Leading Stoker Dale RNZNVR HMNZS Achilles


The explosion in a fuel tank on board HMNZS Achilles at Portsmouth on 22 June 1943, which killed 14 dockyard workers, might have claimed more lives had it not been for the prompt and courageous action of members of the cruisers’ crew.

A dozen men owed their lives to Stoker First Class William Dale, of Waimate, Engineroom Artificer William Vaughan, RN, of Durham, England, and Stoker First Class Ernest Valentine, RNZNVR, of Ohakune.



After finding that all smoke apparatus was in use, Dale tied a handkerchief over his mouth and went down three decks into a smoke filled space.  With complete disregard for his own safety, and working in pitch dark, he found four injured men and passed them up to safety.  He then went up on deck for a breath of fresh air before re-entering the fuel tank that was the seat of the explosion.  With Dale went a dockyard worker named Rogers.  Between them they rescued two men who were hauled clear by ropes.  Those rescued said afterwards that, without the New Zealander’s help, they would not have survived.  For his actions Dale was awarded the Albert Medal, the only member of the New Zealand Navy Forcers to receive this rare decoration during the Second World War.








Disclaimer:  The information contained here is the result of research undertaken by Navy Museum staff utilising the resources held in the museums collection.  Information from external sources has not been consulted in the preparation of this information. This research is not definitive and information supplied here does not imply or infer that further information may not be available from other sources.

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