8 January 2019
Commander Layamon Bakewell, the new Commanding Officer of the Royal New Zealand Navy’s (RNZN) Littoral Warfare Unit, HMNZS Matataua, was lured to naval life by the seafaring tales of a family member.
Originally from Palmerston North, Commander Bakewell joined the RNZN 16 years ago. As a youngster he had been inspired by stories of the sea from his grandfather, who had been in the Merchant Navy.
“My grandfather told stories of the excitement and adventure of life at sea and I decided on the Navy in about fifth form,” Commander Bakewell said.
He enlisted during his seventh form year at Palmerston North Boys’ High School but didn’t start his RNZN career immediately, choosing instead to complete the first year of a Business Studies degree at Massey University.
“I joined the Navy at the end of that year and after completing Junior Officer Common Training and my first year in the Navy, I went on to finish my degree as part of the Navy-sponsored Tangaroa study scheme,” he said.
“The study has given me a lot of valuable skills. The Navy later paid for me to do my Masters in Business Studies, which was an awesome opportunity to do postgraduate study while still working fulltime in the Navy.”
During his time with the RNZN Commander Bakewell has completed a Principal Warfare Officer’s course with the Royal Navy at Portsmouth and has trained with the Royal Australian Navy. He has also commanded inshore patrol vessel HMNZS Rotoiti, served as a Principal Warfare Officer on HMNZS Te Kaha and as the Deputy Director of Seamanship and Warfare Standards in Wellington.
“Like any sailor, I’m always keen to put all that great training into action,” he said. “Being in command of HMNZS Rotoiti was a real highlight – leading a small ship’s company on a fantastic ship that did some important work around New Zealand carrying out fisheries and customs patrols.”
While in command of HMNZS Rotoiti he also led the rescue of salvage teams off the MV Rena, when a big storm threatened to break up the ship grounded on Astrolabe Reef in Bay of Plenty.
“We evacuated the 44 salvage experts using a combination of helicopters and ship’s boats – that was definitely a highlight.”
Commander Bakewell spent most of 2018 as the Executive Officer on Anzac frigate HMNZS Te Mana, helping prepare the ship for a five-month deployment to the Asia Pacific region.
That deployment included participation in Rimpac, the largest maritime exercise in the world, and several other large international exercises, as well as diplomatic visits to five countries.
“It was a great deployment. Being Executive Officer on a frigate has got to be one of the most rewarding jobs in the Navy,” Commander Bakewell said.
HMNZS Matataua incorporates the RNZN divers, hydrographers and mine counter measure units that operate primarily within the littoral or coastal waters. The purpose of the unit is to ensure access to and the use of harbours, inshore waters and associated coastal zones in New Zealand and wherever the ships and personnel of the NZDF are required to operate.
At the ceremony to mark his new posting, Commander Bakewell said it was an exciting time for HMNZS Matataua.
“There is a lot of new capability coming on line over the next three years and introducing those new capabilities into service will be challenging,” he said.
“That will include the new dive and hydrographic survey ship, HMNZS Manawanui, which that is expected to be operational in 2020.”