HMS New Zealand and the Maori Prophecy

Did Maori Magic Protect HMS New Zealand in the Sea Battles of the First World War?

One the factors contributing to the First World War was the naval rivalry between Britain and Germany, and one of the consequences of that rivalry was the construction of HMS New Zealand, a ship believed to be under magical protection. […]

In February 1913, HMS New Zealand was despatched on a world cruise, ‘showing the flag’ to the rest of the Empire. Captain Lionel Halsey set out for the other side of the world with his crew of eight hundred. When she arrived in New Zealand, visiting eighteen of her ports, almost half the country’s population of 800,000 visited the ship. Some of those visitors were Maori chiefs. […]

Invited onboard by Lieutenant Jones, a number of chiefs of the Ngatiraukawa tribe, together with Major Ballinger and 250 cadets, visited the warship when she docked in Wellington. One of the chiefs, Rere Nikitini, gave a speech and made a gift of special items.

Maori Magic: A Piupiu and Hei-tiki

Described in the newspaper at the time as ‘garments of war’, these were a piupiu, – a skirt made of black and white flax woven together – and what the paper called a ‘pois’, a hei-tiki or magical amulet (a figure carved in jade – nephrite – and worn around the neck). Captain Halsey was also made an honorary chief of the tribe.

It is said that the Maori chief also made a prophecy. One day, he announced, the ship would be in a great sea battle and would be hit three times – on the conning tower, on the after turret and on the foretop – but casualties would be light.

Another legend has it that the chief made three prophecies: the ship would be involved in three battles; that the ship would be hit only once; and that no one onboard would be killed.

The Maori chief requested that the captain wear the piupiu and hei-tiki to protect his men in battle. The captain took careful possession of the gifts and stowed them away for the appointed time, if it should ever come. ‘He would keep the gifts,’ said the Evening Post, ‘and preserve them in remembrance of the kindness of the Maoris.’ Time would tell whether the prophecies would come true.

Historical Note

Gerald Maurice Burn’s 1915 painting ‘HMS New Zealand‘ (pictured left) was based on a sketch he made during the ship’s visit to New Zealand in 1913.

More Supernatural Stories from World War I

When Rupert Brooke Returned from the War

War Poet Rupert Brooke died during the First World War. The mystic Aelfrida Tillyard claimed to have paranormal experiences in which she was visited by his ghost or spirit in dreams and received communications allegedly from Brook via automatic writing.

Madame de Thèbes Foresees War

The French clairvoyant and palmist, Madame de Thèbes, made several predictions of a great catastrophe in Europe in the years before the First World War.