First Sea Lord gets a tradition Maori welcome in Portsmouth

BRITAIN'S top sailor was treated to a colourful and vocal New Zealand welcome ceremony to mark the loan of Battle of Jutland treasures to the National Museum of the Royal Navy.

Monday, 20th June 2016, 6:00 am
Members of the London-based Ngati Ranana tribe performing waiata - traditional songs - for the First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Philip Jones Picture: L(Phot) Kyle Heller

First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Philip Jones attended the museum’s new Jutland 100 exhibition at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard as guest of the Royal New Zealand Navy.

Taking pride of place among the loaned treasures is a Maori skirt which the commanding officer of British warship HMS New Zealand kept by his side during the battle as a lucky charm.

The flax skirt, known as a piupiu, was given to Captain Lionel Halsey – commanding officer of HMS New Zealand – in 1913 by a Maori chief during a visit by the ship to its namesake country.

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The PiuPiu

According to legend the prophecy given at the time was that if worn in battle it would protect the ship and its crew.

It was worn by Captain Halsey at the battles of Dogger Bank and Heligoland and kept close to his successor Captain J F E Green at Jutland.

Despite coming under heavy fire, none of HMS New Zealand’s sailors was killed during any of the battles.

New Zealand High Commissioner Sir Lockwood Smith said: ‘It is a privilege to have the First Sea Lord here as we entrust to your temporary care these treasures from HMS New Zealand.

The 1st Sea Lord Admiral Sir Philip Jones, right, and Rear Admiral John Martin in front of the PiuPiu

‘This exhibition brings to life today the special relationship between the UK and New Zealand.

‘This is one of my greatest occasions during my time as High Commissioner.’

Admiral Jones said: ‘I am so pleased these treasures have come here to the home of our naval heritage.

‘It is fitting that these artefacts are residing here in Portsmouth and reflects the ties that bond our two nations together.’

The PiuPiu

The ceremony included a haka dance performed by the Cultural Group of the Royal New Zealand Navy and a Maori ‘waiata’ – traditional songs sung by members of the London-based Ngati Ranana tribe.

After Jutland the piupiu was returned to Halsey who later lent it to the New Zealand Division of the Royal Navy.

On his death in 1949 it was left to his youngest daughter Ruth. She died in 2002 and it was her wish for the piupiu to return to New Zealand.

Among other treasures from HMS New Zealand on display are the Battle of Jutland honours board, a bronze Maori head used as a bell hanger, and the ship’s bell.

The 1st Sea Lord Admiral Sir Philip Jones, right, and Rear Admiral John Martin in front of the PiuPiu