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Change of Command for Devonport Naval Base

A ceremony has taken place today to mark the Change of Command of the home of the Royal New Zealand Navy at Devonport Naval Base in Auckland.

10 March, 2022

Commander Julie Simpkins is now the Commanding Officer of HMNZS Philomel after 33 years of service, leadership and dedication to the Navy. 

She is looking forward to leading the sustainment of the COVID-19 response for the base, and the transition back to regenerating the force to fulfil the Navy’s mission of advancing New Zealand’s interests from the sea. 

“E kitea ai ngā taonga o te moana, me mākū koe. If you seek the treasures of the ocean, you’d better get wet,” she said at the Ceremony.

This to me means several things including: embodying our values Tū Kaha, Tū Tika, Tū Tira, Tū Maia – Courage, Commitment, Comradeship and Integrity.” 

Established in 1841, the Devonport base has a rich history and is named HMNZS Philomel, after the Pearl-class cruiser which was commissioned into New Zealand Naval Forces in 1914. 

Commander Phil Wheadon hands command of the HMNZS Philomel to Commander Julie Simpkins

Philomel eventually became a non-seagoing training ship for generations of new entrants, with her engines removed to make room for classrooms. When she decommissioned in 1946, her name was transferred to the base.

“It is home to our ships, to significant maintenance facilities, to Navy’s training and to a team that provide the necessary Base services to enable these functions. It is a place where all Navy personnel will have served in some capacity and where our people arrive and depart on our ships,” Commander Simpkins said. 

“It’s a place we share alongside the Devonport community and I feel a sense of pride that I will have the opportunity to fill the role of Commanding Officer, HMNZS Philomel.”

Outgoing Commanding Officer, Commander Phil Wheadon, said the COVID-19 pandemic had been a challenge during his time in command.  

“It has been an absolute privilege to lead and guide such a dedicated group of naval offers and civilian staff that is the HMNZS Philomel Command Team.

“We have clearly had a tremendous challenge as we have responded to both Delta and Omicron outbreaks within the overall Covid-19 pandemic. 

“The Navy, and the whole of the Defence Force, has contributed hugely to the Government response working in Managed Isolation and Quarantine Facilities and crewing the Auckland border checkpoints in support of the police.

“All the while we have been contributing to other Navy outputs such as the humanitarian relief effort in Tonga,” he said.