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I have been reading parts of a book called the "Shoe String Line" by Captain Clough Blair which is about a shipping company he an others started with a WW2 NZ Government Rehab Loan. The company was called the "Tasman Steamship Co".

During 1939 Mr Blair was Chief Officer of the SS Waiotapu on the USSC Transpacific run when the ship was ordered into Vancouver to take on armament. What armament? As we all now know 1939 saw the start of WW2 and shipping needed protecting the government said. Mr Blair was a former RN, NZ division, rating (1928 - 1934) and trained as a gunnery rating. The company, I assume the USSC, said, you are, Mr Blair, inaddition to all your normal work, now gunnery officer of the good ship SS Waiotapu.

They were handed two Colt automatic rifles, still packed in their saddle bags, yes two Colt rifles to protect a 14,000 ton ship. The rifles were suppost to be used on tripods but that was imposible on the ship so the plumber was ordered to fit a stand on each bridge wing. They were issued with the best quality .303 ammuntion but soon found that the guns jammed after one or two rounds were put through them. One very bright crewman suggested that that they draw three tons of potatoes and put them into the locker on top of the bridge because that way they would have a better change of protecting themselves. He was probably right.

They were also issued with a fine 3-inch gun and some pratice ammunition- unfortunately no live live shells were available. They never did get any shells for the gun but the gun looked "very fine" on the bridge. How the SS Waiopatu missed being attacted throughtout war years no one knows. The SS Waiopatu was so slow it could never keep up with any convoy. Somehow the ship survived the war years.

"Them were the days"

Regards

Blair Lagerstedt
NZ
 

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My father Keith Alexander was an engineer on the Waiotapu when she was on the New Zealand to India run . I have a feeling she was formerly called the Sussex and owned by another shipping company and chartered to the Union Company
 
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