Establishing NZ's naval forces
When the Reform government took office in 1912, the way was opened for New Zealand to begin a new approach. The new minister of defence, James Allen, had long wanted New Zealand to follow the Australian lead by beginning the development of its own navy. To this end, he secured passage of legislation – the Naval Defence Act – establishing the New Zealand naval forces in December 1913.
In London he persuaded a reluctant British government to provide a cruiser as a training ship – as the starting point in creating a local New Zealand navy.
Although some gunboats were acquired by the colonial government during the New Zealand Wars in the 1860s and torpedo boats for the coast defences in the 1880s, the genesis of the modern RNZN dates from 1887.
Seventy years old in October 2011, the Royal New Zealand Navy is today an integral part of the New Zealand Defence Force. But its 1941 establishment was the result of a long process of naval development.
Stephen Roskill was a well-liked and respected officer on HMNZS Leander. Known as the 'Black Mamba', his emphasis on damage control training ensured the crew knew what do when the ship was hit by a torpedo
Crew from HMNZS Leander carry out maintenance on a torpedo. Leander-class light cruisers carried standard Allied 21-inch (533-mm) torpedoes in eight deck-mounted tubes. They did not have the range or speed of the 24-inch (610-mm) Type 93 ‘Long Lance’ torpedoes used by the Japanese. This was a fact brutally exposed at Kolombangara – of the 51 ‘fish’ launched by Task Force 36.1, only two hit the target (helping to sink the cruiser Jintsu); in return long-range Japanese torpedoes sunk one Allied ship and badly damaged three others (including the Leander).