Troopship Wahine wrecked en route to Korea

15 August 1951

The Wahine leaving Wellington for Korea, 1951 (Alexander Turnbull Library, 114/333/04-G)

After 38 years on the Lyttelton–Wellington ferry run, and service in two world wars, the New Zealand government chartered the TSS Wahine to transport Kayforce troops to the Korean War. Shortly after leaving Darwin, the Wahine ran aground on Masela Island in the Arafura Sea, east of Timor. There were no fatalities but the ship became a total loss.

Built in Scotland in 1913, the 4436-ton Wahine joined the Union Steam Ship Company’s inter-island service. In 1915 the British government requisitioned the vessel as a despatch ship at Gallipoli and later as a minelayer. The Wahine impressed British observers with its manoeuvrability and laid more than 11,000 mines in the North Sea during the war. During the Second World War the Wahine again served as a troopship, mainly in the South Pacific.

In April 1968, 17 years after the demise of the first Wahine, a much worse fate was to befall its namesake, the new TEV Wahine, which foundered near the entrance to Wellington Harbour with the loss of more than 50 lives (see 10 April).