Harbour Defence Motor Launches (HDMLs) were designed in 1939 by the Admiralty for harbour patrol and anti-submarine duties. In 1948 the Admiralty reclassed HDMLs as Seaward Defence Motor Launches. Q1187 was renamed Tarapunga and Q1188 was renamed Takapu.Ship details:
Type: Harbour Defence Motor Launch
Displacement: 54 tonnes
Dimensions: 22 x 21.3 x 4.8 x 1.6m
Machinery: 2 x shaft Grey diesels bhp 330 = 10-12 knots
1 twin mounted .50 water-cooled Browning machineguns
1 x 20mm Oerlikon
2 x twin mounted .303 Vickers machineguns
8 x depth charges
Complement: 10 officers and ratings
Builder: Everett Marine Ways Inc near Seattle, Washington, United States – ordered 21 February 1942, completed January 1943
Commissioned 13 May 1943 as Q1187 [Tarapunga]
Commissioned 22 May 1943 as Q1188 [Takapu]
Paid off 19 September 1945 [Tarapunga] sold privately but returned in 1950 to the RNZN
Pennant No.: Q1187 as SDML
Q1188 as SDML
As Seward Defence Motor Launches:
Ship details as above
Armament: Removed in 1945
Survey Equipment: Fitted to Q1188 when rebuilt 1946-50
Fitted to Q1187 when converted in 1950-51
Pennant No.: P3566 Tarapunga [formerly Q1187]
P3556 Takapu [formerly Q1188]
Renamed: Tarapunga as Mako 1980
Takapu as Kahawai 1980
Colour Schemes – in wartime service the HDMLs had a mixture of dark and light grey overall. Post 1945 this was changed to a light grey. The Survey Motor Launches [SML] were given an all white scheme as was standard for survey vessels in this period as per the images above.
Ship History:This type of vessel was designed in 1939 by the Admiralty for harbour patrol and anti-submarine duties. It was designed for construction in civilian boatbuilding companies. Between 1940 and 1945 over 500 were built. They were considered very robust and seaworthy craft with good sea-keeping qualities. In January 1942 the Admiralty agreed to allocate HDMLs to New Zealand and ordered 24 from the United States under the Lead-Lease arrangements. Twelve vessels were ordered in May 1942 from the United States to be built in boatyards on the West Coast and East Coast. The final vessel varied between each boatyard as to fit out and appearance. The USN supervised the construction and then took charge of the finished HDML for allocation to the Allied navy. Both Q1187 & Q1188 were shipped as deck cargo from Vancouver aboard SS Kootenay Park and arrived at Wellington on 30 April 1943. There they were unloaded by floating crane and underwent full commissioning trials.
It was intended that they would be used for anti-submarine patrols in the port approaches. They would replace the NAPS launches. Q1187 after commissioning joined the 124th Motor Launch Flotilla in Auckland. Q1188 joined the 125th Motor Launch Flotilla based in Wellington. They then carried out routine patrols in their respective areas through to 1945. As the war came to an end in 1945 the launches were concentrated at Auckland to pay off. Q1187 arrived on 30 June 1945 followed by Q1188 on 11 July. After paying off they were laid up at Pine Island. In July 1946 ownership passed to the Marine Department who was selling off war surplus. Once the Lend-Lease agreements were concluded the government put them up for sale. However, during the sale process the government realised the value and in February 1947 Q1188 was withdrawn from sale.
In 1949 the RNZN purchased the frigate Lachlan for use as the first survey vessel in RNZN commission. It was decided that two smaller vessels would be needed to assist her in the survey task which HDMLs would be suitable. Q1188 had been cannibalised for parts to keep the other HDMLs that were in service so she had to be rebuilt. This was completed in February 1950 and she was commissioned as SML 1188 and was sent to Wellington in March. After arriving in Wellington, she began a survey of Cook Strait. In April she was given the pennant number P3556. A second launch was required for survey duty so that Auckland Coastguard’s Cutter No. 1, formerly Q1187 reverted to the RNZN on 29 May 1950 and was given the pennant number P3566 in October 1950. She was converted to SML in March 1951 and commissioned as a survey vessel on 21 March 1951. In April she proceeded to Wellington to carry out surveys of the Cook Strait. From then until 1979 both vessels carried out surveys right across the New Zealand coastline mostly by themselves or as a pair. They would also work with HMNZS Lachlan & Monowai.
In 1948 the Admiralty reclassed HDMLs as Seaward Defence Motor Launches [SDMLs]. The RNZN changed the classification in August 1949. By March 1950 orders were issued to change the pennant numbers. Q1187 was assigned the number P3566 and Q1188 assigned P3556. This caused some confusion in signalling and the keeping of records. There is still today some uncertainty about which vessel is being referred to due to errors in recording the correct number. To try ad solve the problem for the signallers from May 1951 P3556 had [A] added and P3566 [B]. These were added to the hulls in 1953. On 28 October 1954 P3556A chased a stolen yacht off Whangaparaoa.The next change was to assign names to the SDMLs that were in service with the RNZN. Those SDMLs that were assigned to fisheries protection were assigned Maori names for fish while other vessels were given Maori names for sea-birds. On 21 July 1955 P3556A was renamed Philomel, P3566B was renamed Maori from the shore establishments. As per NO 14/56 of 19 January 1956 Philomel was renamed Takapu [Gannet] from October 1955. Maori was renamed Tarapunga [Black-backed Gull] also from October 1955. They would serve as survey vessels under these names until they were released from survey duty in 1979.
Other SDMLs were used as survey vessels. Between 1955 and 1957 P3562 [HMNZS Olphert then Parore] surveyed Ketu Bay and the outer Pelorus Sound. In February 1975 HMNZS Paea [P3552, then Philomel then Paea] assisted Takapu & Tarapunga after Lachlan was withdrawn from service. This deployment carried on through to March 1977 when the arrival of the new survey ship HMNZS Monowai was approaching. For this duty, Paea was repainted white after the first survey season. In late 1977 she was transferred back to RNZNVR duties and repainted back to the standard scheme. In March-April 1978 Paea surveyed the Tory Channel
At the end of the 1978-1979 survey season Tarapunga was withdrawn from service and paid off in June 1979. In November 1979 Takapu arrived at Auckland for paying off and was decommissioned in December. At this time the IPC vessels marked for survey duty were under construction at Whangarei and had been assigned the names Takapu & Tarapunga. Both SDMLs were repainted to the standard colour scheme and refitted for use by the RNZNVR. Takapu was renamed Kahawai II and was sent to HMNZS Toroa in August 1980. Tarapunga was renamed Mako II and sent to HMNZS Olphert in November 1980. In August 1982 Kahawai II left Otago and was dismantled for disposal. Mako II left Wellington in August 1983 for dismantling. Both vessels were sold by the RNZN in 1984 ending some 40 years of service with the RNZN which was well beyond their expected life in 1943.
Sinking of the Holmglen 24 November 1959 off Timaru
In November 1959 HMNZS Tarapunga had been sent to Timaru to undertake survey work for the RNZN. She was there when the distress message was received:
From Tarapunga’s Report of Proceedings for November 1959 dated 1 December 1959:
‘On the night of the 24th information was received of a distress signal from the HOLMGLEN, in the vicinity of Timaru. I proceeded to sea immediately and a report of the subsequent search is appended. Three members of the crew were not onboard when I sailed, however two of these helped man the fishing boats which assisted in the search.’
Also in 1959 HMNZS Takapu was sent to Timaru to join Tarapunga arriving on 23 November 1959 from Gisborne.
Her Report of Proceedings records the following:
- At 2205 on 24th November the Commanding Officer was called to speak to the Timaru Harbourmaster (Captain Callan), who stated that the HOLMGLEN was in distress 130°, 18 miles from Timaru. Only the coxswain was on board so he was despatched into town to find some of the crew, whilst the Commanding Officer started the engines and cast off the lines. After about five minutes the Coxswain (Petty Officer J. Gorham) returned in a commandeered car with Able Seaman N.J. Banks, and with this ship’s company of two TAKAPU departed, leaving the two owners of the car standing on the jetty looking somewhat stupefied despite shouted explanations. TAKAPU cleared the harbour at 2230 and proceeded at lull speed (10 knots) to the designated position. An appendix is attached giving the report which was made to the Collector of Customs concerning the happenings of the night which followed in so far as they concerned TAKAPU. It need only perhaps be added that the night was very dark until the moon rose at 0114 but the visibility was very good and apart from an early shower the sky was clear. The sea however was rough for small vessels and the chances of seeing a man floating in the water without a light were terribly small.
- There was a service held in memory of the men lost in the HOLMGLEN at St. Mary’s Church at 0900 on the 27th both ship’s companies attended. The service was most moving. A burial service was held on the following day for two men from the HOLMGLEN those bodies had been found in the sea; two men from the Launches acted as bearers, together with representatives of other organisations and of the HOLBURN.
- As stated in the appendix a, further search for remains from the wreck was made on the afternoon of 26th November. At 0300 on 28th November Lieutenant-Commander Johnson took TAKAPUNGA to sea, TAKAPU being out of action due to engine trouble) and searched for a body which had been reported by an aircraft. Nothing was found, and TARAPUNGA retuned to harbour at 0830, leaving again at 1220 for another search ordered by the Minister of Marine. For this search TARAPUNGA rendezvoused with HOLMBURN at the wreck at 1540. At 1545 there was two minutes silence and HOLMBURN placed a number of wreaths on the water. At 1600 HOLMBURN and TARAPUNGA set course 054° from the wreck until 1715 when TARAPUNGA parted company and returned to harbour whilst HOLMBURN continued towards Akaroa. TARAPUNGA reached Timaru at 2015. Nothing had been sighted except oil over the wreck and some sharks.
As referred to above in the report of proceedings, below is the Takapu’s report on the search and rescue effort:
1st December, 1959.
REPORT OF SEARCH IN RESPONSE TO ‘MAYDAY’ PROM M.V. HOLMGLEN.
- Acting on information received from the Harbour Master, Timaru, at about 2200 on 24th November, I got under way as soon as possible and proceeded to the position reported by HOLMGLEN. Cleared the Eastern Extension at 2225 steered 130 (T) speed 10.
- There were soon lights of several small craft astern. Rain at first. Cleared from the south about 2330. Reached position reported at 0015. Wind 180 (T) fresh. Heavy sea with occasional very big wave (Relative to this vessel). Dark, visibility, good. Fired two green Very lights about five minutes apart. Sighted lights to the South and West. Decided to investigate to the South. CRAIGEWAN reported she was to the westward of me. Fired one more green Very light, and she reported me bearing East. Carried on to the South, and identified the steaming lights of a large ship, held course until she was identified as CAPE ORTEGAL, at about 0100. I then turned down wind and attempted to speak to her by light this was not successful.
- Continued down wind at slow speed to regain position of report. About 2200 turned to 225 (T) at slow speed, to maintain position. Soon after the helmsman reported sighting a white flare in direction 210 (T), distant. At this time there were lights to Westward which I presumed to be small vessels engaged in search. TAKAPU asked me if I had flared, I replied negative. Turned to investigate, and continued on this course until daylight. SEAFARER was to starboard and MORAY ROSE ahead.
- About 0500 turned to reach position of HOLMBURN [sic] and the oil slick, steering 020 (T). The wind had eased by this time. Passed CRAIGEWAN about 0600 and sighted HOLMBURN soon after. Altered course to 085 (T) to reach her about 0700. From her I searched 25 miles to the northeast, and then returned to the position of the flotsam which seemed to consist mainly of sacks of flour.
- At 1040 I broke off the search and returned to Timaru.
- On the afternoon of the 26th November, in company with the TANEA, SEAFARER and MORAY ROSE, I searched again to the Northeast of the wreck, and was guided to the flotsam by search aircraft, in position centered 44 21 south, 171 52 east. It was much more widespread than the previous day. The following items were recovered. One 44 gallon drum of linseed oil, one loading palette marked “H GLEN”, five sacks of flour, one broken lifebelt marked “HOLMGLEN” and several pieces of timber.
Lieutenant — in — Command.
1 December 1959
24th November 2230 Cleared Timaru Harbour
25th November 0030 Arrived in position 130° 18 miles from Timaru altered course to 069° 7 knots, searching for lifeboats. Weather: Wind 220° 20 knots gusting to 30 knots. Blue sky. Visibility 25 miles. Height of sea 6 feet though some waves up to 12 feet.
0150 Sighted green Very light distant I to 5 miles. Checked on R/T whether light fired by searching craft: negative. Altered course to 200° being estimated direction of light. Slow speed (1 to 2 knots). Nothing further sighted.
0220 Altered course to 069°, slow speed.
0300 Altered course to 245°, slow speed
0400 Altered course to 069°, slow speed.
0450 Altered course to 200°, slow speed.
Sunrise was at 0447 and no record of courses was maintained after daylight. Vessel continued search and listened for aircraft reports. Position of wreck was reached about an hour after HOLMBURN sighted oil slick. Wreck was located on echo-sounder 184 feet in 223 feet, position obtained by horizontal sextant angles on British Admiralty Chart 2532 in position 108.5° 21.4 miles from JACKS POINT LIGHT.
As vessel had a rope round the port screw, only three men on board (no engineers), and a southerly gale was thought to be imminent, course was shaped to Timaru and the vessel berthed at 1115, 25th November.
26th November 1125 cleared Timaru Harbour, proceeding to position of wreck HOLMGLEN to commence search. Fishing vessels following, also Tarapunga joining. Communications 2045/KC/S.
1320 spoke Devon 27 aircraft, searching area, maintained frequent R/T contact with her. Devon flying 045° from wreck, width at sweep 2 miles. 1400 Cessna aircraft patrolling NE-SW 6 miles offshore. 1415 TARAPUNGA MORAY-ROSE SEAFARER commenced sweep 045° from wreck, width of sweep 2 miles. 1520 Devon 27 found wreckage in position 045° 17 miles from wreck (aircraft report). 1520 TAKAPU located wreck on echo-sounder in same depth and position as previous day. Specimen of sea bed obtained lead: fine sand. The lead was also placed on the wreck. Marked wreck with a pellet (since gone). 1625 TAKAPU NELLA RAMBLER SOUVENIR STRATHALLAN commenced steep 034° from wreck 8.5 knots, width of sweep 2.5 miles. 1815 TAKAPU and company reached area of wreckage where TARAPUNGA MORAY-ROSE and SEAFARER were already searching. Numerous filled sacks, oil drums; pieces of wood, and a life-belt were picked up by the searching vessels.
2200 Arrived Timaru
Both vessels were sent a cable from the Chief of Navy:
FROM LACHLAN ROUTINE
TO TARAPUNGA UNCLASSIFIED
TAKAPU INFO N.Z.N.B.
I CONGRATULATE YOU AND YOUR CREWS ON YOUR PROMPT RESPONSE TO HOLM GLEN’S [sic] MAYDAY AND YOUR SUBSEQUENT ENERGETIC SEARCH.
- HEARD HER FIRST CALL ON SWORDFISH FROM OFF STEPHENS ISLAND AND FOLLOWED THE WHOLE OPERATION On R/T FROM RANGITOTO ROADS
- WE SHARE YOUR DISAPPOINTMENT IN RESULTS TO DATE.
The Second Takapu & Tarapunga
Type: Inshore Patrol Craft – Survey Vessel
Displacement: 112 tonnes
Dimensions: 26.8 x 24.4 x 6.1 x 2.3m
Machinery: 2-shaft Cummins marine diesels twin shaft bhp 730 = 12 knots
Armament: Not armed in survey commission – could take 1 x .50cal MG
Range: 1850km @ 12 knots
Complement: 18 officers and ratings, usually two officers and nine ratings
Builder: Whangarei Engineering and Construction [WECO]
19 November 1979 Tarapunga
15 June 1980 Takapu
23 March 1980 Tarapunga
30 June 1980 Takapu
Began RNZN service
9 April 1980 Tarapunga
8 July 1980 Takapu
Both ships were decommissioned in 2000
Pennant No.: A08 Tarapunga
Service History:These two vessels were built to replace the SDMLs that carried the same name. They had the same hull design as Manawanui II built by WECO but the superstructure and appearance was designed for hydrographic duties. The four RNZNVR Inshore Patrol Craft that followed these two vessels were of the same design after these two vessels proved their worth in service with the RNZN. They took the names of the two SDMLs that had been returned to RNZNVR service and renamed. During their service history they operated with HMNZS Monowai & Resolution which were the RNZN’s hydrographic vessel. Tarapunga & Takapu could access parts of the coast and harbours that a larger vessel could not survey such as Monowai or Resolution. They could also be used for search and rescue missions, coastal fisheries patrols and sea training. Considering their size these vessels had a high standard of living compared to other vessels. Force ventilated through with electric heaters. Commanding Officer, Senior Rates and Junior Rates had their own messes and bathrooms. A central galley provided the meals to the ship’s company.
The survey equipment fitted included:
- Zodiac dinghy
- Gyro compass
- Speed log
- Echo sounders ranged to 1400m
- Position fixing system accurate to +/- 3m at 80km
- Weather map fax
Tarapunga arrived for service with the RNZN on 30 March 1980 from Whangarei. Takapu arrived on 2 July 1980. In August she returned to Whangarei for adjustments. They could work together on surveys or alone. They could also work in company with either Monowai or Resolution. The first major task was carried out from 1981 to 1984 when they carried out a survey of Foveaux Strait and Bluff Harbour. This was updating a survey last carried out by HMNZS Lachlan as reported by the Ministry of Defence in 1984.Following her annual refit Monowai participated with other RNZN ships in the annual SQUADEX exercise in January 1984 and then carried out a resurvey of Bluff Harbour in conjunction with the inshore survey craft HMNZS Tarapunga and Takapu in preparation for the publication of a new edition of the chart of the Bluff Harbour. In late February Monowai returned to Wellington to resume the re-survey of Cook Strait.
Both ships were also deployed for exercises with the inshore patrol craft. In November 1985 both ships were returned to Whanganui for engineroom modification to cut down on engine noise. On 4 November 1980 Tarapunga was holed in two places when she struck a spar in the remains of the sailing ship Northumberland in Bay View Beach Westshore, Napier. She made to the Napier port and then returned to Auckland escorted by Takapu.
They also carried out surveys across New Zealand from 1984 onwards. They operated with Monowai until she was decommissioned. They also carried out work with HMNZS Resolution but by 1999 they were too expensive to keep running and were decommissioned in 2000.
  R.J. McDougall, New Zealand Naval Vessels, Christchurch: GP Books, 1989, pp. 121-122.
 Extract from the report of the Naval Board of the Defence Council period 1 April 1983 to 31 March 1984, paragraph 74.
 Wrecked 1887.