Turakina sunk by the German raider Orion on the 20th. August, 1940

December 10, 2009 7:38 AM

Subject: SS Turakina

My brother was a cadet on board the Turakina when she was sunk by the German raider Orion on the 20th. August,

I have read a great deal about Orion but I have not been able to discover if there ever was a list of the prisoners on board before she returned to France.

Perhaps you may be able to help me in this search.

Also if there is any way I could find a list of the entire crew of the Turakina at that time.

I noticed in my search there was somebody in 2000, I think, looking for a photograph of the Tongariro passing
under Sydney Harbour Bridge.

I was a cadet on that ship in 1945/1946 and have a postcard depicting that very scene.

Don't know how to pass on that information or, indeed, if, in the meantime, they got the picture they were after.

Your help and/or advice would be very much appreciated.

Jeremy Lloyd   



Some detail of Turakina.

1940 Turakina sunk by German raider in Tasman

The New Zealand Shipping Company freighter Turakina, en
route to New Zealand from Australia, was sunk by the Orion
260 nautical miles west of Taranaki, following a brief gun
battle - the first ever fought in the Tasman Sea.
Thirty-six members (some sources say 35) of its largely
British crew were killed. Twenty survivors, many of them
wounded, were rescued from the sea and taken prisoner. 

The Orion was one of nine German 'auxiliary cruisers'
(merchant ships converted into armed raiders) that stalked
the world's oceans between 1940 and 1943, laying mines and
preying on Allied merchant vessels sailing alone without
naval escort. Altogether the raiders sank or captured more
than 140 ships. But by 1943, as Allied sea and air power
grew in strength, all of the raiders had been sunk or were
confined to German ports.

The Turakina's captain had earlier promised that he would
fight to the last if intercepted by an enemy raider. But
in the end the freighter's solitary 4.7-inch defensive gun
proved no match for the six 155-mm (5.9-inch) weapons of
the German warship.

Earlier, in June, the Orion's mines had claimed the
trans-Pacific liner Niagara off the Northland coast. Soon
after sinking the Turakina, the Orion was joined in the
South Pacific Ocean by another raider, the Komet, and an
unarmed supply ship, the Kulmerland. Operating together,
this small flotilla was responsible for the destruction of
a further ten Allied vessels in the Pacific. One of their
victims, in November 1940, was the NZ Shipping Company
liner Rangitane - the biggest merchant vessel sunk by any
German warship during the war. In early December, during a
raid on the important phosphate island of Nauru, the
raiders sank five merchant vessels in quick succession,
including the New Zealand freighter Komata.

German auxiliary cruiser Orion
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      Career (Germany) 
      Class and type: Merchant vessel
      Name: Kurmark
      Namesake: Kurmark
      Laid down: 1930 by Blohm + Voss, Hamburg
      Launched: 1930
      Christened: Kurmark
      Commissioned: 1930
      Fate: Requisitioned by Kriegsmarine, 1939
      Career (Germany) 
      Class and type: Auxiliary cruiser
      Name: Orion
      Operator: Kriegsmarine
      Yard number: 1
      Acquired: Requisitioned, 1939
      Commissioned: 9 December 1939
      Renamed: Orion (1939)
      Hektor (1944)
      Orion (1945)
      Reclassified: Auxiliary cruiser Orion, 9 December 1939
      Nickname: HSK-1
      Raider A
      Fate: Sunk on 4 May 1945 after hit by several bombs
on her way to Copenhagen
      General characteristics
      Displacement: 15,700 tons (7,021 GRT)
      Length: 148 metres (490 ft)
      Beam: 18.6 metres (61 ft)
      Draught: 8.2 metres (27 ft)
      Propulsion: team turbines (Blohm + Voss) (engines
earlier used on liner New York), one shaft, 4
boilers, 6,200 shaft horsepower (4.6 MW)
      Speed: 14.8 knots (27.4 km/h)
      Range: 18,000 nautical miles (33,000 km)
      Complement: 356 (varying)
      Armament: (1939) 6 × 15cm L/45 C13 (taken from
battleship Schleswig-Holstein), 1 x 7,5 cm L/33
Schneider/Creuznot, 2 x 3.7 cm, 4 x 2 cm, 6 x 53.3
cm torpedo tubes, 228 EMC mines
      Aircraft carried: 1 Arado Ar 196 A-1

Orion (HSK-1) was an auxiliary cruiser of the German navy
which operated as a merchant raider during World War II.
Built by Blohm & Voss in Hamburg in 1930/31 as the
freighter Kurmark, she was requisitioned by the
Kriegsmarine at the outbreak of World War II and converted
into the auxiliary cruiser Orion, commissioned on 9
December 1939. Known to the KM as Schiff 36, her Royal
Navy designation was Raider A. She was named after the
constellation Orion.

        a.. 1 Construction and conversion
        b.. 2 Raider voyage
        c.. 3 Later history
        d.. 4 Raiding career
        e.. 5 References
        f.. 6 External links

Construction and conversion
The Orion was built in 1930 by Blohm & Voss in Hamburg as
a freighter for HAPAG,the Hamburg-America Line. To save
money, the engines of the liner New York were reused. That
proved a poor decision, since the Orion was plagued for
her entire life by engine problems.

After the war broke out the German Seekriegsleitung (Naval
Operations Command) was ill prepared for raider warfare.
The operations of the German auxiliary cruisers of World
War I were evaluated and considered a great success,
having disrupted British merchant shipping around the
world. However, the overall effect in the actual war was
evaluated as having been rather minor, and so only a small
program of converting merchant vessels into auxiliary
cruisers was initiated on 5 September 1939.

The first two ships being requisitioned were the
Kurmark(Orion) and the Neumark (Widder), and conversion
started immediately.

Raider voyage
One of the first auxiliary cruisers operated by Germany in
WWII, Orion left Germany on 6 April 1940, under the
command of Korvettenkapitän (KK) (later Fregattenkapitän
(FK)) Kurt Weyher. She passed south through the Atlantic
disguised as a neutral vessel, where she attacked and sank
SS Haxby.

In May 1940 Orion rounded Cape Horn and entered the
Pacific. She entered New Zealand waters in June 1940 and
laid mines off Auckland during the night of 13/14 June
1940, one of which sank the liner Niagara five days later.
Two other ships were caught by mines from Orion, plus two
trawlers and an auxiliary minesweeper.

This done, Orion raided across the Indian and Pacific
Oceans attacking another 4 ships. One she sent to occupied
France as a prize, the others were sunk.

On 20 October 1940 she made rendezvous with the raider
Komet, and the supply ship Kulmerland; operating together
they accounted for a further 7 ships, including the liner
Rangitane and five ships off Nauru, before going their
separate ways in the new year.

A further 6 months passed cruising in the Indian Ocean
yielded only one further victim, the SS Chaucer, in July

Orion returned to Bordeaux in occupied France on 23 August

After 510 days and 127,337 nautical miles (235,828 km) at
sea she had sunk 10 ships with a combined tonnage of
62,915 t, plus two more (totalling 21,125 t) in
cooperation with Komet.

 Later history
De-commissioned as a commerce raider, the ship was renamed
Hektor in 1944 and used as artillery training ship. In
January 1945 it was again renamed Orion and used to
transport refugees from Germany's eastern provinces across
the Baltic Sea to ports in northern Germany and occupied
Denmark. On her way to Copenhagen on 4 May 1945 the ship
was hit by bombs off Swinemünde and sank. Of the more than
4,000 people on board all but 150 were rescued. The hulk
was scrapped in 1952.

Raiding career
Sunk by Orion:

  a.. 1940-04-24 Haxby 5,207 gross register tons (GRT)
  b.. 1940-06-19 Tropic Sea 8,750 GRT
  c.. 1940-08-16 Notou 2,489 GRT
  d.. 1940-08-20 Turakina 9,691 GRT
  e.. 1940-10-14 Ringwood 7,203 GRT
  f.. 1941-07-29 Chaucer
Sunk by mines laid by Orion:

  a.. 1940-06-19 Niagara 13,415 GRT
  b.. June 1940 Puriri 927 GRT
  c.. June 1940 Port Bowen 8,276 GRT
  d.. June 1940 Britannic 1,500 GRT
In concert with Komet:

  a.. 1940-11-25 Holmwood 546 GRT
  b.. 1940-11-27 Rangitane 16,712 GRT
  c.. 1940-12-06 Triona 4,413 GRT
  d.. 1940-12-07 Vinni 5,181 GRT
  e.. 1940-12-07 Komata 3,900 GRT
  f.. 1940-12-08 Triadic 6,378 GRT
  g.. 1940-12-08 Triaster 6,032 GRT
  a.. August K. Muggenthaler. Das waren die deutschen
Hilfskreuzer 1939-1945. Stuttgart: Motorbuch Verlag.
ISBN 3-87943-261-9. 
  b.. August Karl Muggenthaler (1977). German Raiders of
World War II. ISBN 0 7091 6683 4. 
  c.. Paul Schmalenbach (1977). German Raiders 1895-1945.
ISBN 0 85059 351 4. 
  d.. Stephen Roskill (1954). The War at Sea 1939-1945
Volume I. 
  e.. New Zealand Official War History: The German raider
20 August 1940: New Zealand Shipping Co (NZSCo) freighter
Turakina sunk by German raider Orion in Tasman Sea, 260
miles west of Taranaki; 36 crew were killed, and 20
survivors were taken prisoner.

No details of crew members dead or POW's.


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