Sonya Sage attended the 75th anniversary commemoration of New Zealand's only navy ship lost to enemy action in national waters on Saturday, and said it was moving for all.

But for none more so than Mrs Sage herself, who knew as she gazed out to sea off Ocean Beach that she was looking towards the resting place of both her parents.

Mrs Sage's father, Lieutenant Douglas Blacklaws, was captain and one of the five who died when the HMS Puriri sank after striking a mine about eight nautical miles northeast of Bream Head on May 14, 1941.

Naval officers, with Ocean Beach in the background.
Naval officers, with Ocean Beach in the background.

Mrs Sage's mother, Ruth Blacklaws (nee Scott), died without ever knowing the full story. The family scattered Mrs Blacklaws' ashes at the site of the underwater shipwreck following a research project led by Mrs Sage's husband, Ian.


Mr Sage wanted to find out more about the previously unrecognised tragedy and this culminated in the installation of a memorial at Ocean Beach.

"She [Mum] had always hoped we would find [the site], which we did," Mrs Sage, of Auckland, said. "So she was home under the desk for quite a while until we were able to send her on her way. I look out to sea and think it's not only my dad, it's my mum, and they're there together."

Saturday's ceremony comprised a 5am dawn blessing by local iwi, followed by an 11am ceremony at the HMS Puriri memorial attended by members of the Navy's mine disposal unit, the Littoral Warfare Unit.

Ken "Smudge" Smith of Onerahi, centre, at the 75th anniversary ceremony for HMS Puriri.

The event was part of the Navy's Operation Neptune 75th anniversary calendar and was attended by Whangarei mayor Sheryl Mai, Merchant Navy representatives and veterans.

Mrs Sage was only 2 when her father died.

"Mum was three months' pregnant with my brother and in [Auckland's] Queen St doing some shopping. She saw a billboard saying this boat had gone down. She literally passed out in the street and couldn't speak for a year afterwards," Mrs Sage said. "For years we really didn't know much. All we knew was the romance story of how Dad chased Mum 27 times across the Tasman."