The article below was written by Douglas Gurton in 1976. The Hope Inn, Tollesbury, closed in 2009. The plaque is now in The Kings Head, Tollesbury.
Hanging on the wall of the Porthole Bar in the "Hope Inn" is a
small wooden plaque, evidently made by a seamen, for it embodies
the badge of the Merchant Navy, the name "M.V. Orari" and
date 1930 - 1958 on a scroll, supported by roundels depicting the
house flags of the New Zealand Shipping Company, the whole encircled
by a rope carved motif.
On seeing it, one immediately thinks
"the "badge of a ship', but no ordinary ship, for during its lifetime
of 28 years it held more than the proverbial cat's nine lives in the war years
of 1939-1945. The whole thrilling story is told in the NZS Co's
war-time history book "Ordeal by Sea" along with the accounts, of the
exploits of the other ships of their fleet.
What is particularly interesting, so far as this village is concerned,
is the fact that during the War M.V. "Orari" was commanded by a
Tollesbury man, Captain Nelson Rice, a member of a very old and respected
family in the village.
Capt. Rice served his apprenticeship in square rigged sailing ships and
was one of the few Tollesbury men to possess a "Square rigged" master's
certificate. For many years employed by the New Zealand Shipping Co.
until his retirement in 1961 he rose to eminence in the last war
when in command of the "Orari" this vessel was subjected to repeated
attacks by enemy U boats and aircraft. The first occasion was on the
13th December 1940 when travelling independently from Australia for the
20th time, the vessel was torpedoed 450 miles south west of Ireland,
but by taking evasive action was able to avoid further attacks, and
although badly holed aft was able to make the "Tail-o-the-Bank"
River Clyde, three days later, with a gash 34' x 17' in Nos. 4 and
5 holds on the port side.
One unexploded torpedo landed on No. 4 hatch, and had to be
secured by crew members. The epic was captured in a painting
by the renowned marine artist Sir Norman Wilkinson, a copy of
which was presented to Capt. Rice, who was also presented to H.M.
King George VI on the Clyde.
Again on the 10th March 1942 and 4th June 1942 the M.V. Orari
was attacked when on convoy to Malta, but by the inspiration and
leadership of Capt. Rice the vessel was able to make port although
badly damaged. Members of the crew were decorated and commended.
Capt. Rice was awarded successively the O.B.E., C.B.E. , and
Lloyd's War Medal for his outstanding qualities of leadership,
seamanship and navigation.
Capt. Rice passed away sometime ago after a long and painful illness.
The plaque was brought to Tollesbury by a former Bo'sun of the ship,
Mr. Moxley, who together with two former crew members of the ship, the
late Henry Purvis and Lennoxton Leavett, were pleased to present it
to "The Hope'' for perpetuity.
The article above was written by Douglas Gurton in 1976. The Hope Inn, Tollesbury, closed in 2009 and the plaque is now in the Public Bar of the nearby Kings Head.