HMS New Zealand visits Picton
In 1913, Picton was visited by the largest warship that had ever come to New Zealand, the HMS New Zealand.
Our country was very proud, as the ship was funded by the New Zealand government as a gift to Britain (our government took out a loan to pay for this). She was launched in 1911, commissioned into the Royal Navy in 1912, and in 1913 was sent on a tour of British Dominions, New Zealand in particular. It was estimated that almost half the population of New Zealand saw the ship, so her arrival in Picton was warmly anticipated. Meetings were held, committees formed, and there was great bustle to ensure that the town upheld its honour. Shops and businesses were decorated with bunting and greenery, and several trains brought sightseers from Blenheim and further south.
Anchored outside Mabel Island, HMS New Zealand was a battlecruiser of the Indefatigable class, 590 feet long. Tenders were used to bring officers and crew ashore and to take the many local visitors out to the ship for tours of inspection. The ‘native chiefs’ D. Love and A. Rore were asked to provide a Māori welcome, and there was a civic reception outside the Post Office, when the Captain was presented with a framed photo of the brand-new Cook Memorial in Ship Cove.
A ball was held in the evening for the officers, and during the day men of the ship took part in shooting, football and hockey matches against the locals. The visitors were diplomatic enough to state that Picton had the best harbour in New Zealand, and that the haka they’d witnessed was the best they’d seen anywhere.
The ship returned to England in time to take part in the First World War, and was active in many major North Sea battles. She survived unharmed through much action, and this was credited by the crew to her Māori gifts of a piupiu (flax skirt) and greenstone hei-tiki, which the Captain would wear during attacks.
There was another world trip in 1919, when she again visited Picton with the same amount of festivity. The ship was sold for scrap in 1922, many items from the battlecruiser being sent to New Zealand. During the Second World War, her 4-inch guns were mounted to protect harbour entrances at Auckland, Wellington and Lyttelton. The captain's piupiu was returned to New Zealand in 2005, and is on display at the Navy Museum in Auckland alongside the ship's bell and other artefacts. The New Zealand Government completed paying off the loan used to fund the ship in the 1944/45 financial year.
Story originally written by Loreen Brehaut for the Seaport Scene Picton paper in 2013 (updated August 2020)
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Further sources - HMS New Zealand visits Picton
- Waters, S.D (1956) Record of HMS New Zealand. In The Royal New Zealand Navy, Appendix VII. Wellington: Historical Publications Branch
- HMS New Zealand in Picton (1913, June 11) Marlborough Express, p. 2
- Thomas, R. (2016, April 19) The legend of HMS New Zealand - the lucky ship. Stuff National:
- HMS New Zealand. The Picton visit (1919, August 29). Pelorus Guardian and Miners' Advocate, p.3
- HMS New Zealand. Retrieved from: Torpedo Bay Navy Museum: World War One, New Zealand's War at Sea
- HMS New Zealand Piupiu. Retrieved from The Navy Museum Blog. Torpedo Bay Navy Museum:
- HMS New Zealand. Retrieved from Wikipedia:
- 'HMS New Zealand Great War Story', (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 27-May-2016