LS Frank Turvey

Leading Seaman Frank Osian Turvey

Leading Seaman Frank Osian Turvey joined the Navy under the conditions of the Australasian Naval Agreement, whereby New Zealanders and Australians could join the Royal Navy, but would be posted to ships that were deployed to the Australia Station, which included New Zealand. He spent most of the war in HMS Pyramus before joining HMS Philomel and was engaged in minesweeping operations off the New Zealand coast.

Frank Osian Turvey was born in Christchurch on 1 April 1896, the son of Matilda and Frank Frederick Turvey. Having left school he joined the New Zealand Training Ship Amokura, a vessel that prepared young boys for a life at sea. From Amokura Frank joined the Royal Navy under the terms of the Australasian Naval Agreement as a Boy 2nd Class, on 28 November 1913 and was given the official number ANF 1785. At this time the New Zealand Naval Forces had yet to come into being and the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) was just being fully established.

NZ Training Ship Amokura
NZ Training Ship Amokura

Concurrent with the establishment of the RAN in 1911, most of the men of New Zealand origin who were serving under the terms of the Australasian Naval Agreement transferred to that navy. However, in addition to those who did not, a number of new recruits continued to be enlisted under the old agreement and were identified by the prefix ANF to their official number. Initial naval training at the time was given on board a ship, in Frank’s case this was HMS Pyramus, under the command of Commander P. G. Stofford RN, with one of the other officers being Lieutenant George Dennistoun, from Peel Forest. Commander Stofford was relieved by Commander the Right Honourable Viscount Kelburn RN at Auckland in February 1914, who recommissioned the ship on 15 July, with a large part of the ship’s company having just arrived from England. Over sixty of the men now on board were New Zealanders, ironically, more than in HMS Philomel which was commissioned for service under the New Zealand Government the same day.

With the outbreak of war the ships of the New Zealand Division were initially engaged in the expedition to occupy German Samoa and then comprised part of the escort of the main body of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force. Pyramus was with the convoy from Hobart to Fremantle, departing there, in company with Philomel, for Singapore, from where Pyramus proceeded independently to India. In January 1915 the ship joined the force blockading the German cruiser SMS Könisberg, which had taken refuge up the Rufji River on the east coast of Africa. By July 1915 a force more than sufficient to overwhelm the single cruiser had been assembled, comprising two monitors, Mersey and Severn; four cruisers, Hyacinth, Weymouth, Pioneer (RAN) and Pyramus; with two armed merchant cruisers, Laconia and Laurentic. Supplementing the force were several aircraft of the Royal Naval Air Service for spotting. The first attack on Könisberg took place on the 6th and was unsuccessful, but a second on the 11th resulted in Könisberg being sunk.

He was part of the naval party which supplemented the civilian crews of two fishing vessels, the Nora Niven and Simplon that swept the mine fields in 1918-19.

After this Pyramus sailed for the Persian Gulf, arriving at Muscat on 5 August. In the Persian Gulf Pyramus initially landed parties to assist in the defence of Bushire and later at Dilwa and Guttah, before being employed on general patrol work. In the fighting ashore one of the New Zealanders, Chief Petty Officer Raymond Gentry was killed. Pyramus spent the next six months in the heat of the Persian Gulf, as did HMS Philomel, indeed sometimes under the command of Captain Hall-Thompson who was periodically Senior Officer, Persian Gulf. In August 1916 Pyramus paid off for a major refit and while almost all the New Zealanders were sent home for leave, Frank now an Able Seaman, transferred to Philomel. Philomel remained on patrol in the Persian Gulf, but it too was due for a major refit, but this was not considered to be cost effective and the ship returned to New Zealand arriving in March 1917. On 19 April Philomel paid off and was recommissioned as a depot ship in Wellington, with a nucleus crew including Frank.

Minesweeper Simplon
WWI Minesweeper Simplon

This was a quiet period and it was not until mines were found to have been laid off the coast by SMS Wolf that Frank again saw active service. He was part of the naval party which supplemented the civilian crews of two fishing vessels, the Nora Niven and the Simplon that swept the mine fields in 1918-19. Once this was completed Frank was discharged on 19 June 1919, having completed his naval engagement and the war being over. In July joined the Army for home service as a motor driver in Wellington in which he served for several months. In the 1920s Frank joined the New Zealand Railways, married and started a large family. With the outbreak of war in 1939 he tried to join the Navy again, but was refused because the rates of naval pay were insufficient to support his family. By 1943 the rates of pay and allowances had increased and he joined the Royal New Zealand Navy as an Able Seaman, spending the remainder of the war in various shore establishments in New Zealand. He died in 1975.