Minesweepers of the Royal New Zealand Navy

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Historic ships of the
Royal New Zealand Navy
RNZN Ensign
Alphabetical list

Commissioned minesweepers and danlayers of the Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) from its formation on 1 October 1941 to the present. The RNZN was created two years into World War II. For coherence this article covers the war years from the start, and thus includes also the New Zealand minesweepers operating from the beginning of the war.

World War II minesweepers[edit]

During World War II the RNZN operated 39 minesweepers and danlayers. This included 20 naval trawlers (13 Castle class, 3 Bird class and 4 Isles class), 5 converted trawlers, 10 converted merchant boats and 4 danlayers.

Naval trawlers[edit]

Naval trawlers were trawlers purpose built to Admiralty specification to operate as minesweepers and/or anti-submarine boats.

Castle class[edit]

Thirteen Castle-class naval trawlers were commissioned. Apart from James Cosgrove and Wakakura, all were built in New Zealand by government directive, circa 1942. They were 135 feet (41.1 m) long, displaced 540 tons standard or 612 tons loaded, and were designed for a complement of 27. The three-cylinder engine of 480 indicated horsepower (358 kW) from A & G Price of Thames gave a speed of 10 knots (19 km/h). The coal-fired boiler was of the Scotch marine type. The boiler size governed the size of ship that could be manufactured, and as boiler plate of the required size was not available, two completed boilers and some partly completed boilers were supplied from Britain.[1]

Name Pnd Builder Dates Career Fate
HMNZS Aroha T24 Stevenson & Cook, Port Chalmers 1943–1945 Served at Auckland [2]
HMNZS Awatere T25 Patent Slip, Wellington 1943–1945 Served at Wellington
HMNZS Hautapu T26 Stevenson & Cook, Port Chalmers 1943–1947 Served in Lytteton
HMNZS Hinau T17 Senior Foundry Co., Auckland 1942–1945 LL Flotilla AS
HMNZS James Cosgrove T10 1941–1944  
HMNZS Maimai T27 Stevenson & Cook, Port Chalmers 1943–1946 Served at Wellington
HMNZS Manuka T19 Mason Bros, Auckland 1942–1945 LL Flotilla AS
HMNZS Pahau T28 Stevenson & Cook, Port Chalmers 1944–1945 Served in Wellington
HMNZS Rimu T18 Seager Bros Shipbuilders Ltd 1942–1945 LL Flotilla AS
HMNZS Waiho T34 Stevenson & Cook, Port Chalmers 1944–1946 Served in Auckland Sold to Red Funnel trawlers[3]
HMNZS Waima T33 Stevenson & Cook, Port Chalmers 1944–1946 Served in Lytteton Sold to Red Funnel trawlers[3]
HMNZS Waipu T32 Stevenson & Cook, Port Chalmers 1943–1946 Served in Auckland
HMNZS Wakakura T00 1941–1947 1926–1941 was HMS Wakakura in the New Zealand Division of the Royal Navy. Used as danlayer from July 1944.

In addition two further Castle trawlers, Tawhai and Waikato, were completed in 1946 but were not commissioned.

Bird class[edit]

On 29 January 1943, in a classic duel, Kiwi and Moa rammed and wrecked the Japanese submarine I-1.

The Bird-class naval trawlers were 168 feet (51.2 m) long, displaced 923 tons full load, and could manage 13 knots (24 km/h). They had a complement of 33–35 and were armed with one 4-inch (102 mm) gun, two Hotchkiss guns in single mounts, twin Lewis guns and 40 depth charges. They were equipped with asdic.

Name Dates Career Notes
HMNZS Kiwi (T102) 1941–1946
Training ship
Training ship
HMNZS Moa (T233) 1941–1943 AS MS Sunk by enemy aircraft on 7 April 1943 near Tulagi Harbour in the Solomon Islands. Five crew men were lost.
HMNZS Tui (T234) 1941–1946
Training ship
Research ship
On 19 August 1943 Tui and some US Kingfisher floatplanes jointly sank the Japanese submarine I-17.

Isles class[edit]

The Isles-class naval trawlers were 164 feet (50.0 m) long, displaced 740 tons full load, and could manage 12 knots (22 km/h). They had a complement of 40 and were armed with one 12-pounder gun, three 20 mm Oerlikons in single mounts and depth charges.

Name Dates Career Fate
HMNZS Inchkeith (T155) 1941–1946  
HMNZS Killegray (T174) 1941–1946  
HMNZS Sanda (T160) 1941–1946  
HMNZS Scarba (T175) 1941–1946

Other types[edit]

Converted trawlers[edit]

Name Dates Career Fate
HMNZS Futurist (T12) 1941–1944 Functioned as a boom gate vessel 1944
HMNZS Humphrey (T12) 1941–1944  
HMNZS Kapuni (T15) 1941–1945 Functioned as supply ship 1945
HMNZS South Sea (T22) 1941–1942 Sunk 19 December 1942
HMNZS Thomas Currell (T11) 1941–1944 Functioned throughout World War II as a minesweeper vessel. Currently beached and deteriorating on the coast of Chatham Island.

Converted merchant boats[edit]

Name[4] Dates Career Fate
HMNZS Breeze (T02) 1942–1944  
HMNZS Duchess (T06) 1940–1945 examination vessel 1942–45
liberty launch 1945
HMNZS Gale (T04) 1941–1944  
HMNZS Hawea (T16) 1941–1945 Functioned as supply ship in 1945.
HMNZS Kapuni (T15) 1941–1945 Functioned as patrol boat 1940 and supply ship 1944–45.
HMNZS Matai (T01) 1941–1946 Functioned as transport ship 1945–1946.
HMNZS Muritai (T05) 1941–1946 Functioned as training and cable-lifting ship 1945–1946.
HMS Puriri (T02) 1941 Puriri was sunk just before the creation of the RNZN. 14 May 1941 struck a German mine 9 miles (14 km) NE of the Whangarei heads and sunk with the loss of 5 crew members.
HMNZS Rata (T03) 1941–1943
HMNZS Viti (T?) 1941–1945


Name Type Dates Career Fate
HMNZS Coastguard (T12) Converted trawler 1941–1960 Functioned as a stores ship 1945–1960
HMNZS Kaiwaka (T14) Converted merchant ship 1941–1945  
HMNZS Nora Niven (T23) Converted trawler 1941–1944
HMNZS Phyllis T22 Converted trawler 1943–1944


Wiliam Halsey sworn in as ComSoPac in November 1942

COMSOPAC is an acronym for Commander South Pacific. During World War II, one of the major United States theatre commands was the command of the South Pacific Area. This command was usually referred to as COMSOPAC (COMmander SOuth PACific)

It was formed in April 1942 as a subordinate command of Pacific Ocean Areas, commanded by Robert L. Ghormley through October 1942, William Halsey, Jr. to June 1944, John H. Newton to March 1945, and William L. Calhoun to the end of the war.

In June 1942 New Zealand passed the operational control of most of its South Pacific naval forces to COMSOPAC. This continued until COMSOPAC released control in June 1945.

The headquarters for COMSOPAC were initially located in Auckland, New Zealand. In July 1942 they were transferred to Nouméa, New Caledonia,

The 25th Minesweeping Flotilla[edit]

In the early months of World War II the New Zealand minesweepers had no formal grouping as a flotilla Then Niagra was sunk in June 1940. On 18 July 1940 the Naval Board designated the First Group for coastal minesweeping, and allocated Port minesweepers to the main ports. They were:[5]

On 14 November 1940, a few weeks after the founding of the Royal New Zealand Navy, they were reorganised as the First Minesweeping Flotilla (NZ)

Then on 23 December 1940 the Port minesweepers were separated, and the remaining minesweepers were organised into the 25th Minesweeping Flotilla. This name aligned with the flotilla names used by the Royal Navy. The makeup of this flotilla changed during the course of the war, as new minesweepers were commissioned, others sunk or withdrawn for repairs or refitting, and requirements changed.

Here is a snapshot of the 25th Minesweeping Flotilla on 27 March 1943:

The Port minesweepers were organised into their own flotillas. Eleven new Castle-class minesweepers joined the Port flotillas on completion, 1943–1944.

Post war[edit]

Ton class[edit]

The RNZN operated two Ton-class minesweepers on anti-infiltration patrols in Malaysian coastal waters during 1966 and 1967. They are the only commissioned RNZN ships never to have visited NZ.

Name Dates Career Fate
HMNZS Santon (M1178) 1965–1966 1967 sold to Argentina and renamed ARA Chubat (M3)
HMNZS Hickleton (M1131) 1965–1966 1967 sold to Argentina and renamed ARA Neuquen (M1)

These Admiralty designed coastal minesweepers were built with composite hulls of wood on aluminium frames and a minimum of magnetic material in the hull. They were intended to meet the threat of seabed mines laid in shallow coastal waters. Their shallow draft gave them some protection against pressure and contact mines, and allowed them to navigate in shallow inshore waters. They were 153 feet (47 m) long, displaced 360 tons standard, could manage 15 knots (28 km/h), and had a complement of 32. They were named after British villages which ended with "ton".

Early in 1965 Indonesia was employing a policy of confrontation against Malaysia. New Zealand agreed to assist Malaysia by deploying two Royal Navy minesweepers then in reserve at Singapore. These were commissioned into the RNZN on 10 April 1965 and joined the Royal Navy's 11th Minesweeping Squadron (also Ton class), taking part in anti-infiltration patrols in Malaysian waters.

In their first year they carried out 200 patrols, with 20 incidents involving intruding Indonesians, often taking as prisoners those aboard intercepting small craft. By the time the Indonesian confrontation policy ended in August 1966 Hickleton and Santon had jointly steamed 130,000 miles (210,000 km).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Breeze pp. 157–162
  2. ^ Films produced by N.Z. National Film Unit The launching of HMNZS Aroha at Port Chalmers
  3. ^ a b New Zealand Naval Museum historical research
  4. ^ Photos of the converted merchant ships
  5. ^ McDougall (1989) Pages 82–83


  • Breeze, G. E., M.I.Mech.E, A.M.Inst.N.A. Shipbuilding in New Zealand NZIE Proceedings Volume 32, 1946 pp. 155–184 (Shipbuilding during WWII in New Zealand)
  • McDougall, R J (1989) New Zealand Naval Vessels. Page 54-84. Government Printing Office. ISBN 978-0-477-01399-4
  • Waters, Sydney David (1956) The Royal New Zealand Navy, Historical Publications Branch, Wellington:

Further reading[edit]

  • Burgess, Michael (1981)The Royal New Zealand Navy: A Pictorial History. Allied Press Ltd. ISBN 978-0-908641-25-3 (many pictures of New Zealand minesweepers)
  • Harker, Jack (2000)The Rockies: New Zealand Minesweepers at War. Silver Owl Press. ISBN 0-9597979-9-8
  • Harker, Jack S (2001) The birth and growth of the Royal New Zealand Navy. Pentland. ISBN 1-85821-804-7
  • Harker, Jack S. (2006) Left hand down a bit! : the Wakakura story. Kotuku Media. ISBN 0-908967-04-7
  • Johnston, James Ian (2005) Face with Fortitude. Ianswork Publishers. ISBN 0-473-10011-8
  • Wright, Gerry (2006) A Kiwi on our Funnel : The story of HMNZ ships Hickleton and Stanton. Zenith Print and Design. ISBN 0473108224

External links[edit]