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  MV Wanaka
Cargo Ship

2,259 Tons
275' | 45' | 21' 6"

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AWM March 19, 1942

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AWM c1942

Ship History
Built by Alexander Stephens & Sons Ltd. in Glasgow, Scotland. Completed on February 23, 1938 as MV Wanaka. Departed for New Zealand three days later via the Panama Canal.

Wartime History
In 1942 the Australian Government took over the "Wanaka" for service with the RAAF as a supply ship and armed with a 4" deck gun at bow and 12 pound gun aft. Also, 20mm anti-aircraft guns on the bridge. Manned by the New Zealand Union Shipping Company Officers, Australian Merchant Service seamen, RAN Gunners, RAAF Medical Attendants, Wireless Operators, Storekeepers and Mess Stewards.

On February 19, 1942, Wanaka was at Darwin during the Japanese raid, but only sustained minor damage from bomb splinters.

Next, on March 19, 1942 while unloading in Fairfax Harbor off Port Moresby, the ship left the wharf just prior to Japanese bomber bombing the peir area. While manuvering in Fairfax Harbor, Wanaka herself and bombers dropped 60kg bombs, that fell astern of the ship. A photographer at Port Moresby documented the bombing runs.

39 Battalion Diary, March 19, 1942:
"18 bombs dropped near stern of ship [Wanaka] off Paga Point."

New Guinea Force Diary, March 19, 1942:
"Wanaka just slipped no damage either ship or wharf. Run 2 driven off by accurate A/A fire. Run 3 driven off again by by A/A. Run four dropped 18 bombs close astern Wanaka and along line of origins course."

On another supply run in the Solomons, the Wanaka delivered supplies to Gavutu Island on March 29, 1942 at the Gavatu Wharf and brought a crash boat for RAAF Marine Section for the Tulagi Flying Boat Base along with 1,000 drums of aviation fuel and general supplies.

Sinking History
On December 15, 1943 during the return voyage to Australia, along the Great Barrier Reef she encountered winds of 130 mph and was driven onto Eden Reef shortly after midnight and capsized on to her side throwing ten crew overboard. When the winds abated a search over two days failed to find nine of the bodies. Word of the wreck reached the Commonwealth Marine Salvage Board and Captain J. P. Williams was soon there to assess the possibility of salvaging the "Wanaka". Although the ship was on her side it was believed she could be saved so a call was made for a salvage crew from the Sydney water front but there was no response.

WGCDR E.C. Buttfield, C.O. of No.1 Transportation & Movements Office called for RAAF volunteers with sea going experience. Fourteen men were selected, and with necessary gear, supplies, ropes and navigation equipment were flown to the ship in a Martin Mariner flying boat. Tons of sand and coral had to be removed along with all kinds of debris and rotting foods as well as many tons of stone ballast. One hundred tons of bagged sand was placed on the port deck to try to level the ship while temporary hull repairs were made.

Afterwards, the ship successfully sailed back to Sydney. More repairs were made and Wanaka resumed supplying duties with the RAAF until the end of the war.

Post War
In 1946, Wanaka returned to Alexander Stephens & Sons Ltd ownership. Later the ship was re-sold on a number of occasions and in each case had a name change. In 1968, broken up at Taiwan for scrap.

RAAF Marine Section, Escape from Tanambogo Island page 27 [PDF]
Shipping Times - MV Wanaka
Lloyd’s Register of Ships - Wanaka - Year of build 1938 Gross Tonnage 2,259 (1937–1945)
Passengers In History - Wanaka

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Last Updated
November 16, 2018


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