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NZDF personnel commemorate sinking of HMNZS Moa in Solomon Islands

New Zealanders have gathered for a moment of reflection in Solomon Islands to commemorate the Second World War sinking of HMNZS Moa in Tulagi Harbour.

09 April, 2024

Personnel from three New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) missions and staff from the New Zealand embassy in Honiara were among those who paid their respects at Henderson Field memorial gardens.

HMNZS Moa was one of three Royal New Zealand Navy Bird-class Minesweepers that served in the 25th minesweeping flotilla patrolling off the coast of Guadalcanal during the Second World War.

In January 1943, HMNZS Moa and HMNZS Kiwi joined forces to ram and wreck a Japanese I-1 submarine in Kamimbo Bay.

Just over two months later, on 7 April, HMNZS Moa was refuelling from USS Erskine in Tulagi Harbour when it received two direct hits from a Japanese dive bomber and sank bow first in under four minutes. Five ratings from Moa were killed in the explosions and seven were seriously injured.

This week’s service was attended by NZDF members of the Solomon Islands Assistance Force, which supports the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force to maintain peace and stability through community engagement and reassurance.

Also in attendance were crew from HMNZS Canterbury and Colonel Anthony Childs, the commander of a 200-strong Joint Task Force providing support for the upcoming Solomon Islands elections.

Between the shoulders of personnel, four people stand amongst the trees, two in NZDF uniform and two in civilian clothing. One man is reading from notes and another holds a wreath.

New Zealanders have gathered in Solomon Islands to commemorate the Second World War sinking of HMNZS Moa in Tulagi Harbour.

A wreath is placed at the bottom of a tree which stands in neat rows to the horizon. Three Navy sailors stand in a triangle around the wreath laying.
Two sailors stand at ease amongst the tree as two aviators place a wreath.
A wreath, poppies and a timber memorial plaque sit at the foot of a tree in the Henderson Field memorial gardens.
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The commemoration was led by the Royal New Zealand Air Force’s Squadron Leader Ash Wilson who is based in Honiara with the Forum Fisheries Agency, which helps Pacific countries sustainably manage fisheries resources within their 200 mile Exclusive Economic Zone. 

“New Zealand has a long history with Solomon Islands. This year marks the 81st commemoration of the sinking of HMNZS Moa,” said Squadron Leader Wilson.

“We respect and honour our past, our veterans and their service. This afternoon’s small commemoration of remembrance is one of the ways that we honour their legacy.”

Commanding Officer of HMNZS Canterbury, Commander Bronwyn Heslop laid a wreath on behalf of the women and men serving in the New Zealand Defence Force, followed by New Zealand High Commissioner to the Solomon Islands Jonathan Schwass, who represented the New Zealand Government.

She had a personal connection to a namesake of the sunken vessel.

“Participating in this memorial was special to me, because my first command as a young Lieutenant was HMNZS Moa, an Inshore Patrol Craft which was based out of Dunedin,” said Commander Heslop.

A contingent of NZDF personnel on board HMNZS Canterbury have arrived in Solomon Islands to provide logistical support to the upcoming national general election.

Two Royal New Zealand Air Force NH90 helicopters are on board. They will assist the Solomon Islands Electoral Commission with transportation of polling boxes and election officials to various remote locations.

Solomon Islands is geographically dispersed, which means it can be logistically challenging to ensure everyone has a chance to vote in the 17 April ballot.