1924: Wireless might have saved Ripple crew – PM

WF Massey

WF Massey

The disappearance of the coastal steamer Ripple near Cape Palliser in 1924 prompted the New Zealand Government to consider whether ships operating on the New Zealand coast should be required to carry wireless equipment.

Prime Minister William Ferguson Massey raised the issue in his remarks at a memorial service for the 14 crew of SS Ripple.

Evening Post (Wellington), 15 August 1924, p 6


The chapel of the Sailors’ Friend Society Institute was crowded last evening when the Prime Minister (the Right Hon WF Massey) unveiled a memorial tablet to the men who lost their lives in the sinking of the coastal steamer Ripple, the tablet being inscribed:

To the glory of God and in loving memory of the late captain, officers, and crew of the s.s. Ripple, which foundered at sea, 6th August, 1924. Thy way is in the sea.

The tablet is the ninth of its kind in the sailors’ chapel of the institute. Associated with it are tablets to the memory of the personnel of the Ohau, Hinemoa, Penguin, Ventnor, Lizzie Belle, Woollahra, Elingamite, Moana and Omaka.

“In a sense o£ duty to those who have been lost, and to those who have been bereaved, I have come to unveil the tablet to their memory,” said Mr Massey. “There are many here to-night who remember the wrecks on the New Zealand coast that are memorialised by the tablets on these walls. I myself remember a great many of them but I cannot recall an occasion when the people were so shocked as when the news came to them of the disaster that befell that wll-known, sturdy little steamer, the Ripple, that went down with all hands.

“I feel that there is no necessity to mention to you here that our sympathies went out if full to the bereaves, to those who are left to mourn, and who are now experiencing the full significance of ‘the vacant chair,'” he continued. “Probably we shall never know the details of the actual disaster, but we may be certain, with full confidence, that the officers and crew were all brave, reliable men, who, whatever else took place, observed the last the fine traditions of their class, as the British seamen has [sic] ever done. It is our duty, and the duty of Government, Parliament and people to do everything possible to make the ships that go out from our ports safe for those that sail in them. Nothing must be left undone to provide the most modern means of ensuring the safety of life. None can say with certainty that wireless would have saved those on board, but wireless has done great things in saving life at sea, as we ourselves know from the experience of the personnel of the American schooner Helen B Stirling being rescued in the last moment by the cruiser Melbourne which picked up her call for help.”

Mr Massey spoke of the fortitude of the British seaman during the war years more especially during the period of intensive submarine operations; the Navy and the mercantile marine between them had shared the great task of maintaining the Empire’s sea communications during the darkest days of war.

“In my visits to Britain,” said Mr Massey, “in voyages across the Atlantic I never met a sailor that did not give whole-souled devotion to his duty, that did not, even after getting safe ashore from his torpedoed ship, want to go back again, to help his comrades bear the heavy responsibility cast on them’, whether it be in the ships of the Navy or those of the mercantile marine, which kept up the food supplies to Britain and to the soldiers on Britain’s many fighting fronts. Those who take pride in reading British history know what a big share the mercantile marine, to which the Ripple belonged, had in building up the Empire.”

The missioner (Mr James Moore) preached an eloquent sermon, taking his text from Genesis xvi., 9. Mr HE Nicholls recited the 26th Psalm, and Mr HT Johns read the lesson from John xiv., 1-15. Miss Gwen Esau sang “O Rest in the Lord.” Mrs Good presided at the organ, and with her was Mr Weston (clarinet). Prior to the service tea was provided for 45 sailors by Mr BC Warnes.