Where were You?

Often we ask the question where were you when a major event in our lives occurred.  This one should be easy for a number of you old salts.  Where were you and in particular who was the Leading Telegraphist at the Port W/T Station during the Queens visit to New Zealand when the Tangiwai Disaster occurred 23/24 December 1953.


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14 Responses to Where were You?

  1. Noel "Prof" Caine says:

    A week before that disaster, I was drafted from “Irirangi” to “Lachlan,”

  2. Caddy says:

    I was with the 14th Tels, EM’s and REM’s under training in HMAS Cerberus. Melbourne. Not the most exciting experience


  3. Ken McCann says:

    I know my Dad had nightmares after bein on the search party fer a day or two!!

  4. Frank Rands says:

    I was at Irirangi at the time, we had been celebrating Xmas early at Baden Bracey’s house and were called out by some uknown Army gentleman who stood at the door and called for all males to report to the Railway Station Waiouru immediately, we comprising of Tel Baden Bracey L/Tel Graeme Renwick and self L/tel Crighton. We spent the best part of three days off and on during the clean up. I was pulled out on 30th December and sent to catch the Wanganella to Sydney for my PO Tels course. She sailed 31st December so had New Years Eve at sea in magnificent luxury as we travelled first class. Wonderful days.
    Kindest regards Spotty Crighton

    • peter smith. says:

      Was flown back from Sydney via Flying boat to be one of 3 Killicks during Her Majesty’s visit to present a new Queens Colour to the RNZN. I’m fairly certain the other two killicks were both Lens, Len Briars and Len Clayton.

  5. albert cross says:

    The disaster occurred approximately 2210m (NZT) which equates to about 1810 Japan time. I had just stepped ashore on a ” 7 beller” in Kure and was probably downing a couple of bottles of Asahi in the “Bachuss” beer-hall in Hondori St. A nice night ashore.

  6. Greg H says:

    I was still in primary school !!!!

  7. Cliff Hodgman says:

    Had the first watch in NR2 on Xmas Eve. First we knew about it was a phone call from the police in Wellington asking if we knew anything which we did not! After the Middle next day we spent our 24 off searching the banks of the Whangaheu river for bodies. We were in army GMC’s. We brought back 2 bodies, a 30 plus male and a 5/6 year old girl to the makeshift morgue. where the silt was washed off the bodies with fire hoses. I will never forget the image of that little girl. The army was dishing out tots of rum to the searchers which was greatly appreciated after such a harrowing experience, especially as some of the army searchers declined the offer and passed it on to the sailors which was gratefully accepted. Not a great Christmas. 12 months later on Xmas Eve a petrol tanker overturned into the stream below Irirangi drowning the driver who had just delivered fuel to the camp. Another Christmas disaster. Such was life in Irirangi!!

  8. frank (mac) elliott says:


  9. Geoff Brindle says:

    Like Mac, I was on Black Prince. As I recall most of the crew were on Christmas leave

  10. peter smith. says:

    11 Dec 53 Arrived via Teal flying boat from Sydney to Mechanics Bay and thence home to our brand new navy house at 18 Hillary Cres. No. 20 was filled by Sparker Bud Thompson and No. 22 by Yeoman Ron Smith.
    12 Dec 53 Arrived Philomel for duty at ZLE just inside main gate. The other Killick was either Len Briars or Len Clayton but can’t remember which. The first week’s watchkeeping was quite profitable as a contractor was busy trying to erect a grandstand for the invited guests to witness the presentation of a new Queens colour to the RNZN and was happy to hire off watch [and on-watch] helpers at ten bob an hour. After each days activities, the grandstand dismantled and re-erected iwhere the next public event was going to be staged. But even wealth at 1 dollar and hour didn’t last for ever.
    23 Feb 54 I joined Tui and 2 years later was heading back to Tamaki in March 56

  11. Bill McLauchlan (ex L/Tel NZ11400) says:

    I was on watch at NR1 (being a civvy by then) – we heard about the crash whilst on watch and when we came off at midnight, Don Campbell and I drove down to the crash site. Couldn’t do much as the worst was over the other side of the river. We stuck around until they rigged a crossing over and spent a few hours helping with the search for bodies. We had to go back on watch at 4pm. Was a very miserable Xmas as there was a constant stream of relatives heading past our house going down to the temporary morgue in the army camp.
    Bill McLauchlan, ex L/Tel NZ11400

  12. Neill Dorset says:

    I have just come back from NZ visiting my 94yr old father and read this article and watched the News item about the memorial that has finally be installed. Dad was a Cpl in the RNZ Engineers ( ex WW2 Navy Signals) when this happened and we commented on his being called out with his Unit to the scene and days, he and other Army staff, along with many others spent assisting, clearing the site. It was not a very good time for anyone – families who lost loved ones and for those doing the cleaning up.
    Neill Dorset

  13. Ray Newport says:

    Ray Newport .Says.
    Pete Vaudrey and I were at His Fathers place out at Titirangi when this disaster happend, He can
    and woke us up told us all about from what was on the 1ZB News and said we were to report back onboard the The Black Prince, that ended out Xmas Break
    Ray Newport

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