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Gordon Bridson
Born 2 December 1909
Died 6 December 1972
Place of birth Wellington, New Zealand
Place of death Cambridge, New Zealand
Allegiance  New Zealand
Service/branch  Royal New Zealand Navy
Years of service 1928–1946
Rank Commander
Commands held HMNZS Kiwi
Battles/wars World War II
Awards Distinguished Service Order
Distinguished Service Cross
Navy Cross (United States)

Commander Gordon Bridson DSO, DSC (2 December 1909 – 6 December 1972) of the Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) was the commander of the minesweeping trawler Kiwi which, with her sister ship Moa, fought a classic duel with Japanese submarine I-1.

Early years[edit | edit source]

Bridson grew up in Auckland, New Zealand. He went to Auckland Grammar School and became the Auckland swimmer of the decade.[1] At the 1930 British Empire Games he won silver medals for both the 400 yd and 1500 yd freestyle.

There is no mention of Bridsen's civilian career pre-war, I believe he had become Chief Engineer with McAlpine Refrigeration Coy in Auckland while spare time serving in RNZVR. Incidentally. a member of his crew on KIWI was Tammy McVinnie, half -brother of James McAlpine. Is there any confirmation ofhis information submitted by a fellow employee of McAlpine (now 96 yr old) Keith STewart

War career[edit | edit source]

Bridson began his naval career in 1927 when he joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve in Auckland. He was commissioned in February 1928 and in April 1940 was mobilised for war and promoted to lieutenant commander. In May he left with the first draft of the Volunteer Reserve for service with the Royal Navy.

In England Bridson commanded HMS Walnut, part of the 24th and 25th minesweeping and anti-submarine flotillas, ten ships all commanded by New Zealanders. For a year the flotillas escorted convoys around the east coast of Britain and through the English Channel. They were often attacked by air and sea. Bridson was awarded the DSC for his performance during this time.

Commander of the Kiwi[edit | edit source]

Bridson was then appointed to command the newly built minesweeping trawler HMNZS Kiwi, which he commissioned at Greenock on 20 October 1941. On New Year's Day Kiwi left Greenock and escorted a convoy across the North Atlantic to Newfoundland. She suffered considerable damage in a fierce storm. Bridson then sailed her back to New Zealand.

In December 1942 the RNZN’s 25th Minesweeping Flotilla, consisting of the three new minesweeping trawlers Kiwi, Moa and Tui and the converted merchant ship Matai, were deployed in the Solomon Islands. On 14 January 1943 an American PT boat mistakenly fired two torpedoes at Kiwi. They missed, but the New Zealanders were furious. Later Bridson and the PT commander became firm friends.

The wrecking of submarine I-1[edit | edit source]

External images
Kiwi's bow showing damage by Submarine I-1
Lt-Cdr Bridson and crew marching through Auckland

Two weeks later on the night of 29–30 January, Kiwi and Moa were on patrol near Guadalcanal Island with Bridson as senior officer, when they encountered the Japanese submarine I-1. The Kiwi made several depth charge attacks and the submarine surfaced to engage them with its five-inch gun. I-1 weighed more than both corvettes together and was more heavily armed. The New Zealanders continued to attack and the Kiwi rammed the submarine three times, firing at point blank range with its main 4 inch gun and a 20-mm Oerlikon mounted on its bow (acquired unofficially at Noumea for two bottles of gin).

[Bridson] ...gave the order to ram. At the same time he thought he'd better let the engine room know what was going on. So he shouted down the voice pipe, "Stand by to ram." When the voice came back from the engine room, "What the hell do you mean by ram?" he replied, "I don't know. I've never done it before."[2]

Pursued by the Moa, I-1 ran onto a reef and sank. Leading Signalman Buchanan, the searchlight operator on the Kiwi was killed, and the damage to the bow was such that the ship had to return to New Zealand for repairs.

Bridson was awarded the DSO and the United States Navy Cross[3] for this action.

In May 1944 he was promoted to acting commander and appointed naval officer in charge at Dunedin. Six months later he was confirmed in the rank and became naval officer in charge at Lyttelton. He then became an aide de camp to the Governor General, holding both positions until he was demobilised in 1946.

Post war[edit | edit source]

Bridson settled with his family in Te Aroha where he was a partner in a hardware business. In the late 1950s he became a farmer near Cambridge, where he died on 6 December 1972.

See also[edit | edit source]

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. Auckland swimming
  2. Auckland Museum Scars of the Heart. David Graham describing the actions of Bridson when commanding HMNZS Kiwi
  3. Full Text Citations for award of the Navy Cross

References[edit | edit source]

  • Dennerly, P. Y. Bridson, Gordon 1909-1972. Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, updated 22 June 2007
  • Profile (swimmer) at NZOGC website
  • McDougall, R J (1989) New Zealand Naval Vessels. Page 55-61. Government Printing Office. ISBN 978-0-477-01399-4
  • Walters, Sydney David (1956) The Royal New Zealand Navy: Official History of World War II, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington Lt-Cdr. Gordon Bridson
  • Epic sea battle. New Zealand Herald. 12 March 1943, page 2
  • Obituary. The Dominion. 7 December 1972, page 7

Further reading[edit | edit source]

  • Harker, Jack (2000)The Rockies: New Zealand Minesweepers at War. Silver Owl Press. ISBN 0-9597979-9-8

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