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The Royal New Zealand Navy


page ix


THE story of the Royal New Zealand Navy in the Second World War, the greatest maritime struggle in the annals of naval warfare, has some salutary lessons for the people of New Zealand whose prosperity and very existence as a free people are dependent upon the security of their sea communications.

Some of the greatest and fiercest naval actions of the war were fought in the Pacific, only a few days' steaming from our shores. The Battle of the River Plate, 6000 miles from New Zealand, ended the career of an Atlantic raider whose victims included New Zealand traders. The exercise of Allied sea power was the decisive factor in the defeat of both Germany and Japan. It should never be forgotten that three-quarters of the world's surface is sea.

It may be objected that there are sections of this volume that deal at some length with events in which the Royal New Zealand Navy had little or no part, notably in the Pacific. Yet the fortunes of New Zealand were so closely bound up with the general course of the war in that vast ocean that I deemed it essential to give some account of the aggressions of Japan, how she was checked in the Coral Sea, off Midway Island, and in six major naval actions in the Solomon Islands, and of the victorious sweep of mighty United States forces across the Pacific from Tarawa and New Guinea to Iwo Jima and the Philippines. From July 1943 until the end of 1944, New Zealand's cruisers were absent from the Pacific. They came back again with the British Pacific Fleet, in which they played a modest but honourable part in the final overthrow of Japan. ‘It would be wrong not to lay the lessons of the past before the future.’

I am grateful to Admiral Sir Edward Parry, KCB, who read some chapters of this book, notably those covering the cruise of HMS Achilles and the Battle of the River Plate, and made many valuable and helpful suggestions. I must acknowledge, too, the valuable services of Messrs J. P. Feeney, H. S. Broadhead, C. J. Colbert, D. V. Dunlop, D. M. Holland and B. E. G. Mason, and of Miss M. White (formerly of the WRNZS), all of whom worked, from time to time, as my research assistants. My thanks for their unfailing help are due also to Lieutenant-Commander W. W. Brackenridge, RNZNVR, and Lieutenant-Commander R. A. C. Cheyne, RNZN, former Directors of Naval Intelligence; Mr A. Ronan, officer in page x charge of records at Navy Office, and members of his staff; Lieutenant J. N. Richards, MBE, RNZN, Miss J. Swiney and Mr C. W. Knott, of the confidential books branch, as well as to Mrs G. M. James, librarian at Navy Office. I am indebted, too, to the staff of the War History Branch of the Department of Internal Affairs for their co-operation, particularly that of Mr W. A. Glue, sub-editor, and Miss J. P. Williams, who compiled the index to this volume.