Captain Alexander David Boyle
Was the first Commanding Officer of the Canterbury Division of the RNZNVR, HMS PEGASUS and a well-known South Canterbury farmer. Captain Boyle is the only known New Zealander to have served at all three major naval battles of WWI.
HMS NEW ZEALAND, an Indefatigable Class Battle Cruiser, commissioned into the Royal Navy in 1912, was a gift to Imperial Defence from the people of New Zealand. Included in her ship’s compliment were New Zealand born sailors including the redoubtable Alexander David Boyle. Born in Otaio, South Canterbury in 1887 to a well-connected aristocratic family, Boyle’s grandfather, the 7th Earl of Glasgow, was Governor of New Zealand in the 1880s and later his cousin, Sir Bernard Fergusson was Governor-General of New Zealand in the 1960s. Alexander Boyle entered the Royal Navy prior to WWI and was serving on HMS NEW ZEALAND at the outbreak of war. Boyle was to stay with the ship as it participated in all the major naval engagements between 1914 and 1918, including the Battles of Heligoland Bight, Dogger Bank and Jutland. During the Battle of Jutland, in May 1916, HMS NEW ZEALAND suffered a number of hits but no serious damage. Alexander Boyle survived a direct hit to X-turret, the gun turret he was in charge of, and his subsequent actions were to see him awarded a Mention in Dispatches.
Around a thousand New Zealanders fought in WWI at sea covering the full spectrum of platforms, from Battleships, Naval Aviation, Royal Marines, Coastal Forces and Submarines. Many more New Zealanders served in the Merchant Navy. The first New Zealand fatality of WWI was a submariner lost with the Royal Australian Navy HMAS AE1 in September 1914. Admiral of the Fleet Lord Jellicoe, Commander of the British Fleet at the Battle of Jutland, later became Governor-General of NZ. Boyle left the Royal Navy and returned to New Zealand after the war, resuming his connection with farming and with Canterbury. He was the first Commanding Officer of the Naval Reserve Division established in Christchurch between the World Wars and was subsequently recalled to active service during WWII, where he reached the rank of Captain. Returning to his South Canterbury farm at the end of WWII, Captain Boyle died in 1965 and was interred in St Peters Anglican Churchyard in Christchurch.
“Fair winds and following seas”.
Photo: Captain Alexander David Boyle, RN and RNZNVR circa 1945 (left) and some of the crew of HMS NEW ZEALAND after the Battle of Jutland in 1916 (right) Courtesy of the Navy Museum
On 13 May 1941, the launch Rawea attached a buoy to a German mine that had been caught in a fishing net eight miles north-east of Bream Head. Puriri and Gale were sent to deactivate it, and arrived in the area the next day. Gale sailed past the mine without seeing it, but Puriri, also not seeing the mine, struck it and sank quickly.
PURIRI was the only naval loss in NZ waters during the Second World War – the violent explosion sank the Puriri so quickly that no lifeboats could be launched.
HMS New Zealand
31 May 1916, Events across the land and sea will mark the 100th anniversary of the greatest naval battle fought in World War 1. The 100th anniversary of the battle will be the Royal Navy’s key Great War centenary commemoration. On Orkney, a national service of remembrance will be held in the impressive setting of St Magnus’ Cathedral, before proceedings move to Lyness Royal Navy Cemetery overlooking Scapa Flow.
[pdf, 1.88mb, 10 pages]