8 Feb 2016

Gun salutes mark 75 years of NZ's Navy

3:23 pm on 8 February 2016

The NZ Navy has begun its 75th birthday with gun salutes from two of its ships in Auckland Harbour.

The HMNZS Canterbury and Te Mana frigates seen in Auckland harbour.

The HMNZS Canterbury and Te Mana frigates seen in Auckland harbour. Photo: RNZ / Tom Furley

The HMNZS Canterbury made a 17-gun salute as it passed Devonport Naval Base at midday and the frigate HMNZS Te Mana birthed at the base recripocated with an 11-gun salute.

The HMNS Canterbury was one of three Navy vessels in formation which entered the Waitemata harbour this morning after a stint in the Bay of Islands for Waitangi.

While the Royal Navy became an established division in the early 1900s it did not become the Royal New Zealand Navy until 1941 when the designation was approved by King George VI.

Captain Andrew Watts, aboard the HMNZS Wellington, said the anniversary was an opportunity to put the Navy forward for the New Zealand public.

"Seventy five years, it is a really significant milestone and it's just a chance for us to show New Zealanders their navy. To show them what we do for our country, what we do to defend New Zealand's interests at sea, protect our sovereignty and our prosperity and the values that we all uphold.

"It's important that the public can see that and that they can understand what it is we do."

Captain Watts said the tradition of gun salutes was an ancient tradition.

"It goes back to the Middle Ages when a ship visiting a foreign country would empty all its guns by firing them to show that it has no hostile intent and then the fort protecting the harbour it was entering would fire all its guns to show that there was equally no hostile intent reciprocated."

Captain Watts said it was a sign of respect, this time between Maritme Commander Jim Gilmore who is charge of the fleet and the Chief of Navy Rear Admiral John Martin.

"The Chief of Navy is the more senior officer so he gets more guns fired to salute him.

"So instead of walking up to him and saluting him with his hand by touching his hat, he's saluting him by firing 17 guns."

Todays event was part of Operation Neptune which has a number of events planned to mark the 75th anniversary.

The Navy is also celebrating 30 years of women at sea in June with a two day seminar.

A Naval review is taking place in November which will see 14 ships from around the Asia-Pacific Region come to Auckland for a five day celebration.

A memorial service in December at the National War Memorial will commemorate those lost on HMS Neptune (which the operation is named after).

The ship sank off the coast of Libya in 1941, killing 150 New Zealanders on board.