Though New Zealand had paid for the battle cruiser New Zealand, it did not have a naval unit of its own until the old light cruiser Philomel was commissioned at Wellington in July 1914. With its complement augmented by 60–70 New Zealand reservists, the Philomel escorted first the Samoan force and then the Main Body. From the latter task it went on to serve in the Mediterranean, the Red Sea, and the Persian Gulf, refitting from time to time at Malta or Bombay. But age began to tell and in March 1917 the old ship docked at Wellington for major overhaul.
New Zealand waters had hitherto been free of trouble; but in June 1917 the German raider Wolf laid minefields which caused the loss of a merchant ship off Farewell Spit in September, and another off Three Kings Islands the following June. Two fishing trawlers, the Nora Niven and Simplon, were therefore taken over, fitted as minesweepers, and manned partly by ratings from the Philomel. With the latter as depot ship they then swept both minefields.
At least 539 New Zealanders served in these or other ships of the Royal Navy. Among them was Lieutenant W. E. Sanders, RNR, who, as commander of the little Q-ship Prize, won the V.C. and later gained the rare distinction of a posthumous D.S.O.