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A mysterious disappearance3 min read

Mar 3, 2021 2 min

A mysterious disappearance3 min read

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Onehunga Community News has been contacted by a family in England who want to find out what happened to a close relative who disappeared over 70 years ago.

Yvonne Willis says that her husband, George, who is now almost 80 years-old, last saw his father when he was nine, and that all his life he has wondered what happened to him.

George Edward Willis was born in South Shields, County Durham on 23rd February 1911 – he subsequently changed his name to George Edward Mitchell and his date of birth to 20th June 1911.  He was a seaman, and following “troubles” on board his vessel – The Levenpool – he jumped ship in Christchurch in October 1950. When he left the ship, he sent a letter to his wife, saying what a lovely country it was, and when he was settled he would send for the family to join him. They never heard from him again.

At some point after this date he went to Australia, but returned to New Zealand shortly afterwards. It is understood that he was imprisoned for entering either New Zealand or Australia illegally – the records are not clear on which country. Yvonne’s husband has tried to trace his father in both New Zealand and Australia, without success. However, what they have discovered via New Zealand electoral roll records, is that he would have lived for some considerable time with a family at 4 Moana Ave, Onehunga from the late 1960’s to the 1980’s. Their names were William C Wald and Vera M Wald, and they originated from Lismore, Australia.

In the mid 1980’s,  her husband’s brother, who was also a seaman at that time, says he was approached by a man who claims to have known his father, and said he had met him while on a voyage. The man told him that his father was still a seaman and trading between New Zealand and Australia.

“I know it is a very long time ago, but it is still very clear to my husband. There was no family reason why he should disappear as he did,” says Yvonne.

“It obviously left a lot of sadness for his wife and five children. As time has passed, a thought that he could have suffered mental stress as a result of his time as a seaman on the Atlantic convoys during the war (he was torpedoed three times), then the fights aboard the Levenhall. It could have just made him just want a different life.”


Yvonne says that contacting Onehunga Community News is their “last chance” of finding out what happened. The family is hoping that there is still someone left in Moana Ave who knew a George Willis or George Mitchell, or the Wald family. Or, maybe there is someone who could possibly have known him from his sea-going days.

“It would be lovely if you could solve this mystery,” says Yvonne.

If you know of anything that could be of help, please contact

(The only photo of George Willis aka George Mitchell – top right wearing a suit)