Warrant Officer Ronald Kirkwood joined the New Zealand Division of the Royal Navy as a stoker in 1932. After service in the cruiser HMS DUNEDIN he was sent on loan to the United Kingdom in early 1936, serving in the destroyer HMS HOSTILE transporting civil war refugees from Spain after which he was posted to the battleships HMS RAMILLIES and HMS RESOLUTION.
In early 1939 Kirkwood returned to New Zealand in HMS ACHILLES and was immediately sent for mechanician training in Australia. He rejoined HMS ACHILLES on completion of his courses and describes the bombing of HMS ACHILLES X turret in the Solomon Islands area. Kirkwood spent the remainder of the war in the cruiser HMNZS GAMBIA. He was a member of the commissioning party that brought the cruiser HMNZS BELLONA out to New Zealand.
Ronald Kirkwood retired from the RNZN in October 1949 having attained the rank of Warrant Officer.