New Zealand Military History

From the very earliest days of European settlement, New Zealand's development has been inextricably linked with first the Royal Navy and in later years the Royal New Zealand Navy.

Issue information

The country was claimed for the British Crown in 1769 by Captain Cook, and even before the arrival of the first Crown-appointed governor, gunboats from Britain's Royal Navy were helping preserve law and order in the fast-growing colony.

The Naval Defence Act of 1913 authorised the establishment of New Zealand Naval Forces and in the years to follow the seagoing service experienced the triumphs and tragedies of two World Wars and confrontations in Korea and Indonesia. The Royal New Zealand Navy has built a hard-earned reputation for efficiency and professionalism much envied by its larger counterparts.  Today the force stands as a visible safeguard to the country's national security.

Many ships have come and gone in the Navy's service and this stamp issue and miniature sheet remembered some of the earliest and paid tribute to some still in service.

Miniature Sheet - $2.05
Incorporating the four stamps of this issue with a background design illustrating HMNZS 'Monowai' a hydrographic survey ship commissioned into the Royal New Zealand Navy in August 1974.

In 1980-81 HMNZS 'Monowai' carried out an extensive trans-Pacific survey to chart the route for laying the ANZCAN cable to provide New Zealand's communication links with Australia, Norfolk Island, Fiji, Hawaii and Canada and via Atlantic Ocean cables and satellites to Europe.

Product listing for New Zealand Military History 

Click on image to enlarge.

Image Title Description Price
  Single Stamp HMNZS 'Philomel' - 25c
The 'Cradle of the Navy', HMNZS 'Philomel', could be described as the foundation stone on which the Royal New Zealand Navy was laid. This light cruiser was the country's first warship, obtained in 1913 as a training ship. When World War I was declared the cruiser went to war operating in the Mediterranean, Red Sea and the Persian Gulf. Decommissioned in 1947 the old ship's fittings and parts were removed and she was towed out to sea and ceremoniously sunk on 6 August 1949.
  Single Stamp HMNZS 'Achilles' - 45c
The HMNZS 'Achilles' began her New Zealand naval life in much the same way as HMNZS 'Philomel'. She was lent by the British Admiralty as a ship to the New Zealand Division of the Royal Navy and with HMS Diomede was commissioned on 31 March 1936. Three months after the outbreak of World War II the Achilles sailed into history engaging in one of the most famous of recent naval battles - The Battle of the River Plate - Uruguay. She was sold to India in July 1948 and renamed INS 'Delhi'; and scrapped in 1978. One of her gun turrets plus the director control tower are on display at the Auckland Museum of Transport and Technology.
  Single Stamp HMNZS 'Rotoiti' - 60c
Purchased in 1948 from the British Government, the HMNZS 'Rotoiti', along with five other Loch-class anti-submarine frigates provided the backbone for the Royal New Zealand Navy for well over a decade. The 'Rotoiti' was called to service in the Korean War and served as a weather ship during peacetime at the Christmas Island nuclear test in 1957. During the 1960s the Loch-class ships outgrew their usefulness and 'Rotoiti' was the last to be withdrawn from service in August 1965. She was eventually sold for scrap in September 1966.
  Single Stamp HMNZS 'Canterbury' - 75c
The first of the wide-beamed Leander class frigates was launched in 1970. Along with HMNZS 'Otago', the HMNZS 'Canterbury' took part in the anti-nuclear protests at Mururoa Atoll in 1973. In 1982, her services during the Falkland Islands conflict won the 'Wilkinson Sword of Peace' award; the first time the award had been made outside the Royal Navy.
  First Day Cover First day cover with stamps affixed. Cancelled on the first day of issue.  
  Miniature Sheet First Day Cover First day cover with miniature sheet affixed. Cancelled on the first day of issue.  

Stamp bulletin

This stamp issue first appeared in New Zealand Post Stamp Bulletin No. 34 in September 1985.

Acknowledgments: Bulletin scanned and provided by John Biddlecombe of the New Zealand Society of Great Britain. Their web site offers further information useful to those interested in the stamps and postal history of New Zealand. Link:

Technical information

Date of issue:  06 November 1985
Designers: P Durrant, Christchurch
Printers: Cambec Press, Australia
Stamp size: 40mm x 30mm
Sheet size: 100 stamps per sheet
Process: Lithography
Perforation gauge: 13.5 x 13.25
Paper type: Unwatermarked