Axis naval activity in New Zealand waters

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A small number of Axis surface raiders and submarines operated in New Zealand Waters during World War II.

Surface raiders[edit]

The following German surface raiders operated in New Zealand waters:

  • Orion (13–19 June 1940, late August 1940, late September 1940, November 1940, March 1941)
  • Komet (November 1940, June 1941)
  • Small auxiliary raider Adjutant (June 1941)
  • Tanker Ole Jacob (March 1941)

The Orion and Komet sank four ships in New Zealand waters during these operations.[1]


Imperial Japanese Navy[edit]

The Japanese submarine I-25

Imperial Japanese Navy submarines operated in New Zealand waters in 1942 and 1943:

  • I-29 is said to have operated off New Zealand in February 1942, although this seems unlikely given its construction was only completed in February. Its floatplane was also said to have overflown Wellington.[2]
  • I-25 operated off New Zealand in early March 1942. Nobuo Fujita from I-25 in a Yokosuka E14Y floatplane conducted reconnaissance flights over Wellington on 8 March and Auckland on 13 March before departing for Fiji.[3]
  • I-21 briefly operated off the northern tip of New Zealand in May 1942. I-21's floatplane flown by Lt Ito Isuma conducted a reconnaissance flight over Thames and then Auckland on 24 May.[4]
  • An unknown Japanese submarine operated off New Zealand around 22–23 February 1943. This was one of several reported sightings in the period up to early 1944.[5]

Neither I-21 nor I-25 attacked any ships during their brief periods in New Zealand waters.[6]


The German submarine U-862 sailed down the east coast of New Zealand in January 1945. U-862—under the command of Korvettenkapitän Heinrich Timm—entered New Zealand waters on 1 January 1945 after operating off Australia. The boat rounded the tip of the North Island on 7 January and proceeded down the east coast.[7] She encountered a merchant ship off Cape Brett on 10 January but was not able to intercept it. The U-boat continued south and failed to reach firing position on another merchant ship off East Cape on 13 January.[8]

On 15 January, Timm took his submarine very close to Gisborne in search of viable targets. While the submarine was not detected, Timm did not find any worthwhile ships to attack.[9] Timm also sailed close to the shore of Napier on 16 January and attempted to torpedo a small merchant ship off the city. This attack was not successful, with the torpedo missing its target. Timm believed that U-862 had been sighted during this attack and left the area. This belief was not correct, however, and the New Zealand government remained unaware of the submarine's presence.[10]

Shortly after the attack off Napier, U-862 received orders to return to her home base at Batavia. Timm immediately ceased his patrol and proceeded along the east coast of the South Island. U-862 rounded Stewart Island/Rakiura on 21 January and the submarine left New Zealand waters shortly thereafter.[11] Claims that members of the submarine's crew landed in New Zealand are not correct, and this story appears to have been started by Timm as a joke.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Sydney David Waters 'German Raiders in the Pacific' in Episodes & Studies Volume 1. Historical Publications Branch, Wellington. Page 31.
  2. ^ Desperate defence, Pacific War New Zealand and Japan 1941-1945, Matthew Wright, Reed Publishing (NZ) Ltd, 2003, ISBN 0 7900 0908 0, pages 38-39
  3. ^ Sydney David Waters (1956), The Royal New Zealand Navy. Historical Publications Branch, Wellington. Pages 214-215.
  4. ^ Waters (1956). Page 215.
  5. ^ Waters (1956). Page 219.
  6. ^ Waters (1956). Page 217.
  7. ^ David Stevens (1997), U-Boat Far from Home. Allen & Unwin, Sydney. Page 179.
  8. ^ Stevens (1997). Page 180.
  9. ^ Stevens (1997). Page 181.
  10. ^ Stevens (1997). Pages 182-183.
  11. ^ Stevens (1997). Page 183.
  12. ^ Stevens (1997). Page 221.


Further reading[edit]

  • Shone, Gerald (2016). U-boat in New Zealand Waters. Auckland: Pahiatua Publications. ISBN 978-0-473-35128-1.