Topic: Samuel Tanner (1894-1917)

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Marine engineer Samuel Tanner was with the Merchant Navy during World War I. He was aboard the ship 'City of Perth' when it was torpedoed without warning by a German submarine and sunk on 11 June 1917. Samuel was one of eight who were killed. Story by Debbie McCauley.

Samuel Tanner was born in Tauranga on 7 August 1894 (reg. 1894/7999). His parents were Joseph and Florence Bellamy Tanner (nee Ayers) who married in New Zealand in 1890 (reg. 1890/2250).

He was educated at Remuera District School and Auckland Grammar School. Samuel spent five years working at Fraser and Sons' foundry in Stanley Street. In September 1916 he passed as third-class engineer, having attended evening classes in engineering at Mr Bower's school.

He left New Zealand in November 1916 for London where he joined the Merchant Navy as fourth engineer. 

Samuel was one of eight killed when the steam cargo ship 'City of Perth' was torpedoed without warning by German submarine U-70 and sunk on 11 June 1917. The ship was returning to England from Egypt and was near to Lands End when it was struck in the engine room at 8.11pm.

Samuel never stood a chance at survival. He had just taken over the watch and when he went to draw water the torpedo struck where he was standing. It is believe that the side of the ship was blown in and the boilers exploded. Samuel was aged 23.

His death notices appeared in the Bay of Plenty Times:

TANNER Fourth-Engineer Samuel Tanner, reported lost through the torpedoing of the British steamer City of Perth, was a son of Mr and Mrs J Tanner, of Bell Road, Remuera, Auckland. He was 23 years of age. Mr Tanner received the information by private cable on Wednesday last. The deceased, who was a nephew of Mr Thomas Tanner of Tauranga, was born in this town, and in early life resided here and at Papamoa (Bay of Plenty Times, 27 June 1917, p. 2).

Fourth Engineer Samuel Tanner who was killed on a transport torpedoed on June 11 last, was the eldest son of Mr and Mrs Joseph Tanner of Remuera, and a nephew of Messrs Thomas and Samuel Tanner of Tauranga. He was born at Tauranga in 1894 and educated at the Remuera and Auckland Grammar Schools. He received five years training in a Parnell foundry as a marine engineer, and passed his examinations last November in Auckland for third-class marine engineer and first class oil engineer. He left New Zealand on transport duty in November last. After reaching London he rejoined as fourth engineer on the transport (Bay of Plenty Times, 28 September 1917, p. 2). 

Samuel is remembered on the Tower Hill Memorial, a Commonwealth War Graves Commission war memorial. The Tower Hill Memorial commemorates men and women of the Merchant Navy and Fishing Fleets who died in both World Wars and who have no known grave. It stands on the south side of the garden of Trinity Square in London, England.

Samuel Tanner (1894-1917)


Auckland Star (21 September 1917, p. 7).

Auckland War Memorial Museum: Cenotaph Record.

Bay of Plenty Deaths 1872-1920: T - Z.

Births, Deaths and Marriages Online (New Zealand).

Kean, Fiona (2014). From Tauranga to the Trenches.

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Samuel Tanner (1894-1917)

First Names:Samuel
Last Name:Tanner
Date of Birth:7 August 1894
Place of Birth:Tauranga
Country of birth:New Zealand
Date of death:11 June 1917
Place of death:Killed at Sea
Place of burial:Tower Hill Memorial
Occupation:marine engineer
Fathers name:Joseph Tanner
Fathers date of birth:1862
Fathers place of birth:Bandon, County Cork, Ireland
Fathers date of death:1928
Fathers place of death:Remuera, Auckland, New Zealand
Mothers name:Florence Bellamy Ayers
Mothers date of birth:1860
Mothers place of birth:Clerkenwell, Middlesex, England
Mothers date of death:1923
Mothers place of death:Auckland, New Zealand
Military Service:World War I (1914-1918)