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Possible Wreckage from the SS Turakina, Sunk by German raider in 1940 | by Archives New Zealand
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Possible Wreckage from the SS Turakina, Sunk by German raider in 1940

On 20 August 1940 the New Zealand Shipping Company freighter Turakina, en route to New Zealand from Britain via Australia, was sunk by the German raider Orion nearly 500 km off the Taranaki coast after a brief gun battle – the first ever fought in the Tasman Sea. As notes, the Turakina’s captain had earlier promised that he would fight to the last if intercepted by an enemy raider. But the freighter’s solitary 4.7-inch defensive gun was no match for the six 155-mm (5.9-inch) weapons of the German warship. Thirty-six (some sources say 35) members of the crew were killed, and twenty survivors - many of them wounded - were rescued from the sea and taken prisoner.


Archives New Zealand Navy records illustrate the hunt for 'Orion' made by HMS Achilles, including maps of its war path (


We also hold a Marine Department file on the identification of wreckage found between the Kaipara Head Lighthouse and Maunganui Bluff, which includes an object believed to have come from the Turakina itself. The label above was removed from a washed-up lifeboat found by Charles Bernard Aston of Omamari, as well as photographs of the oil-soaked beach where it was found. Although the Turakina did had rafts made by the same manufacturer, it was never proved conclusively that the label above had come from it.


ADOE 16612 Box 966/ 13/2455


Information on the sinking of the Turakina and other ships can be found in the following Government inquiry files held by Archives New Zealand:

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Taken on August 19, 2013