Neptune tragedy deserves recognition

LETTER

The Royal New Zealand Navy’s 75th anniversary celebrations have drawn to an end on a sad note with a service marking the anniversary of the country’s worst naval tragedy, the sinking of HMS Neptune on December 19, 1941.

The Neptune sank after hitting uncharted mines in the Mediterranean off Libya. Of its crew of 757, 150 were New Zealanders.

Only one crew member survived the sinking.

Among those who died was Gisborne man Darcy Heeney, a member of the city’s most famous boxing family. A nephew of heavyweight contender Tom Heeney, Darcy was a silver medallist at the 1938 British Empire Games in Sydney.

It is believed that many acts of heroism and gallantry would have never been recorded because of the horrendous death toll.

The Navy’s anniversary celebrations were named Operation Neptune as a tribute to the ship. Understandably, most of the focus in the past few years has been on events during World War 1, but the Neptune tragedy fully deserves its own recognition.

This district has a special relationship with the navy that in some ways goes all the way back to the landing of Captain James Cook in 1769.

It has always been an attractive occupation for our young people including a significant number from the East Coast who have taken advantage of the excellent occupational training it provides.

The Ministry of Defence and the Navy are planning for a number of major capability improvements to ships and services. The frigates Te Kaha and Te Mana have undergone mid-life refurbishments to extend their lives through the mid 2020s. Also on the programme are a new naval tanker and an offshore patrol vessel that will be ice-strengthened.

An efficient blue water fleet is a must for a country surrounded by such a huge area of ocean. The value of a navy was shown as recently as last month when the RNZN was joined by other navies to help evacuate people after the Kaikoura earthquake.

The spirit of the men who lost their lives all those years ago lives on today.

The Royal New Zealand Navy’s 75th anniversary celebrations have drawn to an end on a sad note with a service marking the anniversary of the country’s worst naval tragedy, the sinking of HMS Neptune on December 19, 1941.

The Neptune sank after hitting uncharted mines in the Mediterranean off Libya. Of its crew of 757, 150 were New Zealanders.

Only one crew member survived the sinking.

Among those who died was Gisborne man Darcy Heeney, a member of the city’s most famous boxing family. A nephew of heavyweight contender Tom Heeney, Darcy was a silver medallist at the 1938 British Empire Games in Sydney.

It is believed that many acts of heroism and gallantry would have never been recorded because of the horrendous death toll.

The Navy’s anniversary celebrations were named Operation Neptune as a tribute to the ship. Understandably, most of the focus in the past few years has been on events during World War 1, but the Neptune tragedy fully deserves its own recognition.

This district has a special relationship with the navy that in some ways goes all the way back to the landing of Captain James Cook in 1769.

It has always been an attractive occupation for our young people including a significant number from the East Coast who have taken advantage of the excellent occupational training it provides.

The Ministry of Defence and the Navy are planning for a number of major capability improvements to ships and services. The frigates Te Kaha and Te Mana have undergone mid-life refurbishments to extend their lives through the mid 2020s. Also on the programme are a new naval tanker and an offshore patrol vessel that will be ice-strengthened.

An efficient blue water fleet is a must for a country surrounded by such a huge area of ocean. The value of a navy was shown as recently as last month when the RNZN was joined by other navies to help evacuate people after the Kaikoura earthquake.

The spirit of the men who lost their lives all those years ago lives on today.

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