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Timelime – Navy at Waitangi


19th Century

February 1890

A commemorative ball was held at Russell to mark the 50th Anniversary – composite screw corvette – HMS Opal attended.
20th Century

February 1934

HMS Dunedin and Diomede and the government steamer Mātai in attendance.

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.

February 1940

Centenary of signing of Treaty of Waitangi.

Governor General Lord Galway and Prime Minister Peter Fraser were present.

Contemporary accounts refer to a small but dignified ceremony. HMS Leander was the warship in attendance.

The Māori Battalion paraded as part of the ceremony.

February 1947

HMNZS Arbutus, SDMLs 1183 and 1184 are present.

The band from HMNZS Bellona flew up from Auckland on the Catalina flying boat.

The RNZN inaugurated a ceremony that commemorated the service of New Zealand’s first Naval Governor.

In a simple ceremony sailors raise the Union Flag before a crowd of around 1,200 spectators.

The Chief of Naval Staff Commodore Faulkner made an address; this practice continued until 1959. Although on some years the Governor General did not attend.

February 1951 & February 1952

Due to Korean War commitments only one SDML attended the commemoration.

298 December 1953

In honour of the Royal Tour a special event was held at Waitangi. It was attended by HMNZS Black Prince, Kiwi, Tui along with two SDMLs.

HM Queen Elizabeth II was in attendance accompanied by Prime Minister Sidney Holland.

February 1959

HMNZS Royalist, Kaniere Stawell and Mako attended the commemoration.

The Governor General Viscount Cobham and Prime Minister Walter Nash attended.

February 1960

HMNZS Royalist, Rotoiti, Kaniere, Paea, Mako Tamuire, HMAS Swan, HMS Andrew (A-Class Submarine) were in attendance.

This was the first time a Royal Navy vessel had been present since 1890 and the very first time a Royal Australian Navy vessel had been present.

The Governor General Viscount Cobham and Prime Minister Walter Nash attended plus Rear Admiral J.M.Villiers of the Royal Navy.

It was the first evening ceremony. All the ships were floodlit at anchor. It was also the last time a Royal Marine Band played at the event.

February 1961

Newly commissioned HMNZS Otago, along with HMCS Sussexvale, HMCS New Glasgow HMCS Beacon Hill, HMAS Gascoyne, HMNZS Paea, Mako, Manga and Ngapona were all in attendance.

This was the first time Canadian Navy warships had attended.

It was the second time Royal Australian Navy ships were in attendance.

The Band of the Royal Canadian Navy performed the Beat the Retreat Ceremony.

The Governor General Viscount Cobham attended, however, the Prime Minister Keith Holyoake was not in attendance.

February 1963

Royal Tour – the largest fleet to date to have attended Waitangi: HMNZS Royalist, Lachlan, Otago, Rotoiti, Takapu, Tarapunga, Manga, Paea, Mako, and Ngapona.

Also in attendance were Royal Navy vessels HMS Cook, Tapir (submarine), and Britannia.

HM Queen Elizabeth II And Prince Philip the Duke of Edinburgh were present.

Also in attendance were the Prime Minister Keith Holyoake, Governor General Brigadier Sir Bernard Fergusson and Commodore F.D.G. Challis RN.

The ceremony featured for the first time a parade of the Royal Guard which has remained part of the event.

February 1965

The entire RNZN Fleet was present.

Due to poor weather the dress rehearsal on the 5th was cancelled but the next day dawned fine.

February 1966

RNZN involvement was cancelled due to bad weather.

February 1970

HMAS Anzac was present. It was the third time a Royal Australian Navy vessel was present.

The New Zealand White Ensign was used for the first time having been granted in 1968, but was unable to be used in 1969, due to the cancellation.

February 1972

Decision made to use the New Zealand flag in preference to the Union Jack.

February 1973

First appearance of HMNZS Canterbury.


Royal Tour – HMNZS Waikato and Canterbury present with HMS Jupiter and HMY Britannia were present.

HM Queen Elizabeth II, Duke of Edinburgh, Princess Anne, Prince of Wales and the Prime Minister Bill Rowling were present.

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 – it had previously been organised by a single naval officer.

February 1977

Restoration of the use of Waitangi Day rather than New Zealand Day.

February 1978

Use of winter tunics for the Royal Guard following the discontinuance of the white tunics issued to Junior Ratings.

February 1979

Cyclone Henry disrupts preparations but the event goes ahead.

February 1982

Admiral Sir Henry Leech Royal Navy attended with the Governor General The Hon Sir David Beattie and the Prime Minister Robert Muldoon.

February 1983

HMNZS Otago attends. She is decommissioned shortly after.

Vice Admiral V.C. Leach Royal Australian Navy attended with the Prime MinisterRobert Muldoon and Governor General The Hon Sir David Beattie.

February 1990

150th Commemoration of the Treaty of Waitangi.

HM Queen Elizabeth II and Duke of Edinburgh are present.

Freedom of Te Tai Tokerau accorded the RNZN on 5 February on the Treaty Grounds.

Sir Graham Latimer was the Inspecting Officer.

RNZN personnel were involved in a reenactment of the signing of the Treaty.

A Ceremonial Sunset was separately conducted at 2100.

Twelve RNZN vessels were present.

February 1991

HMNZS Southland is the only vessel in attendance.

A White Ensign is presented to Tai Tokerau.

February 1992

Te Reo Heremana – the Royal New Zealand Navy Culture Group performed the Pōwhiri.

February 1994

Prince Charles attended the commemoration with Rear Admiral D.B. Chalmers Royal Australian Navy and Commodore Kwek Siew Jin Republic of Singapore Navy. HMAS Perth and Canberra were in attendance.

February 1995

Ceremony cancelled due to protest action.

HMNZS Canterbury was the only ship in attendance. This was the last time a Leander Class Frigate was used for the ceremony.

February 1996-2001

Ceremony moved to Wellington due to protest action.

February 2002

RNZN returned to Waitangi.

HMNZS Te Kaha is present – first time an ANZAC Frigate is in attendance.

February 2008

First time multi-role vessel (MRV) Canterbury attends the ceremony.

His Excellency RT Hon Sir Anand Satyanand is the reviewing officer on the 5th February. Chief of Navy Sweden performs the role on Waitangi Day.

Customs & Traditions