Letters

Andrew Quinn, a NZ POW at a camp at Gustrow

November 16, 2009

Subject: Trying to find someone!

Hi Mac, 

I've stumbled across your website completely by internet accident - as usually happens!

I'm trying to find some info on my maternal grandfather who was a British merchant seaman & led a rather "colourful" life in the antipodes for a while.

We know he was in Australia for a while just after the turn of the 20th Century, we also know he went to the South Pole on the Terra Nova but as he jumped ship in NZ he does not appear on the crew list - or at least didn't some years ago when I did some research in Christchurch.

He then turns up as a POW but a Kiwi! - I have a picture of him as a NZ POW at a camp at Gustrow from where he was repatriated to NZ so I assume he had been on a NZ ship when captured.

I have attached a copy of the pic, which is stamped Gustrow on the reverse.

Would any of your researchers be able to help me?

Thanks,
Jill Taylor
(UK)


Jill,

I really do not have any researchers, I do my own research.

But you have not given me the name of your merchant seaman Grandfather, impossible to find without a name,  and may be difficult even with it.

Best regards,
Mac.

Hi Mac - OK, how dumb am I??

His name is Andrew Quinn, just wondered if you would have any paperwork with his name on as saw a link to Gustrow on your site.

Anything you have may be a help to put the pieces together - is there an organisation for Oz & NZ where
they keep crew records etc that far back? Maritime organisation or anything & I can maybe do some distance
research myself.

Thanks,
Jill


Jill,

Hell and High Water is another book about NZ MN POW's, first published in 2005, reprinted in 2009.

MILAG: Captives of the Kriegsmarine by Gabe Thomas.

An excellent book which tells the story of the 4,500 British Merchant Navy prisoners of war, survivors of
more than 200 ships who were illegally taken prisoner in direct contravention of the Hague Convention. Held captive on Commerce Raiders and blockade running supply-ships in airless holds, they suffered even more casualties when their prison-ships were attacked by both the British and German Navy. Eventually moved to Milag, a separate Merchant Navy camp in Germany, they were kept on a near starvation diet from 1942 to 1945.

Dressed in the rags of the clothing they were wearing when they abandoned ship they were glad to be issued
with blood-stained Army uniforms. In the camps with the seamen were P.G.Wodehouse, Commandos from Dieppe and St Nazaire, International Brigade Volunteers from the Winter War in Finland and men from most Allied nations including Italians from 1943 onwards. Hardcover, 310 pages incl photographs. ISBN number 0-9525498-08.  Available from Gabe Thomas, Tir Uchaf Cottage, Derwen
Road, Alltwen, Pontardawe SA8 3AY. Tel 01792-865377.
Email gabethomas@clara.net  Price ¬£15 including
postage.

Navy

The nature of their service ensured that few New Zealanders serving in the New Zealand naval forces or the Royal Navy were taken prisoner-a mere 21 officers and 42 ratings. Most New Zealand naval POWs were captured while serving with the Royal Navy in the Far East. The Japanese also interned at least 58 merchant seamen, and the Germans about 70-80 New Zealand merchant seamen during the course of the war.

NZ World War II Losses.
The Company lost nineteen ships totalling 194,808 GRT, representing 53% of the fleet at the outbreak of hostilities. Four other vessels totalling 26,253 tons. operated by the Company for the British Ministry Of War Transport were also lost.

Following is a list of the 23 ships, 'Lost by Enemy Action', and the number of deaths in the course of duty:

Ship  Date  Cause of Loss  Deaths in course of duty

Turakina  20 August 1940  Sunk by enemy raider in Tasman Sea.  36 

Cumberland  23 August 1940  Torpedoed by German -boat off Northern Ireland.  4

Remeura  26 August 1940  Torpedoed by aircraft off Scotland.  unknown or all rescued

Hurunui  14 October 1940  Torpedoed by German U-boat off Northern Ireland.  2

Cambridge  7 November 1940  Mined off Wilsons Promontory, Australia.  1

Rangitane  23 November 1940  Sunk by enemy German Raider east of New Zealand.  9, 2 died pow

Rotorua  11 November 1940  Torpedoed by German U-boat N.W. of Hebrides.  16

Middlesex  10 January 1941  Mined off Barry, S Wales.  unknown or all rescued

Huntingdon  24 February 1941  Torpedoed by German U-boat off Flannen Island.  unknown or all rescued

Somerset  11 May 1941  Bombed by aircraft West of Ireland.  unknown or all rescued

Piako  18 May 1941  Torpedoed by German U-boat in Freetown area.  10 engine room staff killed 

Norfolk  18 June 1941  Torpedoed by German U-boat in North Atlantic.  1

Otaio  28 August 1941  Torpedoed by German U-boat in North Atlantic.  12

Nottingham  7 November 1941  Torpedoed by German U-boat in North Atlantic.  55

Opawa  6 February 1942  Torpedoed by German U-boat in North Atlantic.  53

Hertiford  29 March 1942  Torpedoed by German U-boat in North Atlantic.  5

Westmoreland  1 June 1942  Torpedoed by German U-boat in North Atlantic.  2

Surrey  10 June 1942  Torpedoed by German U-boat in Carribean Sea.  10

Dorset  13 August 1942  Bombed by aircraft in Malta Convoy.  unknown or all rescued 

Essex  16 January 1941  Bombed by aircraft in Malta. 18 

Neill Atkinson (ed.), Hell or high water: New Zealand merchant seafarers remember the war, HarperCollins,
Auckland, 2005 (new edn, 2009)


Raiders of the South Pacific

In the early hours of 19 June 1940 the Second World War arrived in New Zealand with a bang. The Canadian-Australasian Line's RMS Niagara had just left Auckland on its regular run to Suva and Vancouver. At 3.40 a.m., as it passed Northland's Bream Head, the Niagara slammed into a contact mine, part of a 228-mine barrage secretly sown, several days earlier, across the northern and eastern approaches to the Hauraki Gulf by the German raider Orion (a fast merchant ship converted into an armed 'auxiliary cruiser').  Fortunately, all of the ship's 349 passengers and crew were rescued.

Over the following six months the Orion and another raider, the Komet, sank a further 11 merchant ships in the Pacific. In August, the New Zealand Shipping Company (NZSCo) freighter Turakina went down with 36 of its (British) crew in the Tasman Sea's first gun battle. In late November, after dispatching the little Holmwood off the Chatham Islands, the raiders snared their greatest prize of the war, the 16,712-ton NZSCo liner Rangitane, 300 miles off East Cape. A hail of German shells killed 15 passengers and crew (many sources erroneously give the figure as 11). Around 300 survivors joined those already aboard the raiders and their supply ship, the Kulmerland.

In early December another five merchant ships succumbed to the raiders' guns off the important phosphate island of Nauru. Among them was the USSCo's Komata, on which two officers were killed. Just before Christmas, the Germans landed around 500 captives, including 58 women and 6 children, at Emirau Island in the Bismarck Archipelago, near New Guinea. They were repatriated from there in January 1941. The remaining 150 captives (including several New Zealand merchant seamen) were eventually interned in Germany.

Do you have any record of the names of ships that Andrew served in during WW2?

Although only about 70 NZ MN personnel were in German Prison camps in WW2, I am still not able to unearth their names.

Bujt I will keep looking.

Regards,
Mac.


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