Recognising our naval history: Naval chief John Martin responds to the suggestion that there has been a recent maritime shift in New Zealand's defence preparations.

In his article 'A maritime shift?' in the May/June edition of this journal (vol 43, no 3), Dr Colin Robinson speculated on the proper force balance for the New Zealand Defence Force in the future. In his considered and thought provoking piece, he started with a short summary of New Zealand's military history. Unfortunately, with its very land-centric focus about what New Zealand has done in the last 180 odd years, it did not reflect the contributions of naval personnel, whose service shapes our nation's standing today. A nations navy reflects its national defence strategy, and the strategy encapsulates the nation's response to the dynamic security environment.

Robinson's article begins its discussion: 'New Zealand started its military history with an uncompromising focus on land operations, in the Maori Wars ...' Our nation has two great formative maritime traditions: Maori--their voyages to reach New Zealand and the maritime history of many iwi--and the Royal Navy. Next year we will celebrate 250 years since the arrival in New Zealand of Captain James Cook RN, and the first encounters between the Maori and British. Later, HMS Herald played a role in the signing of Te Tiriti o Waitangi (the Treaty of Waitangi): present in the Bay of Islands on 6 February 1840, Herald conveyed the Herald-Bunbury copy of the treaty around the South Island for signature later that year. The treaty itself was authored by naval officer Captain William Hobson RN, who became the first governor of New Zealand.

If we view our military history primarily in terms of the conflicts involving our nation, our naval history continues with the New Zealand Wars, which began in 1845. Although a series of land conflicts, most campaigns were sustained from the sea or by naval craft because of the absence of roads. Sailors and marines fought as a part of the British forces, and several campaigns included naval operations.

In the Northern War, sailors and marines from six ships were part of the British forces at the Batde of Ruapekapeka in 1846, opposing Hone Heke and Kawiti. Later, in 1860, sailors from HMS Niger participated in land batdes in and around Taranaki, including the provision of naval gunfire support. HMS Harrier undertook operations during the invasion of Waikato in 1863-64, and a naval brigade took part in the battle of Gate Pa in 1864 during the Tauranga campaign.

The official history of the Royal New Zealand Navy in the Second World War notes that:

Ships of the...

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