NZ1716 Leading Steward Ngata (Hooky[i]) Betram Walker – Royal New Zealand Navy

Ngata Betram was born on 16th August 1922 along with his twin Selwyn Desmond Walker, the oldest sons of Edith Doris (nee Ambridge) and Albert Walker[ii].  The couple’s third son Vernon Hinemoa Walker was born in 1926. 

The Walkers were living in Tawa in 1927 when Ngata and Selwyn started school at the Tawa Flat School. Ngata and
Selwyn then went to secondary school at the Wellington Technical College. In 1937 Albert died leaving Edith to bring up their three boys.

Ngata left college after two years just 15 possibly to assist his mother joining the Post and Telegraph (P&T) Department
as a messenger. Ngata also enlisted as a Private in the Territorial Army, 2nd Composite New Zealand Army Service Corps.

On 8th March 1939, aged 16½ Ngata applied to join the New Zealand Division of the Royal Navy as a Boy Steward. Boy Steward Walker arrived at New Zealand training facility HMNZS Philomel on 3rd May 1939. With the threat of war Boy Steward Walker signed on for active service until he reached age 18.

Following training at Philomel Boy Steward Walker was signed on as crew of HMNZS Achilles on 29th August 1939, five
days before the outbreak of World War Two.

HMNZS Achilles a Leander class cruiser and was en route to patrol the West Coast of South America looking for German merchant ships. The Achilles joined, on 22nd October 1939, joined
Commode Harwood’s Force G at the Falklands.  The German Pocket
Battleship Admiral Graf Spee was reported as operating in the South
Atlantic. There were long periods of patrolling off the Brazilian Coast
to protect shipping in the area. On the 8th December 1939 Achilles in
port, Montevideo, Uruguay but left on the 9th December 1939 to join
another Leader class cruiser HMS Ajax with orders to patrol in the
River Plate area. They were joined by HMS Exeter a light cruiser under
the command of Commodore Harwood.  On the morning of
13th December 1939 the Admiral Graf Spee was sighted by H Force
and the Battle of the River Plate commenced.  On board the Achilles
the New Zealand ensign was raised the first of a New Zealand cruiser
to engage the enemy.

       HMNZS Achilles in action at the Battle of the River Plate 

The action resulted in the Admiral Graf Spee seeking shelter and later being scuttled by her German crew.  The Achilles’ suffered four killed and seven wounded and damage to her control tower and following the destruction of the Admiral
Graf Spee was direct to return to New Zealand for refitting.

The Achilles arrived in Auckland on 23rd February 1940 and                                                                                                                   the crew were given a parades in Auckalnd and                                                                                                                                         Wellingtondown to commemoration of their role in the                                                                                                                           important sea battle. Boy Stewart Walker   marched with
                                                                                                                 his shipmates in the parade.  

                                                                                                                                 Auckland Parade for HMNZS Achilles

                                                                                                                  Given leave Boy Steward Walker had a more personal                                                                                                                              welcome when he returned home.[iii]
         ‘Tawa Flat residents turned out in great numbers, as did eesidents of surrounding districts, to give a fitting welcome                home to Mr Ngata Walker of H.M.S. Archilles. On entering the Tawa Hall, where the reception was held. Mr Ngata                   Walker, who was accompanied by Mrs Walker and their family and relatives, was cheered to the echo. The troupe of                “sailor girls and boys” also welcomed him in nautical fashion and sand a song of welcome, specially written by a                      friend.
         The Tawa Flat Harmonica Band, under the conductorship of Mr E Hooker, played “The Fleet’s in Port Again,” for the                 Navy. “Wings over the Navy,” for the Air Force, the4 “Beer Barrel Polka.” For the Army, and “Wish me Luck,” for the                   guest of honour, who was carried shoulder high by old school friends.
        Flowers were given to Mrs Walker by Norma Mexted and other flower presentations were made by Pamela
        McLachlan. Speeches were made by Mrs Paton, Miss Magill, Mr Nairn, and Mr Walker’s twin brother Mr Selwyn Walker.          The guest of honour, in response to a request, gave an account of the engagement with the Graf Spee, and this was              the highlight of the evening.’

Boy Steward Walker returned to the Achilles, on the 16th August 1940 being promoted to Assistant Steward at the same timing signing on as an 18 year old for another 12 years of service. Assistant Steward Walker remained on Achilles until 17th December 1940 when he was assigned to Philomel . While with the Philomel, Assistant Steward Walker was
promoted to Steward on 1st July 1941 remaining at the Philomel until December 1941 when he was transferred to the minesweeper HMNZS Gale, the Gale was operating at the time in the South Pacific. Steward Walker remained on the Gale until 1st September 1942 when he was made Leading Steward (Temporary) and transferred to the NZHMS Leander. Leander and her sister ship the Achilles were operating as part of an ANZAC Naval Force.  Leading Steward (T) Walker was confirmed as a Leading Seaman on 1st March 1943 and was with the Leander in July 1943 during the Battle of Kolombangara. In an engagement of Japanese and Allied ships
in Kula Gulf, Solomon Islands. The Leander was hit by a
Japanese “long lance’ torpedo with 26 men killed. The Leander
heavily damaged was eventually moved back to Auckland for

                                                             HMNZS Leander 

It was during the period of repairs in Devonport that the

engagement of Leading Steward Walker was announced[iv].
          Walker – Bennington
          The engagement is announced between Shirley Mavis Bennington (WAAF) ,

          eldest daughter of Mrs E A Bennington, Gladstone Rd, Gisborne, and
          Leading Steward Ngata Bertram Walker RNZN, twin son of Mrs E Walker and
          the late Mr A Walker, Tawa Flat.
In December 1943 Leander was ordered to Boston for ongoing repairs Leading Steward Walker following the arrival in Boston was then ordered, in February 1944, to rejoin the Achilles. The Achilles was in dock in Portsmouth, England for a refit after damage in the Solomon campaign. The repairs took longer than anticipated so in 7th May 1944 Leading Steward Walker was transferred to HMS Orchis. The flower class corvette Orchis was patrolling the English Channel on anti submarine duty covering the D_Day Operations. The Orchis on 15th August 1944 attached and sunk the German U-Boat U741[v].

                                                                                               On 21st August 1944 while on patrol the Orchis struck a mine,
                                                                                               the explosion blew off the bow of the vessel. While the Orchis was                                                                                                       able to be beached on Juno Beach, Normandy it was considered a                                                                                                       total loss.

                                                                                                   HMS Orchis 

                                                                                               The Orchis lost 28 crew members with 20 men ‘missing presumed                                                                                             killedkilled  (MPK)’ their bodies were not recovered. Leading Steward

                                                                                               Walker was among the missing. 
 On 25th November 1944 the Evening Post carried in it’s Roll of Honour[vi]
          'Walker, Ngata Bertram, R.N.Z.N. beloved son of Mrs E. Walker, Tawa Flat,

          twin brother of Selwyn R.N.Z.N. and Vernon, lost in English Channel.

                                         “He Died that we might live.’
Leading Seaman Walker is commemorated at Devonport, New Zealand Royal Navy memorial and also on the Tawa Community War Memorial.
Leading Seaman Walker’s name will be inscribed on the Porirua Memorial Wall, Te Rauparaha Park.

Ngata’s father 27724 Private Albert Walker, 25th Specialist Company (Machinegun Corp) had served in WW1 but had been discharged in
April 1918 as unfit for war service and repatriated to New Zealand.[vii]
Both of Ngata’s brothers served
         NZ7655 Supply Assistant Selwyn Desmond Walker Royal New Zealand Navy
         657522 Private Vernon Hinemoa Walker New Zealand Medical Corp – Jay Force.
         W3724 Miss Shirley Mavis Benington Women’s Auxillary Air Force (WAAF )  

Selwyn Desmond Walked died on the 21st August 2015 the 71st anniversary of his twin’s death in 1944.

Archives New Zealand Military Files
NZDF Archives
NZ History Online: Achilles / Leander / Gale
Naval-History Net
Wikipedia : HMS Orchis, HMNZS Achilles, Leander, Gale and Philomel
Lest Tawa Forget: Bruce Murray 

Use the painting as the background.

[i] The Royal Navy has a tradition of giving nicknames often based on surnames. Hooker Walker is one coming from a phrase in common
use in 1810 identified with something suspiciously untrue or cryptically superstitious. “That’s all Hooky Walker," was the sceptic's retort, or the modern equivalent for “You’re kidding." Hooky was used by his brother in a memorial notice.
[ii] NZDF Archives military files Ngata and Selwyn Walker.
[iii] Tawa Flat Welcome, 5th March 1940, Evening Post
[iv] Engagements, 6th November 1943, Evening Post
[v] Naval-History net
[vi] In Memoriam, 25th November 1944, Evening Post   
[vii] Archives New Zealand Military Files; 27724 Private Albert Walker
HMNZS Achilles crew parade in Auckland