Fifty years on from a very public loss
In last month’s Sea Breezes, the pages of John Young’s ‘Maritime Log’ covered the campaign which has recently been launched to raise £2.5m for a memorial to the Battle of the Atlantic. Given the historic prominence of the Port of Liverpool in international trade and its significant role in World War Two (75 million tonnes of supplies passed through the port, 56 million of them vital imports for the UK) the aim is for the memorial to be erected at the Pier Head in Liverpool in time for the 80th anniversary of the start of WW2 in 2019.
Sea Breezes is delighted to publicise this campaign and we believe that the celebration of a nation’s maritime heritage through commemoration of such events not only honours those seafarers who served in the past, but serves as a reminder of the debt we owe today’s seafarers as the world continues to rely on essential maritime routes at local, regional and global levels.
This April happens to see the 50th anniversary commemoration of one of the most tragic post-war maritime events – the sinking of the ferry TEV Wahine at Wellington on 10th April 1968. The Union Steamship Company’s Wahine, built at the Fairfield shipyard on the River Clyde in Glasgow, was operating the essential inter-island link between New Zealand’s South and North Islands and foundered on Barrett Reef on entrance to Wellington Harbour in some of the most foul weather imaginable – as a result of a tropical cyclone.
Murray Robinson’s ‘Ships We Forgot To Remember’ articles in the pages of Sea Breezes have often highlighted the importance of the inter-island link, the prominence of the Union Steamship Company and the sometimes unforgiving nature of the weather that its vessels faced. The Wahine was a very public loss, with the unfolding drama – which eventually resulted in the loss of 53 lives – played out on radio and television channels given its proximity to shore.
Many historic maritime disasters have taken place out of sight, if not out of mind, and it is almost unbearably poignant to view the footage of the Wahine provided by the New Zealand TV crews on site that day as the vessel listed to starboard before sinking so close to its intended destination at the inter-island wharf in Wellington.
As a result of the footage, it is a disaster unlikely ever to be forgotten, and for those involved the passage of 50 years is unlikely to have diminished the sense of tragedy. Sea Breezes hopes that the events being arranged to commemorate the disaster are well attended and pay fitting tribute to the passengers and crew lost on that terrible day.
Read more about the loss of the Wahine in this issue’s ‘From the Lookout’ on page 24.
HAMISH ROSS, EDITOR