Rules are rules in the Navy, and there was never any question that when Midshipman Raewyn Tailby encountered her son, Sub-Lieutenant Dylan Tailby, she would pull maternal rank and not salute him. Not any more though, following her promotion to sub-lieutenant.

Tailby went to the Navy later than many. Originally from Kaeo, then a police officer and adult education specialist stationed in Kaitaia, it wasn't until she began contemplating her future work choices at age 45 that she decided semi-retirement was out of the question. So she filled out an application form to join the Royal New Zealand Navy, following in the footsteps of her husband Mat, a former RNZN hydrographic officer (and now a police officer, in Kaitaia), and son Dylan, currently a supply officer in the RNZN.

On July 18 Midshipman Tailby graduated as a Learning Development Officer (LDO), and in recognition of her qualifications was promoted to sub-lieutenant. She will now spend two years at the NZ Defence College, undertaking courses in learning development and adult education. When qualified, she will provided specialist training and guidance on learning to New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) commanders and units across the country.

That role will include creating training courses, developing instructional standards, and providing personal development advice to NZDF personnel.


"I wanted to do something meaningful for the last chapter of my working life, and my husband and son thought I would enjoy this," she said.

"They talked me into it, saying I could join the Navy as an education officer. I sent my CV in, filled the forms out, and then got a letter saying I was accepted. I thought, 'Heck, I better get off the couch and do some running,' so at 5.30 every morning I was running endless laps around Kaitaia College."

She was proud of her fitness, which she attributed to preparation and being "a bit of a hard girl from the Far North."

Sub-Lieutenant Tailby has also completed the five-month Junior Officer Common Training course, which took five weeks longer than usual thanks to the Covid-19 lockdown.

"And people were very much younger than me… you need to go into this with an open mind," she said.

"Things won't always go as expected, but embrace the challenge, and go back to basics. Treat others as you wish to be treated."

Initially she was required to salute her son, and Mat had found it amusing that all the things their son learnt from the Navy that used to annoy her were now ingrained in her. Another son has applied to join the Navy next year.

"I get bored really easily, and have to be challenged," she added.


"At 45 years old I've raised four kids into decent human beings. Where does it say in the rulebook I have to sit back and watch TV? Life is too short for that."