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HMS New Zealand

Model of the battlecruiser HMS New Zealand
Model of the battlecruiser HMS New Zealand 1955-1959, Devitt, T M (1936– ), New Zealand. Gift of the Wellington Marine Model Club, 1959. Te Papa
'We distant sons desire to … prove to the world how dear to us is Britain's name and greatness.'
Sir Joseph Ward, New Zealand Prime Minister, 1909

In 1909, New Zealand Prime Minister Sir Joseph Ward (1856–1930) offered Britain a 'first-class battleship' to show New Zealand's commitment to the Empire. Without its own navy, New Zealand depended on Britain's.

The battlecruiser HMS New Zealand was completed in 1912 – financed by an enormous loan. It was fitted with state-of-the-art technology to fight Germany's modern fleet. The new ship's 'thank you' visit to New Zealand in 1913 inspired patriotic fervour. Half the country turned out to greet it.

Survival and ruin

HMS New Zealand was lucky to survive the Battle of Jutland in World War I – two of its sister ships didn't. The crew credited its luck to a protective piupiu (flax skirt) gifted by a Maori chief.

But by 1924, the ship was already obsolete and was scrapped. Another 21 years would pass before the government finally paid off the loan.

© Copyright Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington, New Zealand.