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A twin-masted scow (flat-bottomed schooner) of New Zealand registry, Echo was built in New Zealand in 1905 by William Brown, of kauri timber. She was originally topsail rigged. Twin diesel engines were installed in 1920. She was transferred to the US Navy under reverse Lend-Lease from New Zealand and commissioned on 4 November 1942 with Ensign M. C. Riddle in command.
Sailing from Auckland on 11 November 1942, Echo delivered cargo at Noumea en route to Efate in the New Hebrides. Based on this island at Port Vila, she served as a supply ship for the United States Army in the New Hebrides and adjoining island groups. On 14 February 1944, just prior to her departure for New Zealand, the Army awarded her crew a commendation. She arrived at Wellington on 12 March 1944, was decommissioned three days later, and returned to the New Zealand Government.
In 1942-44 she was used by US forces in the Pacific, and her story was the basis for the 1960 film with Jack Lemmon, The Wackiest Ship in the Army and the 1965 TV series. The storyline involved a secret mission with an Australian Coastwatcher played by Chips Rafferty.
She was in use carrying cargo from Marlborough to Wellington until 1965, and hence was not available for the film. She was then used from 1972 as clubrooms by the Marlborough Cruising Club, but she deteriorated, and was nearly broken up in 1990. She is now preserved at Picton, New Zealand as the Echo Gallery, a scow museum and café, and can be visited at the Picton Marina.
Karamea Steamship Company
Richardson's of Napier 1916
T. Eckford & Co. Ltd 1920 & 1944 to 1972
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