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Minesweeper remembered at commemoration

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 13/05/2016

The only New Zealand naval ship lost to enemy action in New Zealand waters is being remembered.

The HMS Puriri, a merchant vessel commissioned as a minesweeper sank after striking a mine off Bream Head, Whangarei, on May 14, 1941. Five crew died, including the captain, Lieutenant Douglas Blacklaws of the Royal Naval Reserve (New Zealand).

The incident was subject to wartime censorship and was never widely publicised at the time, according to local historians.

Commemorations on Saturday start with a dawn blessing by local iwi, followed by a ceremony at the HMS Puriri memorial at Whangarei Heads at 11am.

The Mayor of Whangarei, Sheryl Mai, merchant navy representatives, family of the late Lt Blacklaws, members of the navy's mine disposal unit, the Littoral Warfare Unit, and veterans are expected at the event.

Captain Andy Watts says the ceremony is particularly relevant for the Littoral Warfare Unit, which conducts mine clearance operations in the Pacific Islands.

It's important also to note the role of the merchant navy in sustaining New Zealand's national life during World War II, he says.

"This commemoration highlights that the relationship between the RNZN and the merchant navy is just as important now as it was 75 years ago," says Capt Watts.

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