The Durham was built in 1934 by Workman, Clark (1928) Limited in Belfast.


Technical Data on Durham indicates that she was a refrigerated cargo vessel of 10,984 gross tons with a length overall of 510 feet 0 inches and an insulated cargo capacity of 496,878 cubic feet. Her 2 diesel engines gave her a service speed of 16 knots.


Durham was designed to be a cadet training ship, and she operated in this role between 1934 and 1939, 1946 and 1950 and, finally, 1955 and 1964. She could carry up to 40 cadets, and their living accommodation and schoolroom were housed in the No. 6 Upper Tween Deck. Full-time instructional staff included a schoolmaster, a seamanship instructor and a physical education instructor.


Whilst a cadet’s life on board one of the New Zealand Shipping Company’s cadet ships is well summarised in the Company’s prospectus printed in 1962, photographs and anecdotes are a great way to show that cadets not only worked hard but played hard.


Any material that you would like to display would be most gratefully received.

Technical data on Durham taken from a copy of her capacity plan, dated as at September 1955, are available for download as a pdf here.


The intention is to produce a data sheet on Durham’s 2 cycle, single-acting [Sulzer] diesel engines and on her auxiliary machinery in a similar format to that now available for Rakaia’s engine and auxiliary machinery.


Any technical information in the form of text, diagrams or pictures that you may have of Durham’s engines and auxiliary machinery would be most gratefully received.

Bill Fraser has written an account of his time, as an apprentice, on the Durham in 1941. It tells of the voyage from Gibraltar to Malta and back – the second leg of which proved to be so eventful. Although Durham was not operating in the role of a cadet ship during World War II, this account is too good to miss, and it is available for download as a pdf here.


David Watt was the Instructional Officer on the Durham in 1962 when she was involved in a dramatic medical emergency mission in the North Atlantic. An account of this mission compiled from material kindly provided by David is available for download as a pdf here.


Peter Matthews was an apprentice on the Durham between 1956 and 1959. He has written an account of his experiences based on a letter that he sent home to his mother in 1956, and it is available for download as a pdf here.


Mike Smith’s second voyage as a cadet on the Durham turned out to be an epic. Mike has recorded his memories of this 13-month voyage, during which the Durham spent 6 months in Galveston, Texas, whilst the broken crankshafts from both her main engines were replaced. His account, complete with photographs from Peter Lloyd and Peter Snow, is available for download as a pdf here.


John Norris was an Able Seaman on the Durham during the early 1950s, when she was not operating as a cadet ship. He has written this very interesting article about his experiences on Durham during her voyage number 35, and it is available for download as a pdf here.


John Norris has also provided the Track Chart of voyage 35, which was given to him at the end of that voyage. This chart has been digitally recompiled, and it is available for download as a pdf here. It is best viewed at a magnification of between 200% and 300%.


Captain Richard (Dick) Baker was an extraordinarily talented man who started his sea-going career during the Second World War at the age of 16, and, whilst still an apprentice, he was transferred to the Durham on her first post war voyage as a cadet ship. Quite apart from being a first class seaman, Dick was a painter of some considerable note. His friend, Jim Highfield, wrote a moving tribute to Dick, which was read at Dick’s funeral on Wednesday 29th September 2004. An image of one of Dick’s paintings, showing the Rakaia and the Otaio passing at sea, has been added to this tribute, which is available for download as a pdf here.


Volume 2, No.1, of the Durham Log magazine, published in July 1946, has particular significance in that it marked the return of Durham as a Cadet Training Ship after service in the Second World War. A facsimile of this volume, the original of which is stored in the Durham Corner on HQS Wellington, is available for download as a pdf here.


The Australian Women’s Weekly newspaper published a very interesting article on Durham cadets on 11th May 1946, and a document combining the text of this article with twenty-four photographs is available for download as a pdf here.


Any anecdotes that you may have of Durham would be most gratefully received.