Skip to main content

National Merchant Navy Day Commemoration: 3 September 2022

Media release: 29 August 2022

The national commemoration honouring those who served in the Merchant Navy during wartime is being held at Pukeahu National War Memorial Park on 3 September, Brodie Stubbs, Manatū Taonga Ministry for Culture and Heritage Te Pae Mahara Manager said today.

“On 3 September, we honour the several thousand civilian volunteers from New Zealand who served in both the First and Second World Wars,” said Brodie Stubbs.

“No other group of New Zealand civilians faced such risks during wartime.”

Civilian volunteers sailed in ships delivering troops, military equipment and vital cargoes of food, fuel and raw materials. Many ships were torpedoed or bombed and survivors sometimes spent days or weeks in lifeboats before being rescued. Some were as young as 14 years old and others were in their 60s and 70s.

“This year’s commemoration coincides with the 80th anniversary of the capture of the MV Hauraki and its 55 crew by the Japanese in July 1942, which only reinforces the grave dangers our merchant seafarers faced during their journeys.

"Some 70 New Zealand merchant seafarers are known to have lost their lives during the First World War and at least 140 during the Second World War, with a similar number taken prisoner,” Brodie Stubbs said.

With most civilian volunteers sailing under the British red ensign, 3 September marks the sinking of the first British merchant ship in 1939, just hours after the Second World War began 83 years ago.

In recognition of their key role during the war, the Merchant Navy was effectively regarded as the ‘fourth service’ alongside the army, navy and air force.

People wishing to attend this year’s commemoration should arrive at the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior at Pukeahu National War Memorial Park, Buckle Street, Wellington on Saturday 3 September at 10.45am for an 11.00am start.

Attendees are encouraged to follow all relevant COVID-19 guidelines and face masks are recommended.

Updates about the ceremony will be added to the Pukeahu events website and

Online resources

More information about the New Zealand’s war contribution through the Merchant Navy:

Updated on 5th September 2022