Change of command for Navy frigate

Commander John Butcher
Commander John Butcher (MC09-0006-094)

26 August 2010

A ceremony to mark the change of Commanding Officer of the Navy’s Anzac-class Frigate, HMNZS TE MANA will be held Friday, 27 August 2010 at 10am, at the Devonport Naval Base.
During the ceremony Commander Blair Gerritsen will relinquish command of HMNZS TE MANA and Commander John Butcher will assume command.

The Change of Command Ceremony is traditionally formal and impressive – designed to strengthen respect for authority. The changing of command takes place when Commander Gerritsen states “You have the ship” and Commander Butcher , “I have the ship”. 

Witnessing the ceremony will be the ship's company of HMNZS TE MANA, invited guests, including the Vice Chief of Defence Force, Rear Admiral Jack Steer, family and friends. The Chief of Navy, Rear Admiral Tony Parr will officiate at the Change of Command ceremony.


Commander John W. Butcher was born in Dunedin, New Zealand.  Educated in Invercargill and Dunedin, John joined the Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) in 1989 as a General List Executive Officer [GL(X)].  During his first five years of service, John progressed and completed his initial Naval Training at the RNZN Officers’ Training School prior to attending Auckland University thence posting for sea service.  John served onboard HMNZ Ships WAIKATO, SOUTHLAND, MANAWANUI, ENDEAVOUR and CANTERBURY prior to gaining a Bridge Watch Keeping Certificate in 1993.

In January 1995, he completed a Frigate Navigation Officers’ Course in New Zealand and subsequently, during the period 1995 – 1997, served in HMNZ Ships TUI, MONOWAI, CANTERBURY, ENDEAVOUR and HMA Ship GLADSTONE as the Navigation Officer.  During this period John was also appointed as Navigation Training Officer.

John successfully completed the Royal Australian Navy’s (RAN) Advanced Navigation Course (N+) in April 1998, which led to further Navigation Training duties, and included service as the Officer in Command of HMNZS KAHU, an Inshore Patrol Vessel primarily associated with the training of junior officers and ratings.  Further service followed involving Navigational Training duties prior to being appointed as the Navigation Officer in the final Anzac-class Frigate for the RNZN, HMNZS TE MANA, in July 1999.

Attending the RAN Principal Warfare Officers’ Course in Australia during the period March – December 2001, John graduated, specialising in Above Water Warfare [PWO (A)].  He was awarded the Saint Barbara Prize for the Highest Proficiency in Gunnery and upon returning to New Zealand; John was appointed as the Operations Officer in TE MANA.  This appointment included an operational evaluation, deployments in support of defence diplomacy, exercising with regional navies, and notably, participation in Operation Enduring Freedom during the period February – July 2003.

John was appointed as the Navigation Training Officer and Fleet Navigation Officer for the RNZN in Dec 2003 where he spent two years instructing students at various levels in Navigation and Bridge Watch Keeping.  He was also responsible to the Maritime Component Commander for implementing and maintaining high standards throughout the RNZN’s fleet.  John also served as the Executive Officer of HMNZS TE KAHA during the period January – March 2005.

John was appointed as a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM) in the 2006 New Years Honours List for services to the New Zealand Defence Force and in recognition for his work as the Navigation Training Officer.  During the period January – June 2006, he attended the United States Naval War College in Newport Rhode Island, graduating from the Naval Staff College.

In Dec 2005 John was selected as the commissioning Commanding Officer of the first Offshore Patrol Vessel, HMNZS OTAGO to be delivered under Project Protector.  He stood by this appointment during the period November 2006 to January 2009; however delays in the ship’s delivery dictated that he should forgo this appointment and John was subsequently promoted to Acting Commander and assigned project duties with the Chief of Navy.  In July 2009 John was appointed as the Military Assistant to the Chief of Navy and Career Manager for GL(X) Officers and confirmed in the rank of Commander.

Media are welcome to attend the Change of Command Ceremony at the Devonport Naval Base. Photographic Identification is required for entry to the Naval Base. 

For further information, requests for interviews and registrations of interest to attend the ceremony, please contact Lieutenant Sarah Campbell, Senior Media Adviser (Navy) on 021 244 0638.

This page was last reviewed on 19 January 2011.