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HMNZS Canterbury (F421)
Canterbury At The Opua Quay.jpg
HMNZS Canterbury at Opua in June 2007, with the last of her equipment being taken off-board.
Career (New Zealand)
Name: HMNZS Canterbury (F421)
Namesake: Canterbury Region
Operator: Royal New Zealand Navy
Builder: Yarrow Shipbuilders
Laid down: 12 June 1969
Launched: 6 May 1970
Commissioned: 22 October 1971
Decommissioned: 21 March 2005
Homeport: Lyttelton
Fate: Scuttled 3 November 2007 as an artificial reef
General characteristics[citation needed]
Class & type: Leander class frigate
Displacement: 2,945 tonnes full load
Length: 113.4 m (372 ft)
Beam: 13.1 m (43 ft)
Draught: 5.5 m (18 ft)
Propulsion: 2 × Babcock and Wilcox boilers delivering steam to
2 x English Electric geared steam turbines, 30,000 shp (22.4 MW) to 2 shafts
Speed: 28 knots (52 km/h; 32 mph)
Range: 4,600 nautical miles (8,500 km; 5,300 mi) at 15 knots (28 km/h; 17 mph)
Endurance: 30 days or 5,500 nautical miles (10,200 km; 6,300 mi) at 15 knots (28 km/h; 17 mph)
Complement: 245 + 15 officers
Sensors and
processing systems:
Air Search Radar: Signal LW-08 D Band: Range 265 km (165 mi) for 2 m2 (22 sq ft) target
Air Surface Search Radar: Plessey Type 993 E/F Band
Navigation Radar: Kelvin Hughes Type 1006 I band
Hull Sonar: Graseby Type 750 Medium Frequency Active
Electronic Surveillance: Argo Phoenix intercept and Jammer, Telegon PST 1288 HVU
IFF system: Cossor Mk XII
Data System: Plessey/Marconi Nautis F with Link 11
Weapons Control: RCA TR-76 I Band
Armament: 2 × Vickers 4.5"(113mm) L45 DP guns in one Mk 6 twin mounting
Sea Cat missile system removed early 1990s and replaced by Phalanx CIWS
4 × 12.7 mm (1 in) AA guns
Mod 5 Mark 46 torpedoes in Mark 32 torpedo tubes
2 × Mark 36 SRBOC Mod 1 chaff launchers
Aircraft carried: Originally a Wasp helicopter, later a Kaman SH-2G, armed with Mod 2 ASW Mark 46 torpedoes
Maverick AGM-65(NZ) Air-to-surface missile
Depth charges
M60 machine gun

HMNZS Canterbury (F421) was one of two broad beam Leander class frigates operated by the Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) from 1971 to 2005. HMNZS Canterbury was laid down on 12 June 1969 by Yarrow Shipbuilders and launched 11 months later on 6 May 1970.

Commissioned on 22 October 1971, Canterbury went on to see operational service in much of Australasia and other regions like the Persian Gulf, undertaking operations like supporting UN sanctions against Iraq and peace-keeping in East Timor. In addition, Canterbury and her sister ship HMNZS Waikato relieved the Royal Navy frigate HMS Amazon in the Indian Ocean during the Falklands War, and later on her own, relieved the frigate HMNZS Otago at Moruroa during anti-nuclear protests.

Canterbury was decommissioned in 2005 and after extensive works to remove potentially toxic materials, she was scuttled on 3 November 2007 at Deep Water Cove in the Bay of Islands to provide a dive wreck. She lies in 38 metres (125 ft) of water.[1]

Operational history

The last Leander-class frigate (and the last steam-driven warship) in service in New Zealand, the ship was built in Scotland and launched in 1970. The order for the ship, the RNZN's fourth Type 12 frigate had gone ahead after some controversy and official doubt by the Minister Finance, Robert Muldoon, ('The rise and fall of a young Turk'- R.D Muldoon ). It was just affordable because at the end of production line for Leanders, the last seven for the RN, RNZN and Chilean Navy could each be built fast in a little over 2 years by using a high degree of modular construction. She was the first Leander class frigate to have the wells for Limbo mortars and VDS (dipping sonar) replaced and plated over to give a larger helicopter landing area, so helicopters larger than the usual Wasp could land and operate from the ship. And introduced a closed TV system so flight deck operations could be observed and accurately controlled from the ships operation room. These innovations were refitted to most of the RN Leander fleet and the HMNZS Canterbury's sister Leanders in the NZ Fleet. As had been outlined in a reply to a parliamentary question, by the then Minister of Defence, David Thompson some attempt was made to introduce US weapons systems partly to replace the short range RN Limbo mortar, with Mk 32 a/s tubes being fitted to launch USN lightweight fast Mk 46 torpedoes which would also arm the Wasp helicpter. A number of other USA sourced systems planned for the ship were not however introduced due to cost and political reasons. During her time in service, the travelled about 960,000 nautical miles (44 circumnavigations of the Earth), and was temporary home of 559 officers and 3,269 ratings.[2]

Gerald Hensley, then at the New Zealand Embassy in Washington, recalled that:

The frigate “Canterbury” on its delivery voyage sailed up the Potomac River to Washington, said to be the first foreign warship to do so since the British raid in 1814. Memories were long. A barbecue was held on the ship to promote New Zealand lamb and as I came away a man said to me, ‘What are these guys doing in this town? Last time they were here they burnt the place down’. [3]

She was sent to Moruroa Atoll in 1973 as a symbolic protest of New Zealand against French nuclear testing.[4]

In April 1976, Canterbury and Australian destroyer HMAS Brisbane were assigned to escort the Australian aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne during a five-month return trip to the United Kingdom for the Silver Jubilee Naval Review.[5] After the invasion of the Falklands Islands in 1982, NZ Prime Minister, Robert Muldoon offered to send the Canterbury to join the RN Falklands task force sailing south to retake the British territory, this offer was rejected by the British government, possibly due to the fact the Leanders, as the quietest a/s frigates were maintained on North Atlantic patrols, with HMS Argonaut the only RN Leander really engaged in the Falklands war, although HMS Minerva, Hermione and Bachanee joined the task group towards the end of conflict. The British government suggested as a less controversial alternative that Muldoon send RNZN frigates to relieve the British frigate squadron in the Persian Gulf for Falkland duties. Interestingly when the Canterbury was built the British Mod refused to allow the Canterbury to be fitted with the US Edo sonars fitted to the Dutch Leander and similar Canadian 205 frigates and the NZ Govt at the highest level refused to pay for the new Doppler 184M sonars being fitted to the Apollo, Archilles and Diomede being built alongside Canterbury in Yarrow shipyard and the Royal Navy then provided as free 177 sonar, no longer being fitted to new RN frigates but still carried by older frigate designs than the Leanders, but one in HMS Canterbury case specially tuned for Persian Gulf service,.[6] During the Armilla patrols in 1983, the RNZN ships were not able to fully support the RN frigates Arrow and Galatea they were patrolling with in the Indian Ocean, because PM Robert Muldoon refused to allow them to enter the Persian Gulf because of sensitivities with relations with Bahrain ,[7] but also because the Arrow and Galatea carried computer data links and anti missile decoy systems and the RNZN frigates did not at the time.

Canterbury was half way across the Tasman in February 1985 when relations broke down with the US Government over nuclear ship visits. She visited the US later that year while en route to Canada for the 50th Anniversary of the Royal Canadian Navy (port visits were made to Hawaii, San Diego and San Francisco).

She was also involved in patrolling the Persian Gulf during 1982–1983 where she was later awarded the Wilkinson Sword of Peace (jointly with HMS Galatea). Canterbury attended the 50th Anniversary of the Battle of Crete in May 1991. During that deployment, Canterbury became the last ship in the Royal New Zealand Navy to ever wear the distinctive white funnel stripe denoting the fact that she was the senior ship within the 11th Frigate Squadron when Captain Alasdair Clayton-Greene departed the ship in Lumut, Malaysia in April 1991. It was determined that only when a Captain commanded a frigate (as the senior office afloat) would this insignia be displayed - which never occurred again in the Royal New Zealand Navy.

In 1996, Canterbury was one of the ships tasked with enforcing the embargo against Iraq in Operation Delphic (under US Navy Control). She also was the first New Zealand Navy ship to visit China (in 1987), and has participated in a number of humanitarian and peace-keeping missions, for example to Samoa, Fiji or New Guinea.[2]

Canterbury was deployed to East Timor as part of the Australian-led INTERFET peacekeeping taskforce from 26 September to 12 December 1999.[8]

In the early 2000s, it was becoming increasingly clear that the ship's technical systems were getting old, and mechanical faults were multiplying. In October 2003, a fire broke out in the auxiliary switchboard while the ship was off the Chatham Islands. The ship was saved through quick action from 2 ratings, one who was on watch at the time the other who was reading the lord of the rings, one of who received the New Zealand Order of Merit for his actions in the smoke-filled switchboard room, but it was considered that major damage or even ship loss had been only barely avoided. The repairs cost NZ$1 million,[9] and the incident may have added to the decision to eventually decommission and replace her with newer multi-role vessels.[2]

Decommissioning and fate

After being decommissioned in 2005, there was talk of converting her into a floating hostel. However, during a 2004 inspection, corrosion of the ship's structure had been found to be too serious for her to stay afloat in the long term without very costly maintenance.[10] Enthusiasts at the Bay of Islands Canterbury Charitable Trust proposed the idea of scuttling her as a dive wreck at Deep Water Cove in the Bay of Islands. The New Zealand Navy ships Tui and Waikato are already lying on the ground off the Tutukaka Coast, while the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior was scuttled off Matauri Bay. It is hoped that the wreck, in addition to becoming an artificial reef enhancing biodiversity, will also provide additional options for the regions diving tourism.[11] It is considered that removed scrap metal and equipment (such as ship's lockers or the propeller) will bring up to NZ$400,000 to offset the NZ$650,000 costs of cleaning up and scuttling her,[12] while the worth to the local economy could be in the millions.[2] The ship itself had been sold to the trust for a symbolic NZ$1.[13] The turret of the frigate was removed and is to become part of the exhibits at a planned new navy museum in Auckland.[10]


It was expected that the ship would be able to be sunk late 2007, after potential contaminants and scrap materials had been stripped out, and the Department of Conservation had withdrawn its objections at the end of 2006.[11] The intention was originally to sink her on Saturday 20 October 2007 – two days before its 36th commissioning anniversary.[12] After some delays, on 3 November 2007 at 14:30 hrs[citation needed] she was eventually sunk by imported plastic explosives placed at 12 locations around the hull (totalling only 14 kg (31 lb) in weight).[14] The sinking was prepared by Norman Greenall, once Chief Petty Officer (shipwright) on Canterbury,[15] who has undertaken the scuttling of other New Zealand Navy ships (like HMNZS Wellington). Greenall has a somewhat colourful reputation in the navy as the person who has "sunk more of our navy ships than the enemy did in the whole of the Second World War"[9] – however, the actual sinking of Canterbury was performed by UK company Cadre One.[15] Canterbury now lies on the seabed in Deep Water Cove.

The frigate offered good diving, especially with the ship being mostly intact (contrary to many similar dive wrecks which have broken up) and especially when other places such as Matauri Bay were unavailable due to weather conditions.[16]

Sale to Hapu interests

The wreck was sold to Te Rawhiti Enterprises (the local Hapū) for one dollar (the same amount that the Canterbury Trust paid the New Zealand Navy) on 15 July 2008, and the Trust was wound up and dissolved on 17 November 2008.[citation needed] The local Hapu will manage and market the wreck as their own to preserve their local heritage and preserve and enhance fish stocks. Due to depletion of stocks, a ban has been placed on fishing in the area for the time being, though there is still access to the wreck.[citation needed]


  1. Vital measurements (from the '' website. Retrieved 3 March 2008.)
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Middleton, Julie (5 March 2005). "All hands on deck to farewell a grand dame". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 3 October 2011. 
  3. Final Approaches: A Memoir by Gerald Hensley (2006, Auckland University Press) p.221 ISBN 1-86940-378-9
  4. New Zealand Special Service Medal (from the New Zealand Defence Force website. Retrieved 12 September 2008.)
  5. Stevens et al., Page 231.
  6. Captain Ian Bradley RNZN-ret -1983 interview- with researcher
  7. Captain Christopher Carl-RNZN ret ,(Commander of RNZN frigate, Armilla Patrol 1982-83) -'Throw me a Line', (C.Carl)
  8. Stevens, David (2007). Strength Through Diversity: The combined naval role in Operation Stabilise. Working Papers. 20. Canberra: Sea Power Centre – Australia. p. 14. ISBN 978-0-642-29676-4. ISSN 1834-7231. Archived from the original on 14 May 2009. Retrieved 6 September 2010. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 Warship headed for the deep (from the New Zealand Drivewrecks website, Wednesday 4 April 2007)
  10. 10.0 10.1 Stuart, Ian (10 April 2006). "Old warship unlikely to stay afloat as hotel". Retrieved 3 October 2011. 
  11. 11.0 11.1 Gee, Tony (11 December 2006). "Frigate's final journey draws near". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 3 October 2011. 
  12. 12.0 12.1 Frigate to find final resting place in October (from the New Zealand Drivewrecks website, Monday 9 April 2007)
  13. Last steam frigate sold for a dollar (from the New Zealand Drivewrecks website, Monday, 2 February 2007)
  14. Stuart, Ian (5 October 2007). "Old salt's heart to sink a little". p. A11. Retrieved 3 October 2011. 
  15. 15.0 15.1 HMNZS Canterbury New Zealand's Newest Diving AttractionCYBER DIVER News Network, 4 November 2007. Retrieved 30 June 2008.
  16. "Creditors put heat on trust behind frigate dive attraction". 10 March 2008. Retrieved 3 October 2011. 
  • Stevens, David; Sears, Jason; Goldrick, James; Cooper, Alastair; Jones, Peter; Spurling, Kathryn, (2001). Stevens, David. ed. The Royal Australian Navy. The Australian Centenary History of Defence (vol III). South Melbourne, VIC: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-554116-2. OCLC 50418095. 

External links

Coordinates: 35°11′38″S 174°17′40″E / 35.1938°S 174.2944°E / -35.1938; 174.2944

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