Who Do You Think You Are magazine

I’m very pleased to announce that this website has been featured in the July 2020 edition of Who Do You Think You Are family history magazine. I would like to take this opportunity to welcome any new visitors to the site and hope that you find what you are looking for. Please keep checking back because I have more information to add, including some more passenger lists.

Rangitata 1952 memories

I have just added another complete Passenger List to this website thanks to Steve Langford of Auckland, New Zealand, who sent me scans of his own copy. Steve travelled to New Zealand with his parents and grandparents on the Rangitata in 1952. He had first emailed me with the following message:

“I have been researching my family history and came across your website when looking at the Rangitata. I came to New Zealand as a four year old in 1952. I have an original passenger list for the voyage, 13th June 1952, which left London for Wellington NZ via Curaçao and the Panama Canal. You are welcome to a copy if you wish. Great website.”

I emailed Steve, thanking him for getting in touch, and despite the lockdown due to the Coronavirus COVID-19 in New Zealand, and here in the UK, or perhaps helped by the fact that many people (including myself) have a little more time to spare at the moment, he managed to scan his list and send it to me for inclusion here. And, perhaps more surprisingly, I have managed to add it to the website, all within three weeks (a record for me!).

Steve emailed me back, and added some of his memories of the time:

“I have attached the passenger list. The photo (taken onboard) is of my mother, Dora Alice Langford, my father Reginald Henry, the boy on the left is my older brother Roger Henry, and myself Stephen John. My sister Anne aged 10 is not in the photo. My grandparents Thomas Sidney Jenkin and Alice Maud Jenkin both travelled with us.

“I remember very little of my young life in London and the trip to New Zealand. My other grandparents, Charles and Maud Langford, were quite distressed at the time, knowing they would never see us again.

“We travelled first class and had a steward who looked after us, named Rupert, who used to make quite a fuss over cutting the tops off boiled eggs.

“The reason New Zealand was chosen is that my father had purchased tickets to South Africa but in 1952 there was trouble with the Mau Mau uprising in Kenya, so my father changed the tickets to New Zealand. A lot of people who returned from the war emigrated to all parts of the world. England, and particularly London, was badly damaged. I still have my ration card and I wasn’t born until 1948, so things must have been difficult.”

Enid Jones, Rangitata Nursing Sister

In December 2017, the magazine, Your Family History, published an article of mine entitled “The end of the line”. Unfortunately the magazine is no longer published, but I am hoping to get permission to reproduce my article on this website at some time in the future.

My article asked what happens to photographs and family memorabilia when a person dies, perhaps from a small family, and there is nobody remaining to pass possessions on to. I purchased a small collection of photographs and records on eBay that once belonged to Enid Jones, a nurse on board the Rangitata. Her personal memorabilia was all disposed of in a house clearance. Enid was the nursing sister on Steve Langford’s 1952 Rangitata voyage, as the passenger list shows, and also Enid’s “Certificate of Discharge” book that I now own (see below). Enid’s final voyage on the Rangitata was in 1957.

Many more photographs of the Rangitata can be viewed on this website: Click here.

Update from Roger Langford

Following the publication of the above piece from Steve Langford, his brother Roger got in touch to add some more information:

“I am the other lad in the family photo (the one on the right) and as a five-and-a-half year old at the time, I remember a bit more of our trip. I have attached a photo of a first class menu dated 10th July, 1952, as well as photo of my introduction to Davey Jones Locker when we crossed the equator.

Certificate from the Rangitata – Davy Jones' Locker

“I have no idea of the date of the ceremony and quite frankly cannot remember much except shaving or real cream being plastered about.

“My recollection of the entire trip is as follows. I do not recall leaving dockside or the trip across the Atlantic, but I do remember passing through the Panama Canal and the large ropes connected to the mechanical “donkeys” pulling the ship through the locks.

“In Curaçao the ship was refuelled from a large barge and I can easily recall hanging over the ship’s rail watching the men at work, and throwing down a couple of Dinky toys to them (why I don’t know, kids I suppose) Steve was with me, I think that we gave our parents hell on that trip, two young boys on an adventure of a lifetime.

“The other recollection I have of that time was that my father must have gone ashore because I do remember him with a couple of other blokes being helped back up the gangway, drunk as skunks, on the local banana rum, I am led to believe. The rest of the trip must have been fairly uneventful as I don’t recall much from then on, I do know I was a bit sick for a few days reaching Panama.

“I have a very vague memory of docking in Wellington at night and next morning leaving the ship, only to return with my father as I had left my Dinky toys under my bunk pillow for safe keeping. Our cabin steward Rupert, that Steve mentioned, took us back to look, but we never found them.”

1937 Coronation

To England for the Coronation in 1937

Having just typed up the Passenger List for the voyage of the Rangitiki, which left Wellington in March 1937 bound for London, I realised that there were a fair number of potentially interesting people on board.

It turned out that many of the passengers were travelling to the UK to represent New Zealand at the Coronation of George VI and Elizabeth, our present Queen’s parents.

The New Zealand website Papers Past is an excellent free resource, and on searching for one of the names in the Passenger List, two newspaper articles appeared in the results.

The Officers, including Major Leckie, Captain Frickleton, Lieutenant D. Swettzer (on the Passenger List as Lieut. D. Sweetzer), Lieutenant R. W. Haddow, Lieutenant A. A. Tennant and Flying-Officer D. E. Grigg, can all be found amongst the First Class passengers in the List. I could not find Captain Garruth, so perhaps he was unable to travel.

The men selected seem to be listed in Tourist “B” class, not mixing with the Officers of course.

In this newspaper story, Lieutenant D. Sweetzer is listed with the same spelling as in the Passenger List, so I assume that this is correct.

Here is a short video from YouTube that was released by British Movietone.

Read about the luxurious Rangitiki here:


1930s Round Voyage Tickets

When adding some more Passenger Lists to this website recently, I noticed an interesting item in one of the 1935 lists, with the following text:

The New Zealand Shipping Company announce that they are now issuing Round Voyage Tickets – out and home in the same ship – which entitle passengers to remain on board the vessel on the New Zealand coast. Round Fares – First class from £140, Cabin class from £112.

As a comparison, according to the Economics Help website*, “terraced houses in the London area could be bought for £395 in the mid-1930s when average earnings were about £165 per year.”

An online inflation calculator** shows that £140 for a First class fare in 1936 would be equivalent to just under £10,000 in 2020, and the Cabin class fare would be just under £8,000!

Housing is a different story. For example, that £395 terraced house in the London area would certainly cost more than £28,000 today (even if it still had the original outside toilet)!

So my initial reaction, which was something like, “wow, I wish I had a time machine to go on that Round Voyage”, is actually very wrong . . . and I certainly prefer my modern bathroom facilities at home.



Crew of the Turakina, c.1910

I recently purchased this photograph, hoping to find out more about it, but so far I have drawn a blank. The men in the photo do not look like the ship’s Officers, more like crew members … and some of those I certainly wouldn’t want to get into an argument with! Obviously it is taken on the SS Turakina, and fortunately there is a note written on the back:

Unfortunately I have been unable to find a crew listing which includes William Linton Smith (or perhaps Lindon?) who is “seated second from right“. I did find one for a William Smith on the Turakina, on the Royal Museums Greenwich website (click for full list), but I am not sure if this is him. There is a screen shot below from the RMG website.

The Turakina was in service for 15 years, from 1902 to 1917 when she was torpedoed by U-86, 120 miles south-west of the Scilly Isles. Some records state that four crew members were killed, and some state two.

Trouser Belts

I just noticed, looking again at the crew photograph, that none of the men have belt loops on their trousers. I did not realise that they didn’t exist at the time the photo was taken. This is from Wikipedia: “In modern times, men started wearing belts in the 1920s, as trouser waists fell to a lower line. Before the 1920s, belts served mostly a decorative purpose, and were associated with the military. Moreover, prior to that trousers did not even have belt loops.”

An iceberg in the South Pacific

An original and a David Aldersley copy

As shown in my 2018 book X8 – Early New Zealand Shipping Company Postcards and their Photographers, available to purchase here – often real photo postcards were re-published with changed text on the front. Sometimes the change happened when the cards were reproduced by David Aldersley, a prolific New Zealand-based photographer. However, David Aldersley was not the photographer in this case, the photograph was probably either by Henry George Keyse or Peter Zerface, barbers and photographers working for the New Zealand Shipping Company. My book illustrates a few postcards which have had reprints with changes made. These include photographs of stormy sea views from the deck of ships, as well as icebergs in the South Pacific.

I recently purchased another South Pacific iceberg postcard. This shows the original photograph before it was re-photographed and re-published by David Aldersley. The Aldersley version of the card is included in my book X8. This original has the advantage of a very interesting, although quite difficult to read, message on the back. It was written on board the S.S. Remuera on 18th December 1914, just over four months after the start of the first World War.

This voyage would be the first part of the ninth return voyage of the Remuera which left London on 27th November, 1914 bound for New Zealand, and returned to the UK on 25th March 1915.

Dramatic view of an iceberg in the South Pacific, photographed c.1914
The back of the “original” real photo postcard was written on board the S.S. Remuera on 18th December 1914, just over four months after the start of the first World War.

The following is a very rough transcription of the message on the back of the postcard.

We saw this iceberg coming home – SS Reumera
December 18th 1914
Cape Town tomorrow. Very good trip so far. No excitements. We have kept well to the west of trade route and have passed very few ships. British cruisers have been in our only neighbourhood for several days. We have heard ••• talking, but have not spoken to them. No wireless news since two days out from Tenerife and are longing for news. I wonder what we shall hear tomorrow. Quite pleasant fellow passengers – not wildly interesting. Less heat in tropics than usual. Cricket match this afternoon. Second class ladies beat us by 3 runs! Ships-board life wonderfully ••• affected by the war – no lights on deck at night is the only difference. Now the days are lengthening out, and the trade winds are less strong yesterday and today tho still dead ahead of our route. ••• have been poor. Busy preparing a Christmas for 90 children on board! Much love yours S.S. •••

The re-print postcard (below) is illustrated in my book (page 28) with my following text:
If you look closely at the top and right edges of the actual image there appears to be a slight shadow. This suggests to me that the original photograph has been re-photographed to make this postcard.

Note that the text on the front has been changed with the addition of “Passed by R.M.S. Ruahine”. This is interesting because it seems that the original postcard, above, may have been purchased on the Remuera.

David Aldersley’s re-photographed copy of the South Pacific iceberg postcard
The back of the David Aldersley postcard. This is reference “O(1)” in my catalogue of postcard backs, available to download free of charge here.

Collectables – Serviette (Napkin) Ring – part two

As a follow up to my previous serviette ring post, here are two more rings from my collection. These two seem to be a bit less fancy than those in the previous post which were more obviously produced as souvenirs for sale to passengers.

I’d love to know if they were actually used on board. However, with the possible movement of the ship, anything which would cause a serviette to roll off a table would not have been particularly practical.

Please leave a reply if you have any more information.