New Zealand minesweeper sunk near Hauraki Gulf

14 May 1941

Puriri, c. 1938-1941 (Alexander Turnbull Library, PAColl-6585-48)

HMS Puriri was a converted 927-ton Anchor Company coaster that was commissioned into the 25th Minesweeping Flotilla on 19 April 1941.

It was operating with another minesweeper, HMS Gale, off Bream Head in the northern approaches to the Hauraki Gulf when it struck a German contact mine, part of a 228-mine barrage laid on 13–14 June 1940 by the raider Orion. These mines had claimed their first victim, the trans-Pacific liner Niagara, on 19 June that year, fortunately without loss of life.

Rocked by a violent explosion, the Puriri sank so quickly that no lifeboats could be launched. The ship’s commanding officer, two stewards, a stoker and an able seaman – all of them former merchant seamen serving as naval reservists or under temporary (T 124) naval articles – were drowned, and five others were injured. The 26 survivors were rescued from the water by the Gale.

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