channel prior to setting out on her trans-Pacific voyage on Monday November 25th. She was fully laden with dairy produce, frozen meat, and wool for the United Kingdom. Her crew numbered about 200, considerably in excess of the 111 passengers. Early in the morning of November 27th and about 300 miles north east of East Cape the two German raiders and their supply ship Kulmerland made contact with the Rangitane. The German reports of the action indicate that on first contact the raiders believed they had come across a large Allied warship, possibly a cruiser and opted for a skirmishing action in the hope that at least some of the German vessels might escape. It was not until the German raiders turned on their searchlights that the true identity of the Rangitane was established.
The Rangitane had received some armaments, a five inch gun and some light anti-aircraft guns, which the Captain was loath to use because of the passengers carried on the ship.
Captain L Upton of the Rangitane instructed the wireless office to transmit the ‘suspicious ship message’ and when the enemy opened fire, to broadcast the ‘raider message’. Quartermaster Mr L Valerie was at the wheel of the Rangitane when the enemy raiders were sighted. Considerable manouevring and continued gunfire took place, the latter stopped when Captain advised the raiders of women and children being on board. Damage to Rangitane's steering gear made further manouevring impossible so the ship came to a stop. About twenty minutes had transpired since the start of the action. There were eleven fatalities on the ship, five passengers and five crew, either from the shelling or drowning. Six others would die later from injuries sustained. The shelling had caused considerable damage starting fires on the ship. The engineroom staff caused damage to the engines to ensure the German's could not take the vessel as a prize. Two of the engineroom staff, brothers, were seriously injured and required assistance to reach one of the ship's lifeboats. Unfortunately many of the lifeboats had sustained shrapnel damage, including the one holding the two injured brothers. Other crewman supported them until they were rescued by a German pinnance, but unfortunately both brothers died later that night. The arrival of a German boarding party led to the orderly evacuation of the ship. Once the ship was evacuated the Rangitane was sunk by torpedoes and gunfire, disappearing under the waves at 6.30am in some thirteen thousand feet of water.
The three German ships sailed rapidly in a north-easterly direction. The Rangitane's radio messages had reached authorities, the HMNZS Achilles was dispatched from Lyttelton at her maximuum speed of 25 knots. HMNZS Puriri at Auckland and under repair sailed twelve hours later. Two flying-boats, the Aotearoa from Auckland and the Awarua from Sydney also joined the search. The rescuers found little, just an oil slick and debris floating on the surface. By the time the Achilles reached the site of the sinking at noon on November 28th the oil slick now stretched across nine miles of ocean. No trace could be found of the three German ships.
Officially the news broke about the loss of the Rangitane as an unidentified British ship shelled and presumed sunk 400 miles east of New Zealand. It was not until January 1st 1941 that the New Zealand press identified the ship as the Rangitane, with the passengers of the Rangitane being returned to Sydney on January 5th 1941.
June 1941 - Fifty members of the crew and one passenger from the Rangitane were placed in a German camp for prisoners of war at Linerx, according to a postcard received from a steward. The passenger was Father Ball, an Anglican priest from Sheffield, who escorted a party of child evacuees from England to Australia.
October 1941 - A stewardess on the Rangitane, Mrs Elizabeth Plumb, was awarded the British Empire Medal as a result of her action during the shelling and sinking of the Rangitane. Mrs Plumb was badly injured by shell splinters, but guided passengers from their cabins to the boat stations and tended them in the lifeboat. Mrs. Plumb refused attention when taken aboard the raider until all the other wounded had received treatment and eventually the German doctors noticed that she was fainting. The British Empire Medal was also awarded to two men of the Rangitane - William Francis, a cook, and John Walker, a deck mechanic - for rescuing passengers and their shipmates.
For the Rangitane the story ends here, but for the survivors the adventure would continue - the link at the bottom of this page makes for an interesting read.
List of killed & missing as advised by the Navy Office, Sunday February 9th 1941:
Passengers killed in action:
Crew killed in action:
S H Strickfuss
Missing, believed killed:
Mrs Costella - stewardess
Mr H Cookson - passenger
Built: John Brown company, Glasgow 1928/29
Displacement: 16,975 tons
Length: 552 feet
Breadth: 70 feet
Draught: 34.1 feet
Propulsion (original): Two two-stroke single acting 5cyl Brown Sulzer 5S90 diesels (900mm bore) - Rangitiki and Rangitata were re-engined with Doxford O/P engines c1949.
Propulsion (after 1947/48 refit): Two Doxford vertically opposed two stroke diesels of 12,920bhp combined
Auxiliary engines: Two x 6SS38, two Weir-Sulzer (225hp each) and one Weir-Sulzer (60hp) totalling 2,070hp
Speed: 15 knots (16 knots after re-engining)
Passengers: 100 first class, 86 second class, 410 third class when built - all three
Passengers: 122 first class, 284 tourist class - postwar - Rangitiki and Rangitata only
The Rangitane : an indepth look at the history surrounding its loss.
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