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7th Oct 2009
In this Issue: ‘Shaken’ The Tree’ / Zealandia / The Worthing Lifeboat / Bruny Island Excursion / Melbourne Cup / Letters to the editor / from the galley / pirate club / crossword and more...
Zealandia or Z as she was sometimes known was a twin screw coal fi red steamer built in 1910 by John Brown and Co. Ltd., Clydebank for Huddart Parker Ltd. Unlike earlier ships of her fl eet she had quadruple expansion rather than triple expansion machinery.
When she fi rst came to Australia she was engaged for some years in the Sydney- Vancouver service, and they became well known as a regular passenger liner on the Sydney-Fremantle service. During the 1914-1918 war Zealandia served overseas as a troop transport carrying many thousands of American troops across the Atlantic. In those days of camoufl age she was given a striking cover of dazzle paint that was zebra like in appearance.
Returning to civilian activities after the war she resumed her place on the Sydney- Fremantle service which she maintained until the arrival of MV Westralia in 1929. Zealandia then traded on the Australia-New Zealand route until replaced by the MV Wanganella. She then ran between Sydney and Hobart and was in that service until the outbreak of war. In June of 1940 Zealandia was taken over and was a troop transport once again. This was followed by a trip to Manila and embarked women and children who had been evacuated from Hong Kong.
With the enemy closing in on Australia the need of an efficient land route from Darwin to Alice Springs became increasingly important. Heavy road making machinery and men were embarked in Melbourne and Sydney and Zealandia again steamed north. Following trips were to Singapore with troops stores and materials. The 19th February 1942 will be chronicled in history as the date of the fi rst enemy attack on Australian shores. The air seemed full of Japanese planes and across a sky darkened by the smoke from burning ships and oil there fl ashed a glare of fl ak and the blaze of the first fi res. Zealandia was the last vessel to be attacked. Suddenly a bomb fell down the No. 3 hatch exploding in the hold. The explosion blew down the engine room bulkhead fi lling the engine room with smoke and fumes. A near miss holed the starboard quarter and set fi re to the accommodation. Then came the dive-bombers who raked the ship from masthead height with incendiary bullets and cannon shells. Every eff ort was made to extinguish the fires. The engineers gamely stuck to their task in the smoke fi lled engine room to supply water for the hoses on deck but with the ship ablaze from stem to stern the position soon became hopeless.
Ammunition in No.1 hold and on the poops exploded. The order was given to abandon ship and the crew of 139 offi cers and men crowded into the boats. As they pulled away from Zealandia the ship was settling by the stern. Through holes in her plates made by cannon shells the water fl ooded the after end and at 1pm she settled on her side and sank. In view of the heavy machine gunning and bombing it was remarkable that the casualties were not more numerous.
Prepared for publication by Laurie Bahr