Port Bowen was not sunk striking a mine laid by the German Raider Orion

Mon, 31 Aug 2009


With regard to Macs Web log.

Since the publication of 'The Black Raider' and it's mention that prisoners reported the Port Bowen to have sunk from striking a mine laid by the Orion it seems no-one has ever verified that and so it is still on the list
of Orion kills.

The Port Bowen stranded on a sandbar a mile north of the port of Wanganui early on the 20th of July 1939 - before the Orion began it's adventure and well before the mining of NZ waters.

The port at Wanganui was too shallow for the Port Bowen and it was normally unloaded from an offshore roadstead. It overshot it's anchorage and struck the sandbank whilst trying to turn about.

I'm sure there are many such assumptions of accuracy that become part of historical fact. In the back of the book Weyher alludes to possible errors.

I read The Black Raider recently, part of my deceased fathers' estate and he had annotated the mistake.

I grew up in Wanganui and the boiler of the Port Bowen was still on the beach in the seventies. The bulk of the vessel was demolished during the second world war to contribute to the war effort.

The prisoners were telling porkies or just mistaken.

Thanks for your time.

Des Attwell.


I accept that, at our
German Merchant Raiders of WW2, Orion could you please delete: the "Port Bowen," 8267 tons

Here is a relevant piece about the stranding of the Port Bowen.

PORT BOWEN was built in 1919 by Workman, Clark & Co. at Belfast with a tonnage of 8267grt, a length of 480ft 8in, a beam of 62ft 5in and a service speed of 14 knots. Although build to a similar specification as the Port Darwin she was the first of the wider beamed steam turbined vessels but her engines always gave trouble with blade creeping and shedding. On 19th July 1939, during a voyage from Picton to Wanganui, she ran aground at Castleshore Beach in New Zealand. Her cargo of over 2000 tons
of coal was jettisoned but had little effect as the current bumped her along the beach and carried her further inshore. She was finally declared a total constructive loss and after the remaining cargo and fittings were removed was broken up where she lay.


30 Aug 2009

Thanks for a wonderful reply.

To balance the Hauraki mining by the Orion, the minesweeper Puriri was actually on the scene not long after the sinking of the Rangitane, before it was a minesweeper, but, ironically was sunk by an Orion mine six
months later. http://www.navyhistory.org.au/hms-puriri-1938-nz-navy/  is a great first hand account of the Rangitane follow up and yet another first person statement of disbelief as to the Orions' luck in vanishing.

Des Attwell.

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