HMS New Zealand begins tour of nation’s ports

12 April 1913

HMS New Zealand in Wellington Harbour, 1913
HMS New Zealand in Wellington Harbour, 1913 (Alexander Turnbull Library, 1/1-020101-G)

The Royal Navy battlecruiser HMS New Zealand arrived in Wellington to begin a 10-week tour during which half a million New Zealanders inspected the vessel. Boats ferried Dunedin sightseers to the ship because it was too large to enter Otago Harbour. Ten sailors deserted in Auckland.

The ship was a gift from New Zealand, which funded its construction for the Royal Navy. Commissioned in November 1912, it cost the country £1.7 million (equivalent to nearly $290 million today).

Māori presented the ship’s captain, Lionel Halsey, with a piupiu (flax kilt) and a greenstone hei tiki (pendant) to ward off evil. He wore them during the early part of the First World War, and they were on board the ship during the Battle of Jutland in May 1916. Some attributed New Zealand’s reputation as a lucky ship to the presence of these items.

The ageing battlecruiser returned to New Zealand in 1919 during a tour of the Dominions. New Zealand finally finished paying for the ship in 1944, 22 years after it was sold for scrap.