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Commanding Officer PEGASUS: 1937 – 1940 and 1951 - 1952

Commanding Officer PEGASUS: 1937 – 1940 and 1951 - 1952

Captain R (Ralph) Newman, CBE, DSO*, VRD, RNZNVR


Captain Ralph Newman was born in London on 28 July 1898.   He went to sea at the age of fifteen as an apprentice with the British India Steamship Navigation Company Ltd. Just before the outbreak of World War I.   It was during this conflict that he was present at the ANZAC  landing, serving on a ship that took part in the second wave to land on the peninsula.


Immediately on the cessation of the war he joined the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, where he served as a junior officer from 1918 to 1919.   He then joined the New Zealand Shipping Company Ltd, and stayed with them from 1919 to 1926, when he came ashore in Wellington, as a qualified Master Mariner.


Once ashore he joined the Shell Oil Company in Wellington, and at the same time became a member of the Wellington Division of the RNVR.   Upon being transferred to the Christchurch Branch of Shell Oil, he joined the Canterbury Division of the RNVR as a Lieutenant RNVR, and as a foundation member of the Canterbury Division.   Upon the retirement of Commander Kersley, the then Lieutenant Commander Newman was promoted to Commander, and appointed the third Commanding Officer of the Canterbury Division.


Shortly after mobilisation, on 2 May 1940, the then Commander Newman embarked in the troopship HMT AQUINTANIA, berthed in Wellington, as the senior officer of a draft of twenty eight officers and three hundred and fifty six ratings of the RNVR selected for service with the Royal Navy.   On arrival in Britain in July 1940, he was appointed to the Tree Class minesweeper and anti-submarine vessel HMS ACACIA, in command and as Senior Officer 24th Minesweeping Anti-Submarine Group, which was to operate in the English Channel during 1941-42.   This was followed by a period in the North Sea based on Tees-Hartlepool area.   It was during this period that Commander Newman was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for Service, Leadership and gallantry under enemy attack.


Early in 1943 he took command of HMS ABERDARE and as Senoir Officer 2nd Minesweeping Flotilla operating out of Alexandria.   In June of 1943, he was promoted to Captain RNZNVR, and was in charge of all minesweeping operation in the Adriatic until September 1944.   For his services, he was awarded the Bar to his Distinguished Service Order.


Returning to New Zealand in 1945, he took over the position of Naval Officer in Charge Wellington from another former Commanding Officer of the Canterbury Division, Captain Boyle, where he served until demobilised in 1946, when he was awarded the honour of Commander of the British Empire (Military Division).


When Commander Hicks relinquished command of the reformed post-war Canterbury Division on 31 August 1952, Captain again took command of his old Division on 1 September 1952.   He remained in command until his retirement on 10 January 1953, when he was relieved by Commander J.N. Allan VRD, RNZNVR.


After his retirement, Captain Newman became President of the Canterbury Branch of the Navy League of New Zealand.   He subsequently took up the position of Secretary/Treasurer of the Hawkes Bay Branch of the New Zealand Returned Services Association.   He died in Napier on 9 May 1968 at the age of sixty nine.    

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