Princesses, partnerships and pride stand out for Peter Hindle when he looks back on his naval experiences.

The Royal New Zealand Navy is marking 75 years since its formation, and the 94-year-old will be attending a special Veterans' Day at Devonport Naval Base tomorrow to kick off commemorations.

Among Mr Hindle's most treasured memories are encounters with some famous faces.

"One morning I was on duty in Edinburgh and a large black limousine came up and two girls stepped out of it, and I asked if they would like to have a look at the ship and they said they would," he said.


"They had mentioned their father had asked them to see some service-people around Scotland, and it turns out these two girls were Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret, and they agreed to have lunch with us on board the ship and we had a good old chinwag with these two princesses."

He joined the navy just before the outbreak of World War II in 1939, and was serving when the Royal New Zealand Navy was created as a separate entity to the British Royal Navy on October 1, 1941.

He rose up the ranks to become a lieutenant, serving in the United Kingdom and West Africa.

After attending the Royal Naval College in Greenwich for a term he worked with American troops, training in anti-submarine and poison gas warfare.

Just as he was returning to New Zealand he became ill with tuberculosis and spent three years in hospital recovering.

The setback to his health was made bearable by one redeeming aspect, as he ended up marrying his nurse.

"In those three years I became friendly with my dear, late wife Irene, and we had a wonderful wedding and three lovely children."

Mr Hindle says New Zealand servicemen were always favourably received.

"The Royal Navy crews used to wonder a little about New Zealanders, but we made good friends with them.

"They realised that New Zealand had been caught up in wars quite a lot, and with the Australians, had made some quite important history over the years."

He is looking forward to being a part of the 75th anniversary commemorations, named Operation Neptune in honour of the vessel that was sunk off the coast of Libya in 1941, resulting in 150 New Zealand deaths.

"The present New Zealand Navy is doing a really good job, and I like the fact that I'm still around to enjoy it, I'm aiming to be at least 100."

Director of Operation Neptune Captain Andrew Watts said remembering the navy's past has an impact on its future.

"We draw a lot of strength from our heritage, and it empowers the men and women currently serving.

"There's a real practical reason for reconnecting with our history, it's inspirational."