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New Zealand Division of the Royal Navy


New Zealand Division of the Royal Navy

New Zealand Division of the Royal Navy
The cruiser HMS Philomel, "Cradle of the Navy"
Active 1921–1941
Country  United Kingdom
Branch Royal Navy
Type Fleet

The New Zealand Division of the Royal Navy was formed in 1921 and remained in existence until 1941. It was the precursor to the Royal New Zealand Navy. Originally, the British Royal Navy was solely responsible for the naval security of New Zealand. The passing of the Naval Defence Act 1913 created the New Zealand Naval Forces as a separate division within the Royal Navy.

On 1 January 1921, the New Zealand Naval Forces, which had formerly been under the command of the China Station, were renamed the New Zealand Division of the Royal Navy.[1] Funded by Wellington and increasingly manned by New Zealanders, it operated 14 ships over a period of 21 years, including the cruisers HMS Achilles and HMS Leander, the training minesweeper HMS Wakakura, and the cruiser HMS Philomel which was recommissioned as a base training establishment.

The Commodore's appointment was abolished and forces brought directly under the NZ CNS from October 1940.[2] The New Zealand Division of the Royal Navy became the Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) from 1 October 1941, in recognition of the fact that the naval force was now largely self-sufficient and independent of the Royal Navy.


  • Ships of the New Zealand Division 1
  • Transition to the Royal New Zealand Navy 2
  • Commanders 3
  • Notes 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6

Ships of the New Zealand Division

Sortable list covering the period from the inception of the New Zealand Division of the Royal Navy in 1921 to the formation of the Royal New Zealand Navy on 1 October 1941.

Historic ships of the
Royal New Zealand Navy
RNZN Ensign
Alphabetical list
Name Pnnt Type Class Com Decom Notes
HMS Achilles 70 Cruiser Leander class 1936 1941 1941–1946 was HMNZS Achilles in the RNZN
HMS Auckland L61 Convoy sloop Grimsby class 1938 1939 Nominated only.
HMS Chatham Cruiser Town class 1920 1924 Replaced by Dunedin in 1924
HMS Diomede D92 Cruiser Danae class 1926 1935 Replaced by Achilles in 1936
HMS Dunedin D93 Cruiser Danae class 1924 1937 Replaced by Leander in 1937
HMS Laburnum T48 Convoy sloop Acacia class 1922 1935 Flower class sloop
HMS Leander Cruiser Leander class 1937 1941 1941–1944 was HMNZS Leander in the RNZN
HMS Leith L36 Convoy sloop Grimsby class 1934 1939  
RFA Nucula L61 Fleet oiler 1924 1937 oil hulk 1937–1947
HMS Philomel Cruiser Pearl class 1921 1941 "Cradle of the Navy." 1914–1921 was HMS Philomel in the NZ Naval Forces. 1941–1947 became HMNZS Philomel in the RNZN
(T02)PuririHMS T02 Minesweeper Converted merchant ship 1941 1941 14 May 1941 struck a German mine 9 miles NE of the Whangarei heads and sank with the loss of five crew members.[3][4]
TorchHMS Convoy sloop 1921 1924 1914–1921 was HMS Torch in the NZ Naval Forces. Also called a gunboat. Wrecked in Chatham Islands. Picture
HMS Veronica T67 Convoy sloop Acacia class 1920 1934 Flower class sloop
HMS Wellington L65 Convoy sloop Grimsby class 1935 1939  
HMS Wakakura T00 Minesweeper Castle class 1926 1941 1941–1945 was HMNZS Wakakura in the RNZN

Transition to the Royal New Zealand Navy

When Britain went to war against Germany in 1939, New Zealand promptly declared war and expanded its naval forces. In recognition that the naval force was now largely self-sufficient and independent of the Royal Navy, the New Zealand Division of the Royal Navy became the Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) in 1941.

According to the Royal Navy web site, in 1941 there were

  • 2 Cruisers
  • 2 Escort Vessels
  • 1 Survey Vessel
  • 1 Minesweeping Vessel

as well as miscellaneous ships.

The prefix "royal" was granted by King George VI on 1 October 1941, and ships thereafter were prefixed with HMNZS (His/Her Majesty's New Zealand Ship).


Officers who commanded the New Zealand Division include:[5]

Rank Name Term began
Commodore Alan Hotham March 1921
Commodore Alister Beal August 1923
Commodore George Swabey 18 June 1926
Commodore Geoffrey Blake 19 July 1929
Rear Admiral Fischer Watson 26 February 1932
Rear Admiral Edmund Drummond March 1935
Commodore Irvine Glennie June 1938
Commodore James Rivett-Carnac December 1938
Commodore Henry Horan December 1939
Commodore Edward Parry May 1940


  1. ^ McGibbon 2000, pp. 45–46.
  2. ^ New Zealand Electronic Text Centre, Appendix Vi — Members Of New Zealand Naval Board|Appendix VI: Members of the New Zealand Naval Board
  3. ^ Tonson, A.E. HMS Puriri 1938, NZ Navy, article in Naval Historical Review – March 1983
  4. ^ PuririHMNZS
  5. ^ Senior Royal Navy Appointments


  • Hocken Collections, 75 Years of the New Zealand Navy bulletin 17, August 1996
  • McDougall, R J (1989) New Zealand Naval Vessels. Page 9-21. Government Printing Office. ISBN 978-0-477-01399-4
  • Walters, Sydney David (1956) The Royal New Zealand Navy: Official History of World War II, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington. Chapter 1b: Genesis of Royal New Zealand Navy

External links

  • New Zealand Navy Museum 1921 The New Zealand Division of the Royal Navy
  • The Jellicoe Report
  • Royal Navy History The Royal New Zealand Navy
  • HMS Chatham New Zealand's first cruiser
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