New Zealand Division of the Royal Navy

The New Zealand Division of the Royal Navy also known as the New Zealand Station was formed in 1921 and remained in existence until 1941. It was the precursor to the Royal New Zealand Navy. Originally, the 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.

New Zealand Division of the Royal Navy
The cruiser HMS Philomel, "Cradle of the Navy"
Country United Kingdom
Branch Royal Navy


At its establishment in 1848, the Australia Station encompassed Australia and New Zealand.[1] Under the Australasian Naval Agreement 1887 the colonial governments of Australia and New Zealand secured a greater naval presence in their waters, agreed that two ships would always be based in New Zealand waters and agreed contributions to funding that presence.[2]

The Australian Squadron was disbanded in 1911 and the Australia Station passed to the Commonwealth Naval Forces. The Australia Station was reduced to cover Australia and its island dependencies to the north and east, excluding New Zealand and its surrounds, which was transferred under the command of the Commander-in-Chief, China and called the New Zealand Naval Forces.[3]

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.[4] 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.[5]

The Commodore's appointment was abolished and forces brought directly under the New Zealand Chief of the Naval Staff from October 1940.[6] 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.[7]

Ships of the New Zealand Division

Historic ships of the
Royal New Zealand Navy
Alphabetical list

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.

Name Pnt Type Class Commissioned Decommissioned Notes
HMS Achilles 70 Cruiser Leander class 1936 1941 1941–1946 was HMNZS Achilles in the RNZN
HMS Auckland L61 Convoy sloop Egret 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 Acquired by the Royal Danish Navy in 1949 and renamed HDMS Galathea.[8] Circumnavigated the world in 1950–52 doing deep-sea oceanographic research.
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
HMS Puriri T02 Minesweeper Converted merchant ship 1941 1941 14 May 1941 struck a German mine nine miles (14 km) northeast of the Whangarei heads and sank with the loss of five crew members.[9][10]
HMS Torch Convoy sloop 1921 1924 1914–1921 was HMS Torch in the NZ Naval Forces. Also called a gunboat. Wrecked in Chatham Islands.
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


Officers who commanded the New Zealand Division/Station include:[11]

RankNameTerm began
CommodoreAlan HothamMarch 1921
CommodoreAlister Beal, CMG, DSOAugust 1923
CommodoreGeorge Swabey, DSO18 June 1926
CommodoreGeoffrey Blake, CB, DSO19 July 1929
Rear AdmiralFischer Watson, DSO26 February 1932
Rear AdmiralThe Hon. Edmund Drummond, MVOMarch 1935
CommodoreIrvine GlennieJune 1938
CommodoreJames Rivett-CarnacDecember 1938
CommodoreHenry Horan, DSCDecember 1939
CommodoreEdward ParryMay 1940

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.

In 1941 there were:[12]

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

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).


  1. Dennis 2008, p. 54.
  2. "Australian Naval Defence and the 1887 Colonial" (PDF). Sheffield Hallam University. Retrieved 13 August 2016.
  3. Dennis 2008, p. 53.
  4. McGibbon 2000, pp. 45–46.
  5. McGibbon 2000, p. 353.
  6. New Zealand Electronic Text Centre, Appendix Vi — Members Of New Zealand Naval Board|Appendix VI: Members of the New Zealand Naval Board
  7. "The Royal New Zealand Navy". New Zealand History. Retrieved 13 August 2016.
  8. "Danish Naval History: HDMS Galathea". Retrieved 13 April 2018.
  9. Tonson, A.E. HMS Puriri 1938, NZ Navy, article in Naval Historical Review – March 1983
  10. HMNZS Puriri Archived 24 November 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  11. Senior Royal Navy Appointments Archived 11 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  12. "Royal Navy History". Retrieved 12 August 2016.


  • Dennis, Peter; Grey, Jeffrey; Morris, Ewan; Prior, Robin (2008). The Oxford Companion to Australian Military History (2nd ed.). South Melbourne: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-551784-2. OCLC 271822831.
  • 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
  • McGibbon, Ian (2000). The Oxford Companion to New Zealand Military History. Auckland: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-558376-0.
  • 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
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