New Zealand Welcomes 'Achilles' Home
New Zealand was intensely and justifiably proud of the great part played by the Dominion's cruiser, H.M.S. "Achilles", in the battle of the River Plate, and the ship's welcome home on February 23, 1940, was tempestuous. After Lord Galway, the Governor-General, had gone on board to welcome the ship, the men marched through the streets of Auckland to the town hall through a crowd of over 100,000 people. The official speech of welcome was made by the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr. Fraser, who said that they had never doubted that the men would live up to the highest tradition of the Royal Navy, but in fact they had exceeded anything that could be expected by enemy or friend. Mr. Anthony Eden, telegraphing on behalf of the British Government, referred to the "Achilles" in these words: "The heroic and skilful part which she played in that notable victory will long be remembered in the annals of naval history, and has added lustre to the record of New Zealand's achievements in the struggle for liberty and justice in which we are engaged. New Zealand may well be proud of her sons, who have given such signal proof of the contribution which New Zealand is making towards the common victory."
At the Guildhall luncheon in London to the men of the "Exeter" and "Ajax", Mr. Churchill said:
"Was it perhaps a coincidence that has brought the "Achilles" suddenly to emerge out of the vast Pacific Ocean upon the shores of far-off New Zealand in order that she should receive in the Antipodes the same warm-hearted welcome as her sisters, the "Ajax" and the "Exeter", are receiving now in dear old London?"