A Gift to Britain

Originally commissioned as a gift from New Zealand to Britain, the New Zealand was launched in 1911.

HMS New Zealand

Courtesy of Barry O’Sullivan. All Rights Reserved

Two years later the ship embarked on a 10-month tour of the British dominions, which included a stop at its namesake country.

Numerous items were gifted to the Captain along its journey, including a hei tiki from Christchurch brewery manager C J Sloman.

WW069 180802

Hei tiki

Canterbury Museum E132.16

Battle Charms

According to naval lore, the New Zealand made it through three significant battles thanks to a piupiu (flax skirt) and this hei tiki. The story started when an unnamed Māori chief alleged that if the Captain wore the piupiu, the ship and its crew would be safe.

The ship’s Captain, Lionel Halsey, must have assumed the hei tiki had similar powers. When war broke out, Halsey dutifully wore both into battle. As predicted, the battlecruiser made it through without any casualties.