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This website is developed from the site originally conceived developed & maintained by Marcus Castell and associates. Opinions are those of the various authors of the articles, and are not those of the NZ National Maritime Museum unless specifically noted. Information in this site has been updated to 2002 and will be progressively updated as resources allow. More information on historic ships (etc) is contained in the MARITIME INDEX website

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HMS Sparrow 1889 - 1906     NZS  Amokura 1906 - 1955

Ship's Log

1889     September 26     The Goldfinch (1st) class gunboat was launched from the Scott's Ship Building and Engineering Company yard at Greenock, Scotland at a cost of £43,642.

1890     May 13     Commissioned as H. M.S. Sparrow.

1890     Believed to have served in the Persian Gulf initially and then on the South and East Africa stations where she used in the suppression of the slave trade in the Congo area until about 1900.

1891     Commanded by Lieutenant Fraser, she was one of the fleet on the Gambia River and her crew took an active part in land encounters against natives who forcibly resisted the passage of the Anglo-French Boundray Commission.

1892     After very fierce fighting, a Naval Division from the vessel captured and destroyed the well-fortified strongholds of Tambi and Toniatuba, in reprisal for the massacre of tribes who were under British protection.

1893     Under the command of Lieutenant Cole the vessel was engaged in punitive expeditions in East Africa.

1895     Sparrow was a unit of Rear-Admiral Rawson's fleet held in readiness on the West African coast.

1896     The first known match of cricket in Kenya was played in Mombasa in 1896. The occasion was a visit of H.M.S. Sparrow. The challenge of the Sparrow was immediately accepted, but the ship having left her cricket gear at Zanzibar, it was doubtful whether the paraphernalia of the game would be mustered.

             However three bails in various stages of preservation were turned up, some stumps were made and enough bats and pads found to go round. Coast team scored 41 and Sparrow replied with 51. In the second innings Coast scored 50/9 declared, tried to get the ship people out by the call of "time". In this they failed, and the match was accordingly won by the Sparrow on the first innings.

1900     May     Based at Sydney, she was in commission for the Australian Squadron, from where she visited NZ regularly and served until the 31st of March, 1904.

Warships of the Royal Navy's Australian Squadron at Lyttelton, 22nd June 1901
Sparrow is third from the Left

1901     June 11 - 27     Escorted the Royal yacht Ophir around the New Zealand coast when the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York (later King George V and Queen Mary) visited the colony.

1904     March 31     Laid up at the Garden Island Naval Dockyard for a year.

1905     February 28     Although they had originally sought a larger vessel, she was taken over by the New Zealand Government from the Royal Navy.

1905     March 21     Under the jurisdiction of the New Zealand Defence Department and the command of Captain Post, Sparrow arrived at Wellington.  The cost of bringing her across the Tasman had been £722, four shillings and fourpence.  She lay at anchor for another year while her use as a training ship was approved and formalised by Parliament.

1905     March     Her first New Zealand skipper until he resigned a year later, was Frank Worsley (Right) who later gained fame as the commander of the Endurance on Shackleton's 1913-16 polar expedition.  In April 1916, after the Endurance had become ice-bound, Worsley navigated the open boat James Caird in the epic 800 mile trip from Elephant Island to South Georgia.

             He had served as chief officer for Sparrow's delivery voyage from Sydney under his old skipper, Captain Post of the Government Steamer Tutanekai.   Worsley stayed with her during her year at anchor in Wellington Harbour on a salary of ten shillings per day and technically he was in command of a Royal Naval vessel while only a sub-lieutenant in the naval reserve.

1906     July 10     Purchased by the New Zealand Government from the Royal Navy for £800.

1906     October     Stripped of her armament and converted at Wellington, she was commissioned as the Training Ship Amokura (a red-tailed tropical bird), she was no longer a warship but a government funded training vessel.

1906     A proposal to rename the vessel the Richard John Seddon after "King Dick," the recently demised New Zealand Premier was nearly proceeded with, and postcards (above) were published bearing the name. However, they named one of the remoter towns on the South Island's West coast after him instead.

1907     February     Transferred to the Marine Department to prepare young New Zealanders for either the naval or merchant services.

1907     Above: the 38 foot Taiaroa was constructed as a ship's motor launch for the Amokura , she was subsequently sold to the Otago Harbour Board as a work-boat, but had returned to Wellington by 1985, where she was known to still be in service as a private motor launch in 1989.  The Amokura's 25 foot sailing cutter was sold to the Army and used at Fort Dorset in Wellington Harbour.

1907     March 19     Under the command of Captain S. E. Hooper, Amokura received her first intake of sixty 12 to 14-year-old boys, who were taught navigation, seamanship, marine engines and gun drill by four instructors.  For the next twelve years she was a familiar sight in New Zealand ports.  The training voyages occupied about a third of her time and she wintered over at Port Nicholson (Wellington) and did two cruises every Summer, chiefly under sail, to the sub-Antarctic Islands and the Kermadecs.  Captain Hooper continued as her master for the duration of her commission as a training ship

Cadets manning the pumps during a fire drill.

         Captain Hooper combined tactfulness and understanding in his methods of dealing with the youths who sought personally to pierce the mysteries and investigate the romance of the the sea.  The greater part of the ship's cruising was done under canvas, for which purpose she carried three square sails on the foremast, but was fore-and-aft rigged on the others.  Her usual run was, towards the end of the year, from Wellington to Picton and then Port Chalmers, thence to the Auckland Islands, Campbell Islands, Antipodes and Bounty and back to Wellington.  In the New Year she sailed North, calling at the Great Barrier and the Kermadecs, then South-about for Winter quarters at Port Nicholson.  The excursions into the turbulent Southern seas provided the boys with rough weather experience in plenty.


527 boys trained for a term of eighteen months aboard her, 25 of them going on to naval service and most of the others into the merchant marine, eventually to become deck officers.  At one time a high proportion of the New Zealand merchant marine was commanded by former Amokura cadets.

Cadet sailmakers learning to use the palm and needle.

For the first six months of service the boys were paid a penny a day and then tuppence per day.  Each boy was allowed threepence a week pocket money when permitted to go ashore and five shillings (or ten shillings in the case of boys from six to nine months service) when they went on leave.  These amounts were deducted from the pay due when the boys finally left the ship.

Among them was the renowned maritime historian Norman Collins who would rise to become the senior Master of the Anchor Line of Nelson's fleet.


Above: postcards of the Amokura, The card to the Left showing her in Wellington harbour was printed after 1907, but before 1915 as the postage of 1d abroad mentioned on the back of the card was increased in 1915 when half penny war tax was added.  The date or location of the Right hand image is unkown, but from the buildings at right being so close to the waterline, it must be an enclosed harbour such as Nelson or possibly Napier before the earthquake.

1907     November     The monthly cost of the upkeep of the vessel amounted to £501 and eight pence when at sea and £329 one shilling and eight pence while moored.

1909     Fifteen year old David McLeish joined the vessel as a cadet, he would work his way up to be the much admired master of the Union Line's Maori of 1953.

The crew's monthly salaries at this time were;

Commander     £25
Chief Officer     £17
Second Officer     £14
Chief Engineer     £22
Second Engineer     £16
Engine-room hand £10
3 Fireman     at £10 each
4 Instructors     at £9 each
Chief Steward     £11
Chief Cook     £11
Assistant Steward     £6.10.0
Medical Attendant     £8.6.8
1910     Right: departing from Wellington on one of her Summer cruises.

1910     James Gaby joined the vessel as a First Class boy on the Starboard watch, his account of his time aboard the training ship is appended below.

1913     Arrangements were made with the Union Steam Ship Company to take a small quota of Amokura boys for training as deck officers, first on the sailing ship Dartfrord and later on the steamer Aparima.

1914-1915     The Staff. Back, from Left: H. Williams, T. Hurley, J. Cree, J. Power, G. Upton, R. C. Knox, E. Martin. Front, from Left: Neilson, Chief Officer Barnsdale, Captain Hooper, Chief Engineer Pike, Second Engineer Varian.

1914     March 6     At Ship Cove in the Marlborough Sounds, where more than 2,000 people had gathered for the unveiling of a monument to Captain James Cook.  Between 1770 and 1777 Cook visited the cove on five occasions, staying for up to a month at a time.

1916     Above: the instructors. Back, from Left: F. J. Martin, R. C. Knox. Front, from Left: S. Hopper, J. Power.

1916     March 23     At Port Ross in the Auckland Islands on a training cruise.  She is known to not have wireless communications installed at this time.


1916-1917     Above Left: the crew after a trip ashore at Sunday Island. Right Captain Hooper with cadets ashore on Bounty Island

1919     When stripped for repairs she showed signs of disintegration due to her strenuous life on active service in the tropics.  The cost of returning her to good seaworthy condition was deemed to be prohibitive and brought an end to her seagoing voyages.

             The British Government offered HMS Diamond as a replacement, but the cost of conversion to a training ship was considered to be too great and the political will faltered.  The cost of training each of the sixty boys was £166 per annum, with the local shipping companies reaping the benefit, while the government bore all of the costs, which now amounted to £10,000 a year.

1921     December 16     Under the command of Captain W. Burgess, the last boy was discharged and the vessel was formally paid off in late December.

1922     February     Disposed by the government to Mr. E. A. Jory and dismantled at Wellington, she was then sold to the Westport Coal Co. Ltd for use as a coal hulk.

1940     Sold to the Union Steam Ship Company of New Zealand Ltd. for further use as a coal hulk at Port Nicholson (Wellington).

             The Amokura Old Boy's Association, with the Prime Minister as patron was know to be in existence at this time.

1953     March     Sold again and towed to St Omer Bay in the Kenepuru Sound on the South Island's Northern coast, where she was used as a store hulk and jetty.

1955     Though reported broken up in 1955, her remains still exist.

1967     A Chairman's gavel (hammer), made from Teak taken from the hulk of the Amokura was presented to the Nelson Harbour Board.

1986     The Sounds Cruising Guide (see bibliography next page) reported, "In the southern end of the bay there is the hulk of the sailing ship Amokura on the beach.  This hulk is privately owned and has for many years been slowly dismantled for scrap."

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