WWII: Vice Admiral Sir Peter Phipps KBE DSC VRD

In 1965, Sir Peter Phipps was the first Chief of Defence Staff to be appointed in New Zealand. He began his military career in Christchurch in 1928, when he joined the Canterbury Division of the Naval Reserve as an Ordinary Seaman.

He was commissioned in 1930. His civilian employers transferred him to Wellington where he continued his Naval Reserve service. He was mobilised on the outbreak of war and travelled to the United Kingdom in 1940.

His first command was the minesweeper HMS BAY, which operated in the English Channel as part of the 24th Minesweeping Anti-submarine group. In the latter part of 1940, England was under threat of invasion and the work of the minesweepers was of paramount importance. On 11th September 1940, 50 aircraft attacked the convoy that BAY was helping to escort, and she suffered bomb damage. Phipps was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) for bringing his damaged ship home safely.

As a Lieutenant Commander, he took command of HMNZS SCARBA, one of four minesweeping trawlers purchased for New Zealand. They carried out convoy duties from California to Hawaii en route to Auckland where they arrived 4th August 1942.

Phipps became commanding officer of HMNZS MOA, which, with her sister ship HMNZS KIWI, sank the Japanese submarine I-1 in the Solomon Islands. Both ships were patrolling at Guadalcanal and KIWI's depth-charge attack brought the submarine to the surface. She attempted to escape but was rammed by KIWI while MOA continued to illuminate with star shell. MOA pursued and pressed home the attack upon the submarine, which eventually ran aground on a reef. Phipps was awarded a Bar to his DSC and the United States Navy Cross for this action. In April 1943 he was wounded when Japanese aircraft sank MOA at Tulagi. The ship sustained a direct hit from a 500-pound bomb and sank within four minutes. Five ratings were killed and seven were seriously wounded. Lieutenant Commander Phipps later became the Senior Officer of the 25th Minesweeping Flotilla in the Solomons.

Following the Second World War he joined the Royal New Zealand Navy, and held many senior appointments including those of Chief of Naval Staff and Chief of Defence Staff.

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