Coastal Forces of the Royal New Zealand Navy

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Historic ships of the
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Alphabetical list

Coastal Forces was a division of the Royal Navy established during World War II. It consisted of small coastal defence craft such as motor launches, submarine chasers, air-sea rescue launches, motor gun boats and motor torpedo boats. It did not include minesweepers, naval trawlers or landing craft. This article is about the equivalent boats used in the Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN).

From 1921 until 1941 the New Zealand Navy was a Division of the Royal Navy. The RNZN was not created until 1 October 1941. Within six months of its creation the RNZN commissioned twelve Class B Fairmiles and sixteen Harbour Defence Motor Launches (HDMLs)

RNZN Fairmiles[edit]

On 4 April 1941 the British War Cabinet approved a proposal for a striking force of anti-submarine motor-boats, six at Auckland, four at Wellington, and two at Lyttelton. Drawings and specifications of the Fairmile anti-submarine motorboat developed by Fairmile Marine were sent from England and it was agreed that these craft could be built in New Zealand providing the engines, ordnance and some prefabricated components came from England.

The Class B Fairmiles were 112 feet (34 m) long, displaced 85 tons and had a complement of 16. Twin 12-cylinder petrol engines generated 630 hp (470 kW) on each of two shafts for a speed of 20 knots (37 km/h). They were armed with a 2 pdr gun, a 20 mm Oerlikon cannon, twin 0.303 in machine guns and 12 depth charges, and were fitted with ASDIC (sonar).

The orders were distributed among four Auckland firms. The estimated cost of each vessel was £35,000, making a total of £420,000 for the twelve. Delays occurred in the delivery of prefabricated components, the difficulty in getting supplies of first-class kauri timber and a serious shortage of skilled labour. [1]

The newly formed RNZN commissioned the 12 Class B Fairmiles on 20 December 1943 and assigned pendant numbers Q 400 through to Q 411. The boats were not initially named, and were identified only through their pendant numbers.

Pendant Reassigned (later) Commissioned Career Fate
Q 400 1943-1945 Suffered engine room fire and explosion.
Q 401 1943-1945
Q 402 1943-1945
Q 403 1943-1946
Q 404 1943-1945
Q 405 1943-1945
Q 406 1943-1945 Now privately owned by Owen Woodbridge and named "Motunui" [2]
Q 407 1943-1945
Q 408 1943-1945
Q 409 HMNZS Maori (P3570) 1943-1945
Re-purchased in 1953 and recommissioned as HMNZS Maori (P3570).[3] Sold in 1963 to become the Auckland-Waiheke ferry Iris Moana.
Q 410 1943-1945
Q 411 HMNZS Kahu I (P3571) 1943-1945
Recommissioned from 1947 to 1965 as HMNZS Kahu I (P3571).[3]
The commander of a New Zealand Fairmile looking through a small coloured disc which allowed him to look into the sky for enemy planes without damaging his eyes

The first Fairmile constructed, Q 403, was launched on 29 September 1942 and commissioned on 21 October 1942. Thereafter the completed boats were delivered at short intervals. All the boats were completed and were then recommissioned into the newly formed RNZN on 20 December 1943.

RNZN Fairmiles in the Solomons[edit]

On 14 January 1944, Admiral Halsey, Commander South Pacific, informed the New Zealand Naval Board that the "current employment of Japanese submarines and estimates of their future employment indicate immunity from the submarine menace in New Zealand waters". He proposed that the New Zealand Fairmile motor launches should be employed in the Solomon Islands, relieving American destroyers and patrol vessels for duty elsewhere.

The twelve Fairmiles were refitted for service in tropical waters and formed into the 80th and 81st Motor Launch Flotillas. The 80th Flotilla consisted of MLs 401 to 406 and the 81st Flotilla of MLs 407 to 411. The flotillas were based at Renard Sound in the Russell Islands. The base was named Kahu and for administrative purposes ML400 was commissioned on 1 April 1944 as HMNZS Kahu. During the seventeen months of their service in the Solomons, from March 1944 until June 1945, the twelve Fairmiles logged 380,000 miles (610,000 km) on anti-submarine screen patrols and on escorting ships. [4] They had no encounters with Japanese forces. [5]

RNZN Fairmiles post war[edit]

All the fairmiles returned to Auckland in July 1945. In 1946-47 all but Q 411 were sold to private buyers who used them for passenger and/or cargo service or as pleasure craft. Q 411 was sold in 1965. Q 409 was repurchased by the navy in 1953 and resold in 1963 to become the Auckland-Waiheke ferryIris Moana. Two other former fairmiles were renamed the Ngaroma and the Colville and used as the main ferries between Auckland and Great Barrier Island. They were skippered by Len Sowerby and his son Lester.

RNZN Harbour Defence Launches[edit]

Sixteen Harbour Defence Motor Launches (HDMLs) purchased in the United States were commissioned between March 1943 and March 1944. The launches were 72 feet (22 m) long, displaced 54 tons and had a complement of 10. Twin Diesels generated 270 hp (200 kW) on each of two shafts for a speed of 12 knots (22 km/h). They were armed with one 20mm Oerlikons, three Vickers K machine guns and six depth charges.

Pendant Reassigned (1950) Commissioned Career [6] Fate [7]
Q1183 HMNZS Mako (P3551) 1943-1976 Laid up 1945. Fishery protection 1946-72. Survey 1972-76, Wellington. Sold 1976. Left RNZN 1976. Berthed at Pakuranga as launch Mako . Been refitted and in Australia (possibly Adelaide).2011 Now based in Brisbane, owner Dale Raby.
Q1184 Paea (P3552) 1943-1955 Laid up 1945. Fishery protection 1946-72. Survey 1972-76 Auckland. Reserves 1975-77. Sold 12/84. In Picton 2005 being restored to wartime configuration by private owner. Purchased by Keith and Heather in 2008 and brought to Auckland. Now moored at Kauri Point in Auckland and used regularly for pleasure.
Q1185 Manga (P3567) 1943-1960 Laid up 1945. Trans'd to NZ Army as Bombardier. Returned from Army 1959. Fishery protection 1960-74. Transferred to RNZNVR 1974. Converted for Survey mid-late 1970s. Sold 1982. Left RNZN 1980. Said to be at Kaipara for rebuilding. Owner bought boat ashore and bulldozed. Also owns Kuparu.
Q1186 1943-1945 Laid up 1945. Dismantled by RNZN and sold 1946. Left RNZN 1948. Rebuilt as Wings Afloat. Went to Sydney 1970. Possibly then to Fiji.
Q1187 Tarapunga I (P3566) 1943-1955 Laid up 1945. Lent to Auckland Coast Guard 1947-50, Reserves 1951-80, Survey 1979-83, Wellington. Sold 3/84. Left RNZN 1983. Reverted to name Tarapunga. Possibly moored Tamaki River. Now in Picton (2008) owned by Steve and Kim who live aboard at Picton Wharf (along with their cat). Destroyed in fire, March 2014
Q1188 Takapu I (P3556) 1943-1955 Laid up 1945. Reserves 1951-80. Survey 1981, Dunedin. Renamed Kahawai (II) in 1981. Sold 3/84. Left RNZN 1983. Reverted to name Takapu. Chartered out of Whakatane until 2004. Possibly Pelorus Sound 2005.
Q1189 1943-1945 Laid up 1945. Sold 1946. Left RNZN 1946. Became Sea Scout vessel Alert in Dunedin . Known to be in Milford Sound 1980 on deer recovery
Q1190 Parore (P3562) 1943-1967 Laid up 1945. Reserves 1951-74. Fishery protection 1974-77. Survey, Wellington. Sold 1977. Left RNZN 1976. At Evans Bay Wellington as launch Parore. Sold late 2008 from Nelson and now moored at Shakespeare Bay, Picton.
Q1191 Kahawai I (P3553) 1943-1966 Laid up 1945. Fishery protection 1974-77. Survey 1972, Auckland & Dunedin. Sold 1976. Left RNZN 1976. Said to be ashore at Kopu in 1984 for refitting
Q1192 Maroro (P3554) 1943-1967 Laid up 1945. Reserves 1951-80. Fishery protection 1964-72. Sold 1972. Wrecked in Fiji, 27/8/82. Left RNZN 1972. Went to Fiji as Viti 1972. Wrecked near Lautoka 1982
Q1193 Tamure (P3555) 1943-1945 Laid up 1945. Originally served with Fiji Naval Reserves to 1957 as HMS VITI. Renamed Ngapona (II) in 1958. Survey 1959-68, Auckland. Sold 3/73. Served in Fiji (RFNVR) 1955-59
Ngapona 1959-
Left RNZN 1973 Sold for charter work. Sank at Tutukaka 1982. Salvaged. Rebuilt as launch Tamure 1987. Possibly at Te Atutu. Moored at Greenhithe and owned by Don, West Harbour ferry captain.
Q1194 Ngapona I (P3561) 1943-1967 Laid up 1945. Survey 1948-57. Sold 1957. Wrecked near Coromandel after grounding 11/57. Grounded Coromandel 1957, broken up 1958
Q1348 Kuparu (P3563) 1943-1967 Laid up 1945. Fishery protection & Survey 1972-84, Christchurch(Lyttleton). Sold 1984. Fairly heavily rebuilt after collision with Admiralty Steps in mid 80's. Ended service 1989. Mothballed for museum but not used and sold by RNZN in 2002. Possibly now in Kaipara Harbour. On hard in house moving yard in Helensville. Boat in very, very sad state.
Q1349 Haku (P3565) 1944-1964 Laid up 1945. Fishery protection 1964-72. Survey 1973, Canterbury. Sold 1982. Left RNZN on charter 1947. Became Black Watch, used for charity excursions. Reclaimed by RNZN 1952. Tamaki Tram duties. Left RNZN again 1980. Fitted with mast and ketch rig and became Black Watch again. In Auckland 2004
Q1350 Koura (P3564) 1944-1967 Laid up 1945. Fishery protection & Survey 1973-84, Otago & Auckland, Museum ship 1984 at Paeroa. Left RNZN 1984. At Paeroa Historic Maritime Park as of 2006.[8][9]
Q1351 1944-1945 Laid up 1945. Sold 1946. Left RNZN 1946. Became Mt Maunganui Ferry Aotearoa 1951. Became Pakatoa Is Ferry Pakatoa 1965. Beached above Whenuapai 1985.

They operated as the 124th and 125th Motor Launch Flotillas, based on Auckland and Wellington respectively. They maintained anti-submarine patrols inside indicator loops. Though they were not tested by enemy action, the anti-submarine fixed defences at Wellington and Auckland attained a high degree of efficiency. [10]

After the war, twelve were retained, three were sold and one was transferred to the Army. The remaining boats were refitted and re-engined with Foden diesels. These were subsequently used as fishery protection, survey and reserve training boats. All remaining boats were named and given new pendant numbers in 1950.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Waters, Sydney David (1956) The Royal New Zealand Navy, Pg 204.
  2. ^ New Zealand Marine News 2001 Vol 50 No 2 Page 87
  3. ^ a b "The RNZN Fairmiles". Retrieved 2007-11-14. 
  4. ^ Waters, Sydney David (1956) The Royal New Zealand Navy., Page 333-4
  5. ^ McDougall, R J (1989) New Zealand Naval Vessels. Page 87.
  6. ^ Ships of the Royal New Zealand Navy
  7. ^ RNZN HDML History Table
  8. ^ NZ Historic Ships-Koura[dead link]
  9. ^ Photo of Koura (P3564)[dead link]
  10. ^ The Royal New Zealand Navy, Pg 208 - by Sydney David Waters


  • Cassells, Ken R (1993) The Fairmile Flotillas of The Royal New Zealand Navy. New Zealand Ship and Marine Society. ISBN 978-0-9597834-4-5
  • Harker, Jack (2000)The Rockies: New Zealand Minesweepers at War. Silver Owl Press. ISBN 0-9597979-9-8
  • McDougall, R J (1989) New Zealand Naval Vessels. Page 85-98. ISBN 978-0-477-01399-4
  • Waters, Sydney David (1948) "German Raiders in the Pacific" in Episodes & Studies Volume 1. Historical Publications Branch, Wellington. Republished by the NZETC.
  • Waters, Sydney David (1956) The Royal New Zealand Navy, Page 204f, Historical Publications Branch, Wellington. Republished by the NZETC.
  • Waters, Sydney David (1956) The Royal New Zealand Navy, Battles for the Solomons, Historical Publications Branch, Wellington. Republished by the NZETC.

Further reading[edit]

  • Navy Today - the monthly magazine of the RNZN contains a wealth of incidental information.

External links[edit]