Albert Nalder


Albert McCormack Nalder was born on the 12th April 1891 at Motupipi, Golden Bay.  His parents were Thomas William Nalder and Mary McCormick.

At age five Albert lived with his family at Bainham in a house with a dirt floor.  During that time Albert worked picking hops or fruit for a Mr Ellis who made lots of wine.  He also earned one pound per week shooting blackbirds and rattling rows of tin cans from daylight to dark to keep birds off the crops.  Mr Ellis kept his casks in natural cellars in the Clifton caves.   At age fourteen he worked for the Hadfields helping them to build boats.

albert nalderCaptain Albert Nalder 1917
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The family made several moves and in 1907, when Albert was 15, they settled at Torrent Bay where their father, intended  “To make a fortune cutting firewood.”  There was no road access and he helped his father and brothers take firewood to Motueka in the yacht Isis; they also carried sand on the scow Kohi. Albert left home while the family was at Torrent Bay and went to sea. 

On 20th January 1914 he earned his Certificate of Competency as Master of a Home Trade Ship becoming the youngest skipper on the New Zealand coast.  He remembered carting lambs to or from Havelock North for sixpence per head or fourpence a pound for wool.  Albert also remembered taking casks of wine to Wellington, bottling it and selling it at a good profit. When the 1914-18 war broke out Albert was working as Master of the Storm.

albert nalders masters certificate 1914Albert Nalder’s Master’s Certicate 1914
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He decided he would go to war, and as New Zealand had no Navy of its own,  he signed off the Storm at Lyttleton and worked his way to England aboard the Kaikoura as first mate.  For this he received twelve pounds per month.  He  gained his Skippers Certificate in England and, in May 1915, was appointed Skipper in the Royal Navy Reserve.  He served as skipper on Her Majesty’s Hired Trawler Colleague from 14th July 1915 to 19th September 1915, as part of the famous Dover Trawler Patrol.

On 17th May, 1917 Albert received his certificate for Sub-Lieutenant in the Royal Navy Reserve and, on the 9th October 1917, whilst serving aboard the Champagne his vessel was torpedoed at 6.00am and he survived, drifting all day in the Irish Sea.  He was picked up at 6.30pm.  The Champagne sunk in a few minutes.  Later Albert was aboard another vessel,  a Q-Ship or a minesweeper also torpedoed and that time he drifted in the North Sea for eleven and a half hours. 

Whilst stationed in Dover during these years, Albert met and married Hilda George in March 1916.  Hilda was then aged 23. Their first child Mavis was born in England and at the end of the war the family returned to the Nelson district.  Their next child, Marthe Lauraine was born in Nelson and Thomas Percival in 1921 in Picton. 

Nalder’s services to shipping after World War 1

Captain Nalder was a well-known master at Hokitika in the late 1920’s through to the 1940’s. He converted the S.S. Gael from steam to diesel power at Hokitika and commenced the first regular sea service to South-Westland – this being the only means of travel to Hokitika by the settlers at that time.

His character was portrayed in the following reference from the South Western Shipping Company:“When you assumed command of the Gael our sea service was in a state of chaos and collapse.  Our trading vessel the Elsie, purchased earlier by the settlers had been wrecked and the Company was in liquidation.  With your good seamanship and indefatigable energy you have now brought about a very happy state of affairs.  During your service the old debts, some thousands of Pounds have been paid off and the Company is now on a good financial footing””. 

Captain Nalder had quite a reputation for his ability in safely crossing river bars.  It’s said he made over a thousand crossings without incident during the time he was employed by the South Westland Shipping Company. He ran this service successfully for five years and then transferred to the M.V.Hokitika which he ran from Wellington to West Coast ports and Jackson Bay with supplies for the start of the Haast Pass Road. 

Albert commanded or sailed on many vessels around the New Zealand coast.  Some of these were:

  • The Seagull (1928)
  • The Waipu (1939) - (later renamed the Hokitika)
  • Janie Seddon (1949)
  • The Gael, the Rapaki, The Foxton (11-Jan-1943 to 22-Feb-1944)
  • Alexander, 1950
World War 2

Captain Nalder served his country again in World War II when he commanded the Lyttelton, the Rapaki Floating crane. He rejoined the navy, in 1942, aged 51, volunteering to pilot the slow moving crane to Noumea, where it was needed as a dredge by the Americans. He spent the war in Noumea working as masster of the Rapaki.

Following the War, he continued to master vessels, before retiring to Nelson.  Albert died in 1986, in Nelson, aged 95.


Updated May 6, 2020

Sources used in this story

  • Caves, D. & P. (2014) Nalder Family history [unpublished]. Held Nelson Public Libraries, pp. 203-235

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  • Re your section on Capt Nalder's service in WWII, it would better be phrased 'He commanded the Lyttelton floating carne Rapaki, having returned to sea in 1942 (it wasn't in the Navy - he was in the Merchant Navy). He signed on the Rapaki in Wellington on 11 January 1943, and took her to Noumea (via Auckland) arriving 25 January. Rapaki was on charter to the US Army in Noumea, performing various duties as a heavy-lift crane (not a dredge). She returned to Auckland on 1 February 1944 for 'serious repairs'; Captain Nalder signed off in Auckland on 22 February, while Rapaki left Auckland under tow on 18 May, commanded by Capt FK Allen, to return to Noumea to Noumea'

    Posted by John H Ackrill, 06/03/2015 9:38pm (9 years ago)

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Further sources - Albert Nalder




  • Caves, D. & P. (2014) Nalder Family history [unpublished]. held Nelson Public Libraries

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