ALEXANDER, Acting Petty Officer Colin

Colin John Alexander entered service with the RNZN on the 10/3/52 as an Ordinary Seaman. He was involved in Operation GRAPPLE – the name given to the British Government’s test of British megaton range weapons.Read More

ALEXANDER, Chief Motor Mechanic Roy

New Zealander Chief Motor Mechanic Roy Leslie Alexander DSM RNVR won the Distinguished Service Medal (DSM) while serving with Royal Navy’s Patrol Service in the First World War in one of the largest raids carried out by the Royal Navy. Read More

Captain John Allen

ALLAN, Captain John N.

Jack Allan was commissioned in the rank of Sub-Lieutenant on 24 March 1934 and undertook three tours of sea training as an officer in RN warships. In 1935 he embarked in the cruiser HMS Dunedin,  followed in 1936 by sea time in the sloop HMS Wellington and finally in 1937 in the cruiser HMS Achilles.

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ANDERSON, AB Bruce and William

On 17 August 1941 William and Bruce were posted to Neptune. This is unusual in that it was normally the practice within the Royal Navy not to post brothers to the same ship. William and Bruce and over 750 men including 150 New Zealanders died in Neptune after it struck a mine in World War Two.Read More

ANDERSON, Vice Admiral Sir Neil

In April 1969 he became Commanding Officer, HMNZS Philomel followed by Chief of Staff to the Commodore Auckland from May 1970 to January 1972. On 16 April 1980 he was promoted to the rank of Vice Admiral and was appointed to be Chief of Defence Staff. Read More


Chief Motor Mechanic James Attwood was one of the New Zealand motor mechanics who joined the Royal Naval Motor Boat Reserve in 1916.  He participated in the Zeebrugge/Ostend raids of 1918 and was awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal and the French Croix de Guerre.Read More

BLAKE, Commodore Geoffrey

During 40 years of service Admiral Blake received the Distinguished Service Order, the Russian Order of St Anne 3rd Class with swords, was made a Companion of the Bath and subsequently promoted Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath.Read More

BOOTH, Petty Officer Henry P.

Henry Percival Booth joined the Royal New Zealand Navy as Boy, Second Class, on 5 December 1924, at the age of 15 years.  One of the ships in which he served was HMS Fiji in which he was Quartermaster when the ship was sunk in the Battle of Crete.  For his actions on this occasion he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal.Read More

BOYLE, Captain Alexander David

Alexander Boyle the first Commanding Officer of the Canterbury Division of the RNZNVR and a well-known South Canterbury farmer. Lieutenant Alexander David Boyle is the only known New Zealander to have served at all three major naval battles of World War One.Read More

BRIDSON, Commander Gordon

On the night of 31 January 1943 Kiwi and Moa were on patrol, with Lieutenant Commander Bridson as senior officer, when they encountered the Japanese Submarine I-1. For his expertise and perseverance in the sinking of this submarine, Gordon Bridson was made a Companion of the Distinguished Service Order and also received the United States Navy Cross. Read More

BRUCE, Captain Corina

During Corina’s time within DNODS she worked on a number of operational systems gaining exposure to various roles mainly specialising in Weapons Systems implementations. As a lieutenant she was awarded a Commendation by the Chief of Naval Staff in 1987 for her contributions during the First of Class acceptance of the R76 Gun Fire Control System.

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BUCHANAN, Acting Leading Signalman C.

The Kiwi and the Moa were patrolling  the north-west end of Guadalcanal when they obtained a ‘contact’  with the vessel immediately identified as a submarine. During the battle with the I-1 submarine Buchanan was hit and although mortally wounded remained at his post uncomplaining until relieved.  He died of his wounds at Tulagi the following day.  This act of courage won him the US Navy Cross and a posthumous mention in dispatches.Read More

BURNS, Lieutenant Commander John Anthony

John Burns’ most noteworthy contribution to the Navy was his contribution to the extensive modernisation programme of HMNZS Irirangi in 1962, which he was awarded a Naval Board Letter of Commendation for.

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BURROWS, Emily (Ma)

Every Sunday ‘Ma Burrows’, as she became known by the men of the New Zealand division, would visit the base bringing with her flowers, fruit and sweets for her ‘boy’s’. Eventually everyone, from the Commodore down to the newest recruit, was acquainted with Ma Burrows.Read More

CARPENTER, Tel. George

Two New Zealand wireless telegraphists, George Carpenter and Templeton Witham, won the Distinguished Service Medal (DSM) in the Solomon Islands during the Second World War, but the awards were made for gallantry on land rather than at sea. 

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CASSEY, Lieutenant Rex

Rex Cassey was an employee of the New Zealand Post Office and was part of the Wellington Division of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve [NZ Division].

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CLAPHAM, Captain William Henry

Mr. William Henry Clapham, who held a seat on the Wanganui Borough Council for four years, was born and educated in Wellington, where his father, Mr. T. H. Clapham, arrived in the ship Birman, one of the first ships of the Port Nicholson contingent, early in 1842. Read More

CORBIN, Director Lorelle Henderson WRNZNS

When the Second World War began in 1939, the Women’s Royal Naval Service (New Zealand), whose members were commonly known as Wrens, was formed. In September 1943, as fourth officer, she assisted in the control of 200 women then serving in the Auckland area.Read More

D’Urville Dumont

Dumont D’Urville set out from France in April 1826, with a two-fold mission; to search for another French explorer, La Perouse and then to explore New Zealand.  Having renamed his ship Astrolabe after La Perouse’s ship, he arrived at Port Jackson (Sydney) in late 1826.Read More

DAWSON, Flight Lieutenant Samuel

In the Museum’s remembrance section is an image of a New Zealander in an RAF uniform. The image is of Flight Lieutenant Samuel Dawson DFC. On 17 September 1919 he was flying a seaplane of HMS Vindictive in support of British operations in Russia when he failed to return from a patrol.Read More

DAVIS, Chief Wren Dorothy Jenaway

In 1943 Davis joined the Women’s Royal New Zealand Naval Service as a Probationary Wren. Chief Wren Davis’ ability and personality resulted in the award of the BEM in the King’s Birthday Honours List of 1946.Read More

DAVIS-GOFF, Commodore George Raymond

In February 1945 Davis-Goff joined the cruiser HMNZS Gambia , which was operating as a unit of the Fourth Cruiser Squadron of the British Pacific fleet. Gambia was off Japan at the cessation of hostilities in August 1945, and he was in command of its landing party, which took the surrender of the Japanese naval base at Yokosuka.Read More

DALE, Leading Stoker William

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. Dale, with complete disregard for his own safety, and working in pitch dark, found four injured men and passed them up to safety.Read More

GUANT, Lieutenant Joseph

On 21 July 1944 Gaunt was appointed to command LCT 7015 from 1 August 1944.[14] This was a Tank Landing Craft. In July 1945, He was given command of a half-flotilla of LCTs and was to take them to Japan for the proposed invasion in November 1945. Sailing from Boston in England, he and the flotilla had reached Kabret in Egypt when the war ended. Read More

HALSEY, Admiral Sir Lionel

In 1912 Halsey was made captain of the battle cruiser, HMS New Zealand. In 1913 he took the ship on a tour of New Zealand and was presented with a sacred tiki and piupiu by an old Maori chief at Rotorua. The chief asked Halsey whether he would wear the outfit if he was ever in battle. Halsey agreed to do so not thinking he would ever have to honour this promise.Read More


Miss Ruth Herrick began her job at the top in 1942 when she was appointed Director of the newly formed Women’s Royal New Zealand Naval Service. She was required to form both an Administration and Policy for the WRNZNS based on the regulations of the WRNS in Britain but adapted for New Zealand. Read More

HILL, Able Seaman Tim N.

Tim Hill was selected to go to HMS Victory the training establishment at Portsmouth. Upon arrival the men were given a cold pie, prunes and custard for a meal. The training programme consisted of seamanship, physical exercises and sports.  Some New Zealanders were sent to the shore establishment HMS St Vincent but Tim appears to have remained at Victory for his training period.Read More

HILL, AB Leonard Bruce

Leonard Hill was living in Auckland when he volunteered for service with the Navy in 1940.  He was accepted for naval service under the Scheme B recruitment programme. Read about Hills’ involvement in the Fall of Singapore in World War Two. Read More

HILLARD, Commodore J.G.

Commander Hilliard was placed in command of the Auckland division of the Naval Reserve when it reformed in 1948. In 1951 he was promoted to the rank of Captain and continued in command of the division now named HMNZS Ngapona. He was made a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in 1956 and remained in command until 1958. Read More

HOGBEN, Lieutenant Commander George L.

In March 1943 a brief entry in the London Gazette announced the award of the Distinguished Service Cross [DSC] to a young Royal New Zealand Navy [RNZN] officer for ‘bravery and skill in Northern Waters’. Temporary Instructor Lieutenant George Lawrence Hogben, known as Larry to his friends, became the first instructor officer serving in the Royal Navy to be decorated for gallantry in a naval action.Read More

HUTCHINS, Petty Officer T.A.T

Petty Officer T.A.T Hutchins went to fight World War Two in Europe, he took with him a small ‘ditty box’ filled with personal possessions. Hutchins’ ditty box is presently displayed at the Navy Museum and its contents continue to communicate a sense of family, honour and remembrance.

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LANGMAID, Lieutenant Commander Roland

Roland Langmaid was appointed Official Admiralty Artist to the Mediterranean Fleet with the rank of Lieutenant-Commander on the staff of Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham, commander of the Mediterranean Fleet. He was noted for his drawings of the fleet and landings in Middle East.

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LE GROS, Petty Officer P.E.

Petty Officer Philip Le Gros, better known as “Froggy”, joined the New Zealand Division of the Royal Navy in 1939 as a 2nd Class Stoker.  On the outbreak of World War II he was posted to the cruiser HMS Leander and whilst serving in the Mediterranean volunteered for service in submarines.

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LE ROY, Captain-Commander Emilius

Emilius Le Roy of the N.Z. Volunteers is one of the oldest and best known Volunteer Officers in the Auckland District. He has been connected with the [volunteer] movement for more than forty years, and during that time has thrown his best energies into the service.Read More

MACDONALD, Lieutenant Commander George J.

The most highly decorated New Zealand naval officer of the Second World War. He Joined the Wellington Division of the RNVR (NZ) in 1938 and was working as a bank officer in Wellington. With the outbreak of the Second World War he was mobilised and posted aboard DEMS [Defensively Equipped Merchant Ships] in the South Pacific until 1940.Read More


CPOYS Martinson joined the New Zealand Navy in 1921, after training in the New Zealand Ship AMOKURA. Chief Martinson joined HMS Achilles in England in 1939 and was in that ship during the Battle of the River Plate.  As the Chief Yeoman he was instrumental in the decision to fly the New Zealand National Flag during the Battle.

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McKENZIE, Rt Reverend Gordon

With the commissioning of HMS Tamaki, Reverend Gordon McKenzie was selected to be the chaplain. The Rev McKenzie would serve at Tamaki from 1941 through to his demobilisation in May 1946. Read More

McKENZIE, Rear Admiral John

McKenzies’ naval career spanned the transition of the New Zealand Naval Forces from a small component of the empire’s Navy to the distinctive national navy that the RNZN became in the post-war years. As an ASW specialist he was well fitted for command of our (then) new Type 12 frigates; with his experience in Singapore and the UK he was well prepared for the development of the 1972 Defence White Paper.Read More

McGLONE, Act. LS Vincent Edmond

Born on 23 March 1916 in Auckland, Vince McGlone joined the New Zealand Division of the Royal Navy at Devonport Naval Base as a Boy Seaman 2nd Class on 15 January 1932 just shy of his sixteenth birthday.Vince was part of HMS Achilles ship’s company that fought at the Battle of the River Plate on 13 December 1939.

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MITCHELL, Robert Niven

Robert Niven Mitchell was of average height, with light brown hair, aged 18 when he entered the Navy as a Telegraphist in August 1940. After two months in Philomel Telegraphist Mitchell went to Britain, initially joining HMS Victory but was soon drafted to Pembroke, where he remained until mid 1941.Read More

MUNDIE, Florence

2009 marked the 70th anniversary of the start of the Second World War. War is not just the domain of the armed services, it impacts on all civilians’ lives. One of these civilians was a nurse Miss Florence Mundie. Her fascinating reminiscences were given to her niece, who later donated them to the Navy Museum.Read More

MURRAY, Lieutenant Commander John

In September of 1991, Murray joined the Royal New Zealand Navy as a lieutenant commander and was based at the shore establishment HMNZS Philomel in Devonport. During his time of a little over 18 years with the RNZN Murray held numerous positions including ANZAC logistic team leader, projects officer, base supply officer inventory manager and logistics services manager.Read More

NEES, Harry Mannix

As a Lieutenant, Nees commanded ML230 of the 11th Motor Launch Flotilla during Operation JUBILEE, the Landing at Dieppe in 1942. He received a mention in despatches on 2 October 1942 for his part. In June 1944, Harry Nees was in command of the 150th HDML Group operating close inshore to the landing beaches. These small boats played a key role in the success of Operation NEPTUNE. Read More

PARR, Rear Admiral Tony

Rear Admiral Tony Parr was born in Wellington, New Zealand on 4 August 1955. Having graduated from Waikato University in 1979 he joined the Royal New Zealand Navy in January 1980 in the rank of Sub Lieutenant in the Seaman Branch. He received the rank of Rear Admiral and was promoted to Chief of Navy on 30 April 2009.Read More

PALMER, Commander Charles

Born 30 April 1910 Charles Palmer (or Bunty as he was known) joined the RNVR as an Ordinary Seaman as soon as he was able to on 4 February 1929. Lieutenant-Commander Palmer’s four ships attacked three submarines in less than half an hour while on a Mediterranean voyage during the Sicilian campaign during World War Two. Read More

PRICE, Desmond

Desmond Price joined the New Zealand Division of the Royal Navy on 5 October 1938 as an 18 year old and signed on for twelve years. He was trained as a Stoker at HMS Philomel the shore establishment located at Devonport. Price served with HMS Leander and was involved in the Solomon Island Campaign. Read More

OLPHERT, Captain Wybrants

Olphert joined the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve and 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. The Wellington Division of the RNVR was named HMNZS Olphert in his honour in 1951.Read More

RICHARDSON, Acting Lieutenant Commander Archibald

Born in Gisborne, Archibald Richardson like other New Zealanders opted for service with the Fleet Air Arm during the Second World War. In 1944 he was a fighter pilot with 1840 Squadron flying Hellcats. In August he was posted with his squadron to the carrier HMS Indefatigable for an operation to attack the battleship Tirpitz.Read More

ROBSON, Reverend George

The Reverend George Trevor Robson, “Padre Robbie,” was born in Te Aroha in 1887. While serving with the New Zealand Division on the Western Front he was awarded the Military Cross “for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty.” Read More

SANDERS, Lieutenant Commander William

Lieutenant Commander William Edward Sanders VC, DSO is the only New Zealander to win the Victoria Cross in a naval action. This was awarded for the engagement between HMS Prize and the German submarine U 93 on 30 April 1917.Read More

SAULL, Rear Admiral Keith Micheal

Rear Admiral Keith Saull was RNZN Chief of Naval Staff from 1 April 1980 to 31 March 1983. In 1951 he found himself as the Gunnery Officer of the Loch-class frigate HMNZS Taupo heading to the Korean War.  Taupo was to be involved in action in the Han River and at Yang do Island in 1952.Read More

SMITH, Commander William L J ‘Kiwi’

Smith elected to sign up for the naval service courtesy of Scheme B in May 1943. After World War Two, Smith became involved in the setting up of Scott Base at Antarctica.  Later, he was first lieutenant for the first HMNZS Endeavour which took the trans-Antarctica team down to Scott Base.  Read More

SMITH, Temp. Sub Lieutenant Phillip

Philip Smith was born on 5 December 1915 and lived in Mt Albert, Auckland. His first operational posting was to HMS Sultan, a naval base located in Singapore. His posting is dated from 25 November 1941, twelve days before the Japanese navy attacked Pearl Harbour. When there he was posted to the depot ship Anking.Read More


Owen Spence was born in Christchurch in October 1922. He joined the RNZN and after training at HMNZS Tamaki and Philomel he was posted to HMNZS Cook In Wellington. His sketches in the Museum’s collection depict different theatres of war. He completed them in his spare time.  It is thought that most of his sketches were done while he was aboard HMS Victorious.Read More

STEER, Rear Admiral Jack

Rear Admiral Steer, took up his new appointment of Chief of Navy on 1 December 2012, replacing Rear Admiral Tony Parr. “Rear Admiral Steer has a long career with the Navy and will bring a wealth of experience, knowledge and expertise to the role,” says Dr Coleman. Read More

SUHR, James Gordon

Joined the RNZN 18 January 1962 and completed basic training at HMNZS Tamaki on Motuihe Island by 29 April. From 30 April to 18 November undertook branch training at HMNZS Philomel. Read Suhr’s personal records and the ships he served on.Read More

TAYLOR, Padre Henry Gordon

Henry Taylor was born on 12 March 1908 in Foster, a small town in Victoria Australia.Harry Taylor, as events concerned him, was an exceedingly self effacing man. Insofar as principles, people, church, rugby and roses were concerned, he was a fearless, outspoken and fighting padre. He had an outstanding career in the New Zealand Divisional Cavalry during the Second World War.Read More

THORNE, Rear Admiral Edward

Edward Courtney Thorne was born 29 October 1923 in Seatoun Wellington.Thorne was inspired to join the Navy when in1940 he saw the New Zealand-manned cruiser HMS Achilles fresh from her victory over the German pocket battleship Graf von Spee in Wellington harbour and there in 1941 he applied to join the newly created Royal New Zealand Navy.  Read More

WELCH, Rear Admiral Jack

Admiral Welch joined the RNZN in 1959 and received training as a cadet and midshipman.  He returned to New Zealand in the newly commissioned frigate HMNZS Taranaki and continued service in her on the Far East station until joining the submarine HMS Tapir in late 1963. He was one of a very few New Zealanders to have served in Royal Navy submarines.Read More

WILSON, SPO Archibald McCullough

Archibald McCullough Wilson was born at Oamaru, New Zealand on 1 March 1888. He joined the RAN in 1913 for a period of five years’ service. Known to his crewmates as ‘Tug’, Wilson was small but pugnacious. In the Dardanelles he was designated spare crew and re-assigned to the RN’s E7. He was aboard this submarine as it followed the AE2 through the Narrows under Captain Archibald Cochrane.Read More

WORSLEY, Lieutenant Commander Frank

Lieutenant Commander Frank Arthur Worsley was an accomplished navigator and mariner as well as an Antarctic and Arctic adventurer. He had an eventful war from sinking submarines to fighting the Bolsheviks in Russia.Read More

WRIGHT, Lieutenant C J

Lieutenant Wright was born and educated in Hastings, and joined the Royal New Zealand Naval Volunteer Reserve in 1941 as an Ordinary Seaman. He was posted to RN Coastal Forces and his war service was in Motor Boats as an officer. he was first posted to Motor Gun Boat then Motor Torpedo Boats.Read More

Notable New Zealanders in the RNVR, RNR, RNZNVR

Read about some notable New Zealanders who served in the RNVR, RNR, RNZNVR. Including Sub-Lieutenant Hywell Wynn Hughes,  CPO E.W. Blakiston, Temporary Lieutenant Joseph Gaunt, Commander William J. L. Smith, Temporary Sub-Lieutenant Philip Wallace Smith, Captain Charles Palmer, CPOMM Roy Alexander, Able Seaman Leonard Bruce Hill and Temporary-Sub Lieutenant Baxter. Read More

Chiefs of Navy

Read a list of those who served as Naval Advisers to the Government, First Naval Members, Chiefs of Naval Staff and Chiefs of Navy.Read More