Rare Naval artefact returns to New Zealand

20120518_PH_T1015674_0021 The butterfly tray is presented by Warrant Officer Marty Grogan (Royal Australian Navy) and is presented to the Royal New Zealand Navy Museum Collections Manager Claire Freeman, Navy Veteran Mr Vince McGlone and Commander David Turner, RNZN

21 May 2012

An artefact presented to the crew of the New Zealand ship HMS Achilles by the grateful citizens of Uruguay in 1939, after a famous naval battle, has found its way back to the Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN).

The exquisite wooden tray with an inlay under glass consisting of hundreds of South American butterflies, was originally presented to Lieutenant George Raymond Davis-Goff, the Torpedo officer onboard HMNZS ACHILLES following the Battle of the River Plate. Lieutenant Davis-Goff was awarded a Mention In Dispatches for his bravery that day, and the presentation of this tray by the local people was to acknowledge his actions.

Over time the tray found its way to a Royal Australian Navy Museum, who have now facilitated its repatriation "home" to the RNZN Navy Museum in Devonport.

The recent re-presentation of the tray was witnessed by Mr Vince McGlone, aged 95, who is a survivor of the battle and is believed to be the oldest surviving Navy veteran in New Zealand.

Accepting the tray was the Collections Manager for the Navy Museum Claire Freeman, who says she already has plans for its permanent display: "Not only is it a beautiful piece, it is wonderful that it holds a history and tells a great story that people such as Vince lived through."

The Battle of the River Plate was the first naval battle in the Second World War and the only altercation to take place in South America. The intense battle that ensued resulted in the surrender of the German pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee. This success for the allies was a major propaganda victory and enhanced the reputation of Winston Churchill in the eyes of the British Empire.


For more information contact Lieutenant Commander Angela Barker – Senior Media and Communications Advisor (Navy) on 021 244 0638


This page was last reviewed on 20 May 2012.