Ki te hunga Ope Tauā Moana o Aotearoa,
Te Tumu Whakarae, Rear Admiral John Martin,
Ngā Apiha, me ngā Heramana,
Tēnei aku mihi whakaiti ki a koutou katoa,
Mo ngā āwhina ki a māua ko Janine,
Mo ngā tau, tokowhā, ki muri,
Kia ora rawa atu koutou katoa.
To the New Zealand Navy group,
Chief of Navy, Rear Admiral John Martin,
Officers and sailors,
I offer my humble thanks and greetings to you all,
For all the assistance you have given Janine and me,
In the past four years.
My special thanks to you all.
I specifically acknowledge: Te Arikinui Kiingi Tuheitia – tēnā koe te kiingi Māori; and Rear Admiral John Martin, Chief of Navy - tēnā koe.
I am delighted to be here today, in what may well be my last engagement with the Royal New Zealand Navy as the Governor-General. Chief of Navy, thank you for this opportunity to speak to our Navy’s people.
First, I want to mention that over the last couple of weeks I have been reading about the humanitarian assistance being given to the people of Fiji in the wake of Cyclone Winston. I have appreciated reading about the sterling efforts of our Defence Force, and particularly the Navy, giving support to the people of Fiji.
Reading about what has been going on is one thing. Hearing about the effect of what you have been doing - from Fijians - gives me cause for pride in an organisation that I have had a long association with. Two weeks ago I attended two fundraising functions for the recovery efforts in Fiji. At one of them, the Fijian High Commissioner, HE Filimone Waqabaca, expressed his heartfelt thanks for the contribution that New Zealand has made to the recovery efforts in Fiji. His Excellency made special mention of the Navy.
The personnel of Wellington and Canterbury have been the face of much of that effort. Their contribution serves as a reminder of the vital role that our Navy plays in assisting our Pacific neighbours.
Service to our country is a hallmark of the men and women of the Navy, the Army and the Air Force. In the case of the Navy, if we look back to one hundred years ago, before the RNZN was formed, the first contingent of 193 men set off in 1916 to serve with the Royal Navy’s anti-submarine motor launches. In all, around 500 New Zealanders served in the RN during the First World War. In the Second World War, around 10,000 men and women served with the RNZN and RNZNVR.
These are impressive statistics, but just as important is the calibre of the individuals whose stories inspire us to this day.
People like Lieutenant Commander William Sanders VC and DSO. Sanders is the only New Zealand-born person to win a Victoria Cross while serving at sea. He was decorated in 1917 for his extraordinary cool courage under fire in an engagement with a German submarine.
Another is Vice Admiral Sir Peter Phipps, DSC and Bar. Sir Peter deserves a special mention, as the founder of our modern navy. He was the first New Zealand officer to command the RNZN, in 1960, and the first New Zealander to be the Chief of Defence, in 1963.
There are also many, many unsung naval heroes – sailors and officers - people who have extraordinary tales to tell. People like the HMS Achilles veterans Roy Waide, Harold Heffer, Robert Batt and John Thomson whom I met in 2014.
Another is Neil Harton, who I met at the 70th D-Day commemorations in Normandy, in 2014. Neil commanded a motor-launch of the 55th MTB flotilla that led the D-Day armada. A New Zealander was in the lead of what the then Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, later US President, General Dwight Eisenhower described as “one of the greatest military undertakings of all time”.
The title of Neil Harton’s memoir, Temporary Acting Gentleman-Seaman, indicates a Kiwi sense of humour that we can all relate to. No doubt it got him through some very testing times. No doubt the humour is mirrored in the upper and lower decks today.
In the midst of his vivid description of D-Day, Neil couldn’t resist quoting colloquial characterisations of the background of the Naval officers who were serving during the war - the professionals from the R.N. – “Gentlemen trying to be seamen”; those from the Merchant Navy – the R.N.R. – “Seamen trying to be gentlemen”; and the civilian wartime part-timers from the R.N.V.R. – “Neither trying to be both”.
Our soldiers, sailors and airmen and air women have inherited their humour as much as their traditions from the imperial past. At the same time you men and women of New Zealand’s Defence Force have forged a distinct identity.
The women and men of the New Zealand Defence Force have come to stand for honourable and loyal service to New Zealand. You men and women of our Navy represent Kiwi values of commitment and professional service, of comradeship and equal opportunities for people who perform well, and of courage for doing the right things.
Today, on what is most likely my last occasion with you as Governor-General and Commander-in-Chief, I want to thank the Navy for your service. I know that New Zealanders regard you highly, they appreciate what you do for our country; and so do our international friends.
I recall various occasions when I have been with you over these past five years, from the annual Beating of the Retreat ceremonies at Waitangi, through to ceremonies of welcome to royalty and international guest, through to receptions at Government House like the one in Auckland in February that launched Operation Neptune the RNZN’s 75th anniversary celebrations.
Four years ago, I was honoured to help the RNZN celebrate its 70th anniversary with a Fleet Review in Wellington Harbour and the presentation of a new Queen’s Colour. In 2014, it was a privilege to mark the 75th anniversary of Battle of the River Plate and to share your re-enactment of the wartime Queen Street parade for the officers and sailors of HMS Achilles with your veterans.
It is always instructive to meet veterans and to hear about their experiences. Equally, it is a pleasure to have an opportunity to meet currently serving men and women.
In this the Navy’s 75th anniversary year and the 30th year since women went to sea, I am delighted that the current Sailor of the Year is Leading Chef Alexis Grey.
Chief of Navy, officers, sailors and civilians of the Royal New Zealand Navy thank you for your attention, thank you for your hospitality and thank you for your service. I wish you all “fair winds and following seas”: “Kia pupuhi tonu te haumoana atawhai a Tawhirimatea”.
All the very best for this year’s commemorations, and the years ahead.
Kia ora, kia kaha, kia manawanui, kia ora huihui tāt