Captain Robert Fraser w/ USSCo 1942-1966

mfraser
4th December 2011, 19:14
Hello,

I am looking for information about my father's history with the Union Steam Ship Company, and will be grateful for anything anyone might recall or pointers to locations where archival information might be found (crew rosters, ship's cruise histories, company history for the 40's, 50's, and 60's, etc). If anyone actually remembers serving or working with my father, or served on a ship at the same time he was on board and has general histories about that ship at the time, that would be invaluable.

His name is Robert Fraser, though he prefers to be called Robin, and I believe he first joined the Union Company about 1942, though it may have been a year or two later. He already had his 2nd Mate's license at that time (he served as a cadet with the J & C Harrison Company and got his license in England), and his first job at the Union Company was as 4th Officer aboard the Maunganui. It's not clear how long he served aboard the Maunganui, nor what ship he went to next. He earned his 1st Mate's license in 1945 and his Master's license in 1948. In 1950 he joined the Royal New Zealand Naval Reserve as a Lieutenant, and from NZ Defence Force Archives I have some hints about his other Union company postings.

From RNZNR correspondence, it seems that in 1953 he was on the Tofua, in 1955 on the Monowai, and in 1957 on the Kaimai. In 1958 he became Wharf Superintendent in Auckland, and the Navy Office at that time recommended his retention on the active list in part based upon his having been "in command" with the Union company for the prior two years. From that I deduce that he was a ship captain from early 1956 or late 1955 until his shore appointment, and therefore was probably the captain of the Kaimai in 1957. Later in 1958 he was promoted within the RNZNR to Lieutenant Commander. He resigned his commission in 1964.

I know that he was still Wharf Superintendent in 1962, and probably held that post until he resigned from the Union company in 1966 to take a job with the Dillingham Corporation.

Actually, he did have a prior history with the Union company before 1942. As a teenager in the mid-30's he worked in their Auckland office as an "office boy", which later translated into finding a berth as "deck boy" to work his passage to England in 1937. I have no idea what ship that might have been, nor whether it was even a Union company ship. Likewise in 1942 he "worked his passage" back to New Zealand, but this time it was an "extra officer" aboard the NZ Shipping Company vessel Ruahine.

I would be grateful for any stories anyone might have about my father or the ships he served on, whether good or bad.

Best regards,
Matt Fraser

Butters
5th December 2011, 05:07
Hi Matt,
I think if you go onto www.nzshipmarine.com and then into NZ shipping companys - then USSCo. Masters photo's you will find a photo of your father taken on his first appoinment to 'KAIMAI 11', in 1957-a near new ship at that stage.
Also the following www. wellington.govt.nz/services/archives - USSCo. Personal files - this may help with his time in the seagoing era you can always ask them and if you are a family member his file can be made available to you.
I came ashore also into the Stevedoring side of Union Company here in Napier abt. 30 years ago . If i can be of any help in dealing with Wgtn. City Archives let me know as I have quite a few copies of stuff from them including my full personel form up to 1980.

Rgds.
Lindsay Butterfield

mfraser
5th December 2011, 07:02
Lindsay,

Yes, that's him! The name is misspelled, but the photo is clearly him. Thank you for pointing me to this site, and also to the Wellington archives. I'll follow up with them to see what might be available.

Best regards,
Matt

spongebob
9th January 2012, 20:14
I remember your father in his role as Wharf Superintendent in Auckland during the 1958 to 1960 years. A very active man, as I recall, as he boarded our ships to check cargo operations and he earned the nick name of "Flashlight Frazer" due to the large long 6-cell torch he usually carried to shine into hold corners.

Bob

mfraser
19th January 2012, 21:46
Bob,

Thanks for that anecdote! I think it'll give him a laugh when I mention it to him (yes, he's still alive, he just celebrated his 91st birthday). He is really enjoying the memories as we dig this stuff up, as these were some of the best times in his life.

Lindsay, I want to thank you again for telling me about the Wellington City Archives. I contacted them, and it proved very fruitful. They had his file, and they kindly scanned it into PDF format and mailed it on CD-ROM to me: 75 pages worth! It's a treasure trove that I'm still sorting through. I'll be following up with them soon for ships' logs once I have compiled the list of ships and dates of interest.

Best regards,
Matt

Butters
20th January 2012, 10:00
[QUOTE=mfraser;568184]Bob,

Thanks for that anecdote! I think it'll give him a laugh when I mention it to him (yes, he's still alive, he just celebrated his 91st birthday). He is really enjoying the memories as we dig this stuff up, as these were some of the best times in his life.

Lindsay, I want to thank you again for telling me about the Wellington City Archives. I contacted them, and it proved very fruitful. They had his file, and they kindly scanned it into PDF format and mailed it on CD-ROM to me: 75 pages worth! It's a treasure trove that I'm still sorting through. I'll be following up with them soon for ships' logs once I have compiled the list of ships and dates of interest.

Matt ,
I am extremely pleased you managed to obtain his file and no doubt your father would remember the Wharf Superintendants of my day in Auckland - Capt.Ian Gray , Capt. Baxter & Capt. Dave Morgan . I learnt my Stevedoring practises in Lyttelton when as Second mate I relieved Wharf Supervisors for holidays as I lived their. Capt. Craig Gass was Whrf Superintendant with Pat Downer as his deputy.
Your father may well remember the names .

Rgds.
Lindsay Butterfield

spongebob
17th November 2012, 19:19
Hello again Matt, I have just flicked through this thread again and note that your father was on the Kaimai in 1957. An old friend of mine, Mike Jackson, was the electrician on Kaimai that year as was Trevor Josephs as third mate. Trevor has passed away but I will be in touch with Mike in the near future and will ask him for any recalls he might have.
I do have another recall, dare I mention it, as well as the nick name 'Flashlight Frazer' he was sometimes called the 'Ponsonby Pom'. this may have been due to his cultured accent or because he lived in Ponsonby!

regards
Bob

mfraser
29th November 2012, 06:31
Ponsonby Pom! Well, yes, I believe he did live in Ponsonby at the time; in fact, I have an uncle and cousins who still live in that neighborhood. Not sure about the cultured accent, but if I had to hazard a guess, I'd say a British mother, British wife, and a few years as a cadet on British merchant ships might have lended some inflections not purely Kiwi. He'd be horrified to think that himself, though.

Ah, wait. By the time he became Wharf Super, he'd exchanged wives, traded in for another Kiwi.

Thanks again for all the recalls. This really brings things back to life, for him, and for me.

--Matt