Ship's History: With kind thanks to the Royal New Zealand Navy Museum.
One of three small Bird class corvettes ordered by New Zealand, HMNZS Tui (Pennant number T234 and later P33) her call sign was in fact ZMSQ was built by Henry Robb Ltd. of Leith, Scotland at a cost of Â£80,000 and was completed by November 1941. This class was based on the design of an experimental Royal Navy minesweeping trawler HMS Basset (also designed and built in the Leith Shipyards of Henry Robb.) and were the first new ships to enter service with the Royal New Zealand Navy. This class of vessel was designed for training in seamanship, gunnery, minesweeping, and torpedo. Tui had a mounting for a training torpedo tube but was never used during the war. In wartime these vessels could be assigned to minesweeping and escort duties.
Tui departed Greenock, Scotland on 15 March 1942 to assist in escorting a convoy to St Johns, Newfoundland and then carried out further working up exercises off Northern England. She arrived in Auckland on 4 August 1942. In early December, Tui joined HMNZS Moa, Kiwi, and Matai at Noumea to constitute a New Zealand anti-submarine flotilla which was designated the 25th Minesweeping Flotilla. The flotilla would serve under the command of a United States Navy officer who was the Commander, South Pacific Area. The Flotilla arrived off Lunga on Guadalcanal Island on 15 December and after fuelling and watering proceeded onto anti-submarine patrols.
On 30 January 1943 in company with Moa, Tui encountered four Japanese landing barges, silencing the leading barge and sinking two others. On 19 August 1943 Tui sailed from Noumea as antisubmarine escort to the US Navy supply ship USS Taganak and the liberty ship Wiley Post, bound for Espiritu Santo. Shortly after two o'clock in the afternoon the asdic operator in Tui reported a 'contact' bearing east, at the long range of 3100 metres. The convoy was ordered to make an emergency turn to starboard and commenced zigzagging at full speed.
Tui then carried out a series of three runs over the position (see copy of Tui's Track Chart below) launching a total of four depth charges. Contact was then lost. At this stage American seaplanes arrived and assisted in the hunt. At 5.15 pm what looked like the conning tower of a submarine was sighted. It was well out of range and making away at speed under much brown, oily smoke. Tui opened fire with her 4-inch (102mm) gun and scored two hits. She ceased fire after twenty rounds, and three American aircraft then attacked with depth-charges. Then the submarine was seen to up-end and sink vertically. Three minutes later two heavy underwater explosions were heard on the ASDIC phones and felt throughout the ship. Tui picked up six Japanese ratings, the only survivors of the submarine's complement of more than ninety officers and ratings. She received orders to return to Noumea, where she arrived next morning.
Interrogation or the prisoners disclosed that the submarine was the I-17, a sister ship to the I-1 that had been sunk by Kiwi and Moa. She was the seventeenth Japanese submarine destroyed in South Pacific since January 1942. During the last quarter of 1943, Tui along with Matai and Kiwi gave anti-submarine escort to supply ships returning to New Georgia, Vella Lavella, and the Treasury Islands. From January 1944 onward the Flotilla saw similar service in the Bougainville area. Tui returned to New Zealand later in 1944 for refitting and then saw service in the Solomon Islands in late 1944 to early 1945. In March 1945 she went on escort duty to Hollandia, on the north coast of Dutch New Guinea.
Tui returned to Auckland in July 1945 and was placed in reserve. Of the 25th Minesweeping Flotilla at which Tui was a part, the US Commander South Pacific Area, Admiral Halsey, paid the tribute that the 'alert and courageous actions of the crews of these gallant little ships merit the highest praise.' In August 1945 Tui was deployed to help in the clearance of the Auckland minefields, going into reserve in June 1946.
She recommissioned in February 1952, as a training ship, before paying off in May 1955 for conversion to a research ship. Her armament was removed and her superstructure was extended aft, to provide space for laboratories, offices and additional accommodation. Rated as a Royal New Zealand Fleet Auxiliary, she made many scientific voyages around New Zealand, the Southern Oceans, and the South pacific between March 1956 and December 1967, including many scientific cruises for the DSIR and NRL to places around New Zealand and Pacific islands. She investigated shipwrecks, notably MV Holmglen off Timaru in in 1959 and Kaitawa off Cape Reinga in 1966.
Tui was finally decommissioned on 22 December 1967. She was stripped of her equipment and sold in December 1969 to Pacific Scrap Ltd who demolished her.
She was replaced in 1970 by a purpose built oceanographic ship with the same name.when she finally paid off.
HMNZS TUI seen hear in this photograph (reproduced with permission) as an oceanographic survey ship.