THE MYSTERY SHIP depicted on page 91 of the February 2010 issue of Sea Breezes is the Tegelberg, completed in March 1938 by Netherlands Shipbuilding Co, Amsterdam for Koninklijke Paketvaart Maatschappij of Batavia (KPM). The main business of this concern was inter-island trading within the archipelago of the Netherlands East Indies, but the Tegelberg and her sister-ships Ruys and Boissevain (named after the three founders of KPM) were specifically built for the company’s long-haul route from South Africa to the Indies (Batavia) and onwards to Japan.
Gross tonnage was 14,150 on dimensions of 559' x 72.2' (170.5 x 22 metres), and she originally carried 82 first, 82 second and 500 third-class passengers, and a crew of 231.
Propulsion was by 8-cylinder Sulzer diesels of 11,000 bhp driving triple screws, producing service and maximum speeds of 16 and 18 knots respectively.
The ship had a distinguished war record, being taken over as an Allied troopship in 1940. In 1942 she was fitted out as an infantry landing ship, and participated in the North Africa, Sicily and Malaya landings. In 1945 she was returned to her owners. In 1947 she was transferred to the newly-formed Royal Interocean Lines (RIL), the result of a merger between KPM and Java-China-Japan Lijn, and entered service on a new Japan-Hong Kong-Singapore-South Africa- South America route. This continued until 1968, when Tegelberg was withdrawn and sold for scrap, arriving at Kaohsiung on 14 March.
The three sisters had remarkably parallel careers, surviving the perils of war and plying the same post-war route, with all three being broken up at the same place in the same year. Although the sisters were practically identical, the Tegelberg is readily identifiable as the mystery ship simply because her name is faintly visible, and she was the only one of the three with nine letters in her name. Under a glass, the fifth letter can in fact be discerned as an ‘L’. The picture was obviously taken post-war, since she is in RIL colours, and carries a radar mast abaft the bridge. As for location, the mountain in the background is clearly the 1,810-foot Victoria Peak in Hong Kong; I would guess that the time is the late forties, since there is no sign or outline of the tourist complex which was developed on top of the Peak in subsequent years. The various local craft shown have that pre-war ‘look’, and I should think would have been replaced by more modern craft by the mid-fifties. Certainly there was nothing similar by the time I started working in Hong Kong in 1968.
I arrived in Hong Kong in early 1968, by which time the Tegelberg may well have gone. I did, however see the Boissevain and Ruys frequently until they were withdrawn in July and September respectively. I used to walk along the top of the Ocean Terminal, and look down on them at their berth, and take photographs. They were always spotless, as one would expect with Dutch merchant ships. The appearance of this picture in the magazine certainly brought back memories for me.
ROBERT H LANGLOIS
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