Key Events at Waitangi Involving the Navy

Read a timeline of the key events at Waitangi from 1840 to 2012.


1840 – Captain William Hobson, HMS Herald the ship’s Commanding Officer was J. Nias RN

1865 – No official event to mark the 25th anniversary

1890 – A commemorative ball held at Russell to mark the 50th anniversary – the warship present was the composite screw corvette [14 guns] HMS Opal

1915 – no event held to mark the 75th – a check of contemporary newspapers for the time has no reference to any event held – while the war may be an explanation, given the 50th was commemorated, and Waitangi had been one of the honours attached to the battlecruiser HMS New Zealand, it is surprising that no event was held, even if it was used to raise money for the various wartime funds then in existence.

1934 – HMS Dunedin & Diomede, Government Steamer Matai – Lord Bledisloe in attendance with Prime Minister G W Forbes. It was the first time in 44 years that a warship was present at Waitangi commemorations.

1940 – Centenary of Waitangi – Governor-general Lord Galway and Prime Minister Peter Fraser present. Contemporary accounts refer to a small but dignified ceremony. HMS Leander was the warship present.  HMS Achilles was on her way back to NZ at the time.  Also notable was that the Maori Battalion was on parade.

1947 – HMNZS Arbutus, SDMLs 1183, 1184 present, the band came from HMNZS Bellona flown up by Catalina from Auckland. The RNZN inaugurated a ceremony in 1947 that was not intended to commemorate the signing of the Treaty, but instead the service of New Zealand’s first Naval Governor.  There was no Maori ceremonial and no government presence.  In a simple ceremony, sailors raised the Union Flag before some 1,200 spectators.  The Chief of Naval Staff made an address; this practice continued until 1959 although on some years the Governor-General did attend e.g. Freyberg in 1952.

1951-1952 Due to Korean War commitments only a single SDML was sent to the event.

1953 – Royal Tour. HMNZS Black Prince, HMNZS Kiwi, HMNZS Tui, 2 x SDMLs – HM Queen Elizabeth attended accompanied by Prime Minister Sidney Holland this was held on 28 December 1953 as part of the Royal Tour

1959 – HMNZS Royalist, HMNZS Kaniere, HMNZS Stawell, HMNZS Mako – Governor-General & Prime Minister Walter Nash attended.

1960 – HMNZS Royalist, HMNZS Rotoiti, HMNZS Kaniere, HMNZS Paea, HMNZS Mako, HMNZS Tamure, HMAS Swan, HMS Andrew [‘A’-class submarine] – first time a RN vessel had been present since 1890, and the first time a RAN vessel had been present. The Governor-General and Prime Minister attended plus Rear Admiral J.M. Villiers of the Royal Navy. It was the first evening ceremony and floodlighting of the ships at anchor. It was also the last time a Royal Marine Band played at the event. This seems to have been the start of a trend of having large fleets present for the event.

1961 – HMNZS Otago [newly commissioned], HMCS Sussexvale, HMCS New Glasgow, HMCS Beacon Hill, HMAS Gasgoyne, HMNZS Paea, HMNZS Mako, HMNZS Manga, HMNZS Ngapona[1]. First time Canadian navy warships present, second time RAN ships present. The Band of the Royal Canadian Navy which was embarked performed the Beat Retreat ceremony. It was notable that only the Governor-General attended.

1962 – HMNZS Taranaki, HMNZS Otago, HMNZS Lachlan, HMNZS Tarapunga, HMNZS Paea, HMNZS Manga, HMNZS Mako, HMNZS Takapu, HMNZS Ngapona, HMAS Gasgoyne. Third time RAN ships present. Admiral Sir Caspar John RN attended along with the Prime Minister and the Governor-General.

1963 – Royal Tour. The largest fleet to have attended Waitangi: HMNZS Royalist, HMNZS Lachlan, HMNZS Otago, HMNZS Rotoiti, HMNZS Takapu, HMNZS Tarapunga, HMNZS Manga, HMNZS Paea, HMNZS Mako, HMNZS Ngapona, HMS Cook, HMS Tapir [submarine], HMY Britannia. HM Queen Elizabeth II, Duke of Edinburgh, Prime Minister and Governor-General attended along with Commodore F.D.G. Challis RN.  It featured the first parade of the Royal Guard which then became part of the event to the present. This was the second submarine to visit and the third time since 1890 RN warships had been present at the event.

1965 – An all RNZN fleet present. Due to poor weather the dress rehearsal was cancelled on the 5th but the day had fine weather.

1966 – No major ships present, just two SDMLs. The Royal Guard used tent accommodation as a result. 180 officers and ratings camped at Waitangi. Only the Governor-General attended.

1969 – The RNZN involvement in the event was cancelled due to rain

1970 – HMAS Anzac present – third time a RAN ship present at Waitangi. The New Zealand White Ensign was used for the first time having been granted in 1968 but unable to be used in 1969 due to the cancellation.

1971 – Protestors disrupted the event that was held in drizzling rain.

1972 – Decision taken to use the New Zealand flag in preference to the Union Jack

1973 – First appearance of HMNZS Canterbury

1974 – Royal Tour, HMNZS Waikato & Canterbury present with HMS Jupiter & HMY Britannia present. HM Queen Elizabeth, Duke of Edinburgh, Princess Anne, Prince of Wales, Prime Minister. This was the first New Zealand Day celebration which replaced Waitangi Day. An inter-departmental committee of twenty people met ten times to organise the event – this used to be actioned by a single naval officer.

1977 – Restoration of the use of Waitangi Day, rather than New Zealand Day

1978 – Use of winter tunics for the Royal Guard following the discontinuance of white tunics issued to junior ratings

1979 – Cyclone Henry had disrupted preparations but the event went ahead

1982 – Admiral Sir Henry Leach RN attended with the Governor-General and Prime Minister

1983 – HMNZS Otago attends and she is decommissioned shortly afterwards. Vice-Admiral D.V. Leach RAN attended with the Prime Minister and Governor-General

1986-1989 Government shifted the event to Wellington and did not involve the RNZN

1990 – 150th Commemoration of the Treaty of Waitangi. Event returned to Waitangi. HM Queen Elizabeth II & Duke of Edinburgh present.  Freedom of Tai Tokerau accorded the RNZN on 5 February on the Treaty Grounds.  Sir Graham Latimer was the Inspecting Officer.  On 6 February, a Guard was provided for The Queen’s arrival on the Treaty Grounds, but took no further part in the activities, although RNZN personnel were involved in a re-enactment of the signing of the Treaty.  A Ceremonial Sunset was separately conducted at 2100.  The Royal Guard reverted to wearing white uniform. Twelve RNZN vessels present including the frigates HMNZS Waikato, Southland, and Wellington.

 1991 – HMNZS Southland only vessel present. A New Zealand White Ensign was presented to Tai Tokerau.

1992 – Te Reo Heramana, the RNZN Cultural Group, performed the Powhiri.

1994 – Heavy rain featured throughout the ceremony. Prince Charles attended with Rear Admiral D.B. Chalmers RAN and Commodore Kwek Siew Jin RSN. HMAS Perth & Canberra attended.

1995 – Ceremony cancelled due to protest action. HMNZS Canterbury was the only ship to attend. This was the last time a Leander-class frigate was used for the ceremony.

1996-2001 Ceremony moved to Wellington due to protest action

2002 – RNZN returned to Waitangi – HMNZS Te Kaha present, first time Anzac-class frigate used. Low-key event

2007 – Beat Retreat cancelled due to heavy rain

2008 – First time MRV HMNZS Canterbury present, Beat Retreat cancelled due to heavy rain. CTP onboard Canterbury, Philomel 100-man Guard returns to Waitangi. Beat Retreat and Ceremonial Sunset Conducted with HEGG Reviewing Officer on 5th and Chief of Navy Sweden Reviewing Officer on 6th.

2009 –  Film crew from Maori TV shoots footage for a documentary aboard Canterbury

2010 – First attendance by an IPV HMNZS Taupo, Admiral’s Barge present

2011 – First attendance by an OPV – HMNZS Otago

2012 – Conflict with protestors at Waitangi resolved by RNZN Kapa Haka Group. The Admiral’s Barge, returning to Auckland from the Waitangi celebrations is run onto rocks and holed at the entrance to Tutukaka and partially sinks. It is returned to Philomel by 15 February for inspection and repairs


[1] This was an SDML P3555 which used the name of the Auckland RNZNVR Division