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Royal New Zealand Navy Anniversary

To mark the 70th anniversary of the formation of the Royal New Zealand Navy this month, the NZHistory website has posted new features and images about the stars of the navy’s wartime fleet.

There are several new pages that tell the story of the Royal New Zealand Navy’s first three purpose-built ships, known as the Bird class after their names Moa, Kiwi and Tui.

These warships were a one-off design and initially built with the aim of using them to train young New Zealand sailors. But they were soon being used in the front line of the Pacific War.

NZHistory describes life on board the vessels where cramped conditions – due to the need for more equipment to fight the war – and the relentless heat contributed to an exceptionally difficult environment.

Then came the action, with Moa and Kiwi locking horns with a Japanese submarine, eventually managing to run it aground on a reef near Guadalcanal.

NZHistory also reveals in detail the heroic efforts of some of the Moa’s crew who risked their lives to save others when a bomb plunged through the captain’s cabin and detonated in the bowels of the ship.

In addition several new pages are dedicated to the story of the cruiser HMNZS Leander, which also saw dramatic action in the Pacific War.

Leander and its sister ship Achilles, which achieved fame in the Battle of the River Plate in 1939, were the Royal New Zealand Navy’s main combat units and biggest warships. Both cruisers changed their designation from HMS to HMNZS when the Royal New Zealand Navy was formed in October 1941.

Central to Leander’s story was the night-time Battle of Kolombangara in July 1943, during which it was hit by a Japanese torpedo. The crew fought to save their ship, but 26 seamen were killed.

The Ministry for Culture and Heritage’s team of historians and writers create New Zealand historical content all year round on its NZHistory website.

Royal New Zealand Navy's Bird-class ships

HMNZS Leander

Updated on 23rd July 2015