Category Archives: History

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.



Rangitata passenger list and the Bounty Bible

The latest passenger list to be added to this website is for the Rangitata‘s voyage to New Zealand on 24th February, 1950 (you can access this from the drop down “Passenger Lists” menu at the top of this page).

The photograph here shows Nursing Sister, Enid Jones, who made many voyages on the Rangitata from 1946 to 1957. I’m not sure who the man on her left is, but at a guess, he could be Surgeon, J. M. Pinkerton (note the stethoscope in his pocket).

One of the passengers on the 1950 voyage was Adrian Hobbs, assistant secretary to the High Commissioner for the Western Pacific. He was collected at Pitcairn Island following his month long visit after delivering the restored bible from HMS Bountyread more.

Historic SS Rimutaka voyage photographs

Michael Foot contacted me last year to let me know about his fantastic collection of photographs, most of which were probably taken on board the SS Rimutaka. The photographs shown here are very old, quite faded and marked, but he has managed to adjust them a little, and has given me permission to reproduce them. Michael said that the photographs were discovered when his grandmother passed away. He believes there is a family connection, but has not found it yet.

The Rimutaka (1900-1930) had a crew of 90. She could carry 40 first class passengers on the bridge deck, 50 second (upper deck), 80 third (upper deck), and 170 emigrants located in dormitories erected in the holds. Source: Merchant Fleets, New Zealand Shipping and Federal S.N. Co. by Duncan Haws.

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