RNZN Timeline

Read a timeline of events starting with 8 October 1769 – Lieutenant James Cook lands on Kaiti Beach and finishing with 13 June 2007 – the introduction of HMNZS Canterbury. 


8 October 1769 Lieutenant James Cook, in command of HMS Endeavour lands at Kaiti Beach (near Gisborne) with a party of sailors and Royal Marines

30 January 1840 Captain Hobson arrives in the Bay of Islands aboard the frigate HMS Herald, commanded by Captain Joseph Nias RN. After consultation, Hobson drafts the English language version of the intended treaty, signed 6 February.

13 September 1841 Governor Hobson established a permanent naval presence at Devonport. Lieutenant Snow, a member of Hobson’s Staff, was given charge, and took up residence in a raupo whare

16 February 1888 Dry dock built at Devonport for the Auckland Harbour Board, the largest in the Southern hemisphere – HMS Calliope the first vessel to enter

22 March 1909 Prime Minister Sir Joseph Ward offers to the Royal Navy the gift of a battlecruiser to be named HMS New Zealand

23 November 1912 HMS New Zealand commissioned

12 April 1913 HMS New Zealand makes it fist visit to New Zealand – by tour’s end over 500,000 people (almost half New Zealand’s population in 1912) visit the ship at the ports she visits

11 December 1913 The Government passes the Naval Defence Act establishing the New Zealand Naval Forces – on paper only there were no ships

15 July 1914 HMS Philomel was commissioned for New Zealand service at Wellington her commanding officer Captain Hall-Thompson appointed Naval Advisor to NZ

15 August 1914 HMS Philomel was placed under Admiralty operational control and escorts the NZ occupational force to Samoa

28 August 1914 Battle of Heligoland Bight HMS New Zealand participates in the battle sinks the German cruiser Koln using her torpedoes.  

24 January 1915 Battle of Dogger Bank HMS New Zealand participates in the battle and her gunfire cripples the German heavy cruiser Blucher. 

31 May 1916 Battle of Jutland HMS New Zealand participates in the battle and is hit only once in her after turret with no major damage.

30 April 1917 HMS Prize encounters U-93 – William Sanders was awarded the Victoria Cross and promoted to Lieutenant Commander for his actions. He is killed in action later in 1917

22-23 April 1918 Chief Petty Officer Roy Alexander wins a DCM serving aboard a motor launch during the raid on Zeebrugge. He died of his wounds after returning from the raid.

26 January 1921 HMS Chatham arrives in NZ to be the flagship for the NZ Division of the Royal Navy

14 March 1921 By Order-in-Council the New Zealand Naval Board is constituted for the overall direction and administration of the Navy and the New Zealand Naval Forces were renamed the New Zealand Division of the Royal Navy.

13 December 1939 Battle of the River Plate DKM Admiral Graf Spee is taken on by HMS Exeter, HMS Ajax, HMNZS Achilles. Several days later, the German warship was scuttled off the Uruguayan port of Montevideo.

27 January 1941 Leander sinks the Italian raider Ramb I.

1 October 1941 King George VI granted New Zealand’s naval forces the title of Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN), in recognition of New Zealand’s larger, essentially self-sufficient, Navy.

19 December 1941 HMS Neptune (sister-ship to Leander & Achilles) is sunk by mines off Tripoli and 150 New Zealanders are lost.

11 April 1942 the establishment of the Women’s Royal New Zealand Naval Service (WRNZNS) was approved by the War Cabinet

29-30th January 1943 the corvettes HMNZS Kiwi and Moa, on patrol off Guadalcanal, fought a successful action against the large Japanese submarine I-1.

13 July 1943 Battle of Kolombangara HMNZS Leander struck by Japanese torpedo killing 28 and wounding 15 New Zealanders.

31 July 1945 Operation STRUGGLE Lieutenant William ‘Kiwi’ Smith as XO of the midget submarine XE-3 sinks the Japanese cruiser Takao by laying mines underneath her in Singapore Harbour. His two crewmates win the VC for their actions.

2 September 1945 HMNZS Gambia represents NZ at the Japanese surrender ceremony in Tokyo harbour.

3 July 1950 Loch-class frigates HMNZS Tutira and Pukaki leave Auckland for duty off South Korea – all six Loch-class frigates would be deployed to Korea during 1950-1953

11 July 1951 HMNZS Rotoiti puts a landing party ashore at Sogon-Ni Point that engages with North Korean forces. Two North Korean soldiers are captured by RNZN personnel involved in the raid.

30 October 1951 The Naval Wireless Telegraphy Station established at Waiouru is commissioned as HMNZS Irirangi

20 February 1952 HMNZS Taupo with USS Endicott stops an attempted North Korean landing on Yang-Do Island

15 June 1953 Coronation Review for QEII HMNZS Black Prince represents NZ

15 May 1957 Operation GRAPPLE – first test off Malden HMNZS Pukaki and Rotoiti observe as weather ships

11 September 1958 – HMNZS Pukaki present for the final test in the GRAPPLE series of nuclear detonations

1 January 1964 – the New Zealand Naval Board is absorbed by the Ministry of Defence

28 June 1966 Last shots fired in anger by RNZN to date from HMNZS Hickleton during the Indonesian Confrontation

16 September 1966 the Leander-class frigate HMNZS Waikato commissioned into RNZN service. This is the first use of helicopters in RNZN as a WASP helicopter is standard with these frigates

20 June 1968 Royal Assent for the White NZ Ensign was granted to the RNZN – replaced the cross of St George with the four stars of the Southern Cross

28 June 1973 HMNZS Otago sails to Mururoa Atoll under orders from the Government to protest the atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons by the French.

21 July 1973 Otago arrives at Mururoa and observes the first test.

25 July 1973 HMNZS Otago replaced on station by HMNZS Canterbury who observes the second test

29 July 1977 Women’s Royal New Zealand Naval Service is formally disbanded

10 August 1995 HMNZS Tui leaves observe Operation VALERAN – French nuclear tests in the Pacific

22 July 1997 the first ANZAC-class frigate HMNZS Te Kaha commissioned

13 June 2007 Multi-role vessel HMNZS Canterbury enters service with the RNZN