April 1913: This month last century

100 years ago HMS New Zealand arrives in New Zealand (12 April 1913)

Model of the battlecruiser HMS New Zealand, 1955 - 1959, New Zealand. T. Devitt. Gift of the Wellington Marine Model Club, 1959. Te Papa

Model of the battlecruiser HMS New Zealand, 1955 – 1959, New Zealand. T. Devitt. Gift of the Wellington Marine Model Club, 1959. Te Papa.

In March 1909, New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Sir Joseph Ward announced that ‘the Dominion’ (New Zealand) was offering ‘the Motherland’ (Britain) the ‘free gift of … a first-class battleship’.

The Prime Minister thought that his offer to pay for a ship would allow New Zealanders to take ‘much greater pride and interest’ in the Empire’s defence. This proved to be enormously popular in New Zealand, and Parliament authorised the expenditure of up to £2 million on the ‘gift ship’.

The ship’s construction began in early 1910, and was completed in November 1912, having been given the name HMS New Zealand in 1911. 

HMS New Zealand in a terrific gale, 1910s. Maker unknown. Te Papa

HMS New Zealand in a terrific gale, 1910s. Maker unknown. Te Papa

Her ‘thank you’ visit to New Zealand, during April and May 1913, was a triumph. The medal below was made to commemorate the occasion. Huge crowds flocked to see her – at Wellington on 16 April alone, over 15,000 people went aboard. She called at most of New Zealand’s major ports, where her visits inspired impressive demonstrations of patriotic fervour.

Medal commemorating the visit of H.M.S. New Zealand, 1913. New Zealand. William Rose Bok, Te Papa

Medal commemorating the visit of H.M.S. New Zealand, 1913. New Zealand. William Rose Bock, Te Papa

HMS New Zealand participated in several major naval battles during WWI. In 1919, she made another, farewell visit to New Zealand. The presentation casket (below) was presented to the wife of the Governor General at a ball that was held in the Wellington Town Hall to commemorate the event.

Presentation casket, circa 1919, New Zealand. Maker unknown. Purchased 2012. Te Papa

Presentation casket, circa 1919, New Zealand. Maker unknown. Purchased 2012. Te Papa.

Read Leslie Adkin’s enthusiastic diary entry about his visit to HMS New Zealand on Collections Online

Follow HMS New Zealand’s journey on the Auckland War Memorial Museum’s website

Read about New Zealand’s imperial loyalties and contributions to imperial defence in the 1900s and 1910s on the Slice of Heaven exhibition mini-site.

See objects in Te Papa’s collections related to HMS New Zealand

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