- Book reviewer
- History - general, Book reviews, Naval Engagements, Operations and Capabilities
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Supply
- September 2008 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
The story of the voyages by HMNZ Ships Otago and Canterbury to protest against the French atmospheric nuclear tests at Mururoa Atoll in 1973.
By Gerry Wright.
ISBN 978-0-473-13178-4. 248 pages, rrp $NZ25.00 + $NZ10.00 postage.
Reviewed by CMDR Greg Swinden
As the old saying goes ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’. This history of the New Zealand Navy deployments to Mururoa Atoll to ‘protest’ against the French nuclear testing that took place in July/August 1973 looks, on face value, to be a somewhat ‘scruffy’ paperback written by a retired naval officer. Not until you have finished the last page do you realise that the author has provided one of the very few public views of a virtually unknown period in New Zealand, and Australian, naval history. He also provides some candid views on the command and control, planning, training and media aspects of the deployments as well as an insight into life at sea in a now bygone era.
Gerry Wright, a former naval officer and Operations Officer in Otago during the ship’s deployment to Mururoa, has written this book based upon personal reflection and access to declassified Defence documents. The deployment of both New Zealand frigates was supported by the RAN who stationed the tanker HMAS Supply near Rarotonga which enabled the frigates to remain poised off Mururoa for many weeks. The unsung supply of Furnace Fuel Oil, provisions, stores and mail enabled the New Zealand plan to oppose the testing to become a reality.
Interestingly the US, Russian, Chinese and British Governments also stationed ships in the area to observe the tests and in the case of the British to be also ready to evacuate British subjects from Pitcairn Island in case of fallout reaching the island. Additionally the embarking of civilian media representatives and a New Zealand cabinet minister in the RNZN ships to provide direct communication with the New Zealand media and Government was perhaps the first time this type of event had occurred.
The 248 page, paperback book is reasonably well illustrated with black and white photographs (although some are of very poor quality) and despite its somewhat rambling style at times it is still a good read. Strongly recommended for those interested in RAN/RNZN history or staff officers as it is a good example of ‘if you want a new idea then read an old book’ or in this case a new book about old ideas.
Available from the author firstname.lastname@example.org. Gerry is also the author of two other books on New Zealand naval history being A Kiwi on our Funnel (the story of two RNZN ships during Confrontation in 1965-66) and We Were There (the story of RNZN involvement in British nuclear testing off Christmas Island in 1957).