WWI: Captain Wybrants Olphert DSO DSC RD RNZNVR

Captain Wybrants Olphert DSO DSC RD RNZNVR

Wybrants Olphert went to sea in 1893 aged fourteen. Shortly afterwards he joined the New Zealand Shipping Company Limited, and sailed between the United Kingdom and New Zealand for many years. He married a New Zealander. In 1902, Olphert was appointed Sub-Lieutenant in the Royal Naval Reserve. By the outbreak of World War One (WWI), he had been promoted to Chief Officer in the Merchant Service.

As early as August 1914 he was warned to be ready for immediate service with the Royal Navy and on 9th November 1914 he was 'called up by proclamation' and placed in command of HM Yacht SCADUAN. SCADUAN worked off the coast of Ireland on coastal patrols that became increasingly dangerous as Germany introduced mines, torpedoes and submarines into their warfare. On 21st June 1915, SCADUAN encountered a submarine off Fastnet and fired upon her before she dived. After a search for many hours proved unsuccessful, it was decided it had been a hit. Lieutenant Olphert was mentioned in Despatches and later awarded the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC).

He had appointments to HM Ships COLLEEN, ACTAEON and PACTOLUS, before taking command of HM Yacht PIONEER II. During this time he was engaged in the salvage of the captured German ship TERPSICHORE.

Olphert volunteered for service in Q-Ships; these vessels were armed, but disguised so that they appeared to be harmless merchant ships, and easy prey to German submarines. He was appointed to command HMS SALVIA, which was disguised as a Dutch tramp ship.

SALVIA sank three German submarines before she herself was sunk by torpedo on 20th June 1917. Lieutenant Olphert was taken prisoner of war. For his service in SALVIA he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO).

He returned to London 3rd December 1918 and was awarded a Bar to his DSO.

After WWI Olphert moved to Wellington and settled in Lower Hutt, where he became Assistant Marine Superintendent, and later Marine Superintendent, of The New Zealand Shipping Company Limited.

In 1928 he was promoted Commander and appointed to command the newly formed Wellington Division of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. Olphert was promoted to Captain in 1936, and continued in command of the Wellington Division. In 1939 he died from cancer. The Wellington Division was named HMNZS OLPHERT in his honour in 1951.

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