The Royal New Zealand Navy will be on show nation-wide this year as it celebrates its 75th Anniversary.

The generosity of principal sponsor Westpac and other sponsors enables the Navy to showcase its past, present and future, and commemorate the service of all the men and women who have served since its inception, and those who have supported the people in uniform.

During the year Navy ships will visit as many ports as possible throughout the country, allowing people to visit and be part of the celebrations, says the Chief of Navy, Rear Admiral John Martin.

“Our people are drawn from all parts of New Zealand and this is an opportunity for the Navy to say a heartfelt ‘thank you’ for the support we get from the community. We’re inviting all Kiwis to take part in the commemorations, wherever they might be, and celebrate this wonderful occasion with us.”

The anniversary programme starts today with a special event for Navy veterans and their families at the Devonport Naval Base. Public celebrations will begin in February, with a formation entry into Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour, and continue throughout the year.

Activities supported by Westpac and other sponsors include a live theatre tour sponsored by Siemens visiting many centres around New Zealand with children’s pantomime and evening performances for older audiences; specially commissioned exhibitions at the Torpedo Bay Navy Museum; a television documentary following HMNZS TE KAHA and HMNZS WELLINGTON during their 2015 deployments, ships’ home port visits where people can find out more about the Navy of today, and special events to mark the 30th anniversary of women first being posted to sea.

“The events are designed to take the Navy to the community by showcasing the Navy of today, while valuing the historical contribution of those who have gone before us,” says Rear Admiral Martin.

One way the Navy does this is by the collective title for the 75th Anniversary programme — “Operation NEPTUNE”, to honour the greatest single loss sustained by our Navy. HMS NEPTUNE was being prepared for transfer to the RNZN when she sank after hitting an enemy minefield in the Mediterranean on 19 December 1941 with the loss of all but one man, including 150 New Zealanders*.

The culmination of the celebrations will be the International Naval Review in mid-November, when vessels from international Navies visit Auckland for five days.

“It’s all about acknowledging the country’s commitment to secure trade routes, law and order, and the ability to help our friends at sea and from the sea. The Navy is a high performing organisation that the people of New Zealand have contributed to, served in, and been assisted by and this year is our chance to celebrate our national commitment.

“While often we are thanked for our service, this year is also a good time to thank New Zealander for their support.

“Whether it’s disaster relief, peace support operations, ensuring that the sea trade on which we depend for our survival can get through, or protecting New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone and marine resources, the Royal New Zealand Navy as part of the New Zealand Defence Force protects and serves the causes important to us and our way of life.

“Our ships and our people are called on by partners and agencies around the world to help them resolve complex issues and deliver humanitarian support,” Rear Admiral Martin said.

The culmination of the 75th Anniversary will be the Naval Review. During the review there will be plenty for the public to see and do with events along Auckland’s waterfront including a fantastic exhibition at The Cloud which will provide visitors with an experience that tells the story of our Navy, our history, our values and how we serve New Zealand.

“We’re looking forward to having New Zealanders engage with us and find out more about what we and our international partners do.”

Visit the Operation NEPTUNE 75th anniversary webpage and follow the RNZN Facebook page for regular updates on how, when and where people can get involved.

2016 major events and activities:

  • 8 February– Ceremonial Formation Entry to Auckland Harbour. The ceremony marks the beginning of celebrations for the Navy’s 75th Anniversary and will be able to be viewed from North Head.
  • 25 April– Television documentary, to be broadcast on TV ONE. Documentary follows TE KAHA and WELLINGTON’s deployments in 2015.
  • 16 May– Commemoration for HMS PURIRI, a minesweeper sunk by a mine off Whangarei Heads with the loss of five sailors in 1941. The HMS PURIRI was the only New Zealand naval vessel to be lost due to enemy action in New Zealand territory during the Second World War.
  • 23 – 24 June– In partnership with Westpac the Navy presents “30 Years: Women at Sea” (conference and events), Auckland.
  • September/October– Navy Players live nationwide theatre tour produced by Lieutenant Commander Mark Hadlow, and sponsored by Siemens. Ticketing information will be available shortly.
  • 17 – 21 November– International Naval Review, including exhibition at The Cloud, sports tournament, cultural performances, street march, ships’ open day, Auckland.
  • 18 December– Memorial service for those lost on HMS Neptune, National War Memorial, Wellington.

The Royal New Zealand Navy gratefully acknowledges the support of its family of sponsors

About the RNZN 75th Anniversary – Operation NEPTUNE

Initially established as a division of the Royal Navy in the early 1900s, it was not until 1 October 1941, that His Majesty King George VI approved the designation “Royal New Zealand Navy” for the regular element of the New Zealand Naval Forces (with Reserve and Volunteer Reserve elements appropriately titled.)

2016 marks the 75th Anniversary of the foundation of our Navy. This occasion will be celebrated with a programme of commemorative events and activities, collectively named Operation NEPTUNE.

*The name “Operation NEPTUNE” has been chosen to highlight the greatest single loss sustained by our Navy. HMS NEPTUNE (a sister ship to HMNZS ACHILLES of River Plate fame) was being prepared for transfer to the RNZN when she sank after hitting an enemy minefield in the Mediterranean on 19 December 1941 with the loss of all but one man, including all 150 of the New Zealanders who had already joined the ship.