In World war One the germans sent out commercial raiders to disrupt the flow of food and materials to the U.K.. One of these was the Wolf which was in New Zealand waters from April to June 1917. I first got interested in the story while I was stationed at Raoul Island when working for the Metservice.

German raider Wolf
SMS Wolf

The Wolf sank the Wairuna and Winslow at Raoul Island after they were captured there while the Wolf was putting out a coal bunker fire and doing repairs. Although the Winslow being a wooden schooner broke into many pieces, some of wich was washed ashore, the Wairuna rolled over and sank on the north side of Raoul. No Lat/Long was entered into the war diary as simply 'Raoul Island' was a sufficient location. It would have sank in a location no current recreational divers would dive, unless specifically looking for her. The topography of the seafloor suggests it will either be shallow enough for divers or too deep to dive as it shelves off very steeply on the north side where she went down.

Port Kembla
Port Kembla (Photo courtesy of Ian Farquhar)

The Port Kembla was dived in February 2007 by Pete Mesley and Simon Mitchell after research showed two possible locations. As the chosen location did turn out to be the Port Kembla with the recovery of two dinner plates and a ships bell, question now is what is at the other location to the NE ? She sank after hitting a mine laid by the Wolf off Cape Farewell.

 

SS Wimmera
SS Wimmera

The Wimmera sank in 1918 after striking a mine laid by the Wolf. This was very unfortunate as the minefield was already known by this time and shipping going around the top of New Zealand to Australia were supposed to take a course that would take them outside the Three Kings. For some unknown reason Cpt. Kell took a course that took them between the Three Kings and Cape Reinga, striking the mines. 26 people died, none of which it seems at this time were ever recovered. As the mines that struck the Wimmera hit near the stern, this area had a large number of passenger cabins and it is likely they never got out of the ship before she sank.

Most of the research I'm doing is to confirm the locations of these wrecks but also to get personal stories from relatives that have been passed down and anything else that tells the story of this little known story of New Zealand history. Such as the story of one of the Wairuna's crew who got wounded at Gallipoli and was sent home. A doctor later suggested a trip on the ocean with the salt air would help his wounds heal, so he signed on the Wairuna in Auckland only to be captured by germans at Raoul and taken back to Germany.

If anyone has stories or information to pass on, please contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

SS Wairuna
SS Wairuna, Raoul Island in the background, photo taken from the Wolf.

SV Winslow
Winslow at Raoul Island, Wairuna in background.
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