2010: Letter from Charles Glennie about Gothic fire

CA Glennie of Awarua Radio ZLBCharles A Glennie was a radio operator at Awarua Radio from 1946, and manager from 1974 until his retirement in 1976.

3 Mitchell Street

6 August 2010

Dr Jim Sullivan
Radio New Zealand

On the first of August you referred to the anniversary of the fire aboard the M.V. “Gothic” (the one time Royal Yacht of the Queen’s Tour) which was in the mid-Pacific on that date in 1968 en route to Panama and the U.K. This reminded me of one of the notable feats of radio reception which occurred at Awarua Radio Station south of Invercargill, where on the evening of that day I was on duty with radio-telegraphist Mr David Dow, a good friend and first class operator.

He picked up the very weak distress signal from “Gothic” made on the 8 mc/s marine calling frequency with a life boat transmitter, as the bridge radio room had been destroyed.

I recall that when we relayed the details on the appropriate channels in N.Z. there was some initial incredulity but of course it was all very real. I think there was some loss of life and later a report that the fire was thought to have started in the accommodation area from a cigarette butt discarded by a passenger.

The ship returned to N.Z. and was eventually refitted and returned to normal service, although in that period air travel and containers were about to largely replace conventional cargo/passenger shipping of that kind.

Hoping that this may be of some historical interest,

Charles A Glennie