The cruiser ROYALIST commissioned at Plymouth in the United Kingdom on 17 May 1956.
After undergoing trials, the ship sailed from the United Kingdom on 16 July 1956 for the Mediterranean to undergo a period of exercises with units of the Royal Navy.
During this exercise period, the ship visited Marseilles and Naples. While at Naples, a representative party attended the unveiling by Lord Alexander of the Commonwealth War Memorial at Cassino.
When the Suez crisis arose, ROYALIST was in the Mediterranean but was not committed to operations against Egypt.
On 10 November 1956, the ship sailed for New Zealand by way of Freetown, Simonstown, Mauritius, Fremantle, and Hobart, arriving at Auckland on 20 December 1956.
After giving leave to the ship’s company and undergoing a period of docking, ROYALIST sailed on 11 February 1957 for a cruise of New Zealand ports. Ports visited included Gisborne, Napier, Lyttelton, Timaru. Dunedin, Bluff, Picton, New Plymouth and Wellington. ROYALIST returned to Auckland on 21 March 1957.
The cruiser ROYALIST re-commissioned at Auckland on 9 April 1957 and, after a period of self-maintenance and trials in the Auckland area, departed for Sydney on 20 May.
After an intensive work-up and exercise programme in the Sydney-Jervis Bay area, the ship joined the Far East Fleet at Singapore on 18 July 1957 as New Zealand’s naval contribution to the Far East Strategic Reserve until 16 June 1958.
One week after her arrival, ROYALIST carried out an action bombardment against possible terrorist positions inland from Tanjing Lamput.
In late August 1957 a series of Fleet exercises were carried out in the Hong Kong area and the ship then proceeded via Singapore to Penang for the Merdeka celebrations in connection with the Malayan Proclamation of Independence.
A 14-day self-maintenance period at Singapore followed before ROYALIST departed for Hong Kong, Japanese ports, and South Korea with other naval units of the Far East Station.
Ports visited during October and November included Yokosuka, Kobe, and Sasebo in Japan, and Inchon, Pusan, and the Island of Paengyong-do in Korea. The ship’s visit to Kobe coincided with the annual port festival, and during this period His Imperial Highness Prince Takamatsu was received on board with due ceremony.’
Returning to Hong Kong in mid-November 1957, ROYALIST remained in that area for several weeks before proceeding to Singapore for self-refit and docking.
On 20 February; 1958, a two-hour bombardment was carried out in an area to the west of Tanjong Punggai in south-east Johore believed to be occupied by Malayan terrorists.
In late February ROYALIST took part in a series of large-scale concentration exercises with other units of the Far East Fleet.
At the Singapore naval base on 3 March 1958, ROYALIST was visited by the Prime Minister, the Right Hon. Walter Nash, P.C., M.P.
A further series of exercises in the Malayan area took place and the north-east Borneo ports of Sandakan and Jesselton were visited in late March 1958.
The modernised Dido class cruiser ROYALIST serving with the Far East Fleet continued as New Zealand’s naval contribution to the Far East Strategic Reserve until 16 June 1958, being relieved on the station by the frigate HMNZS ROTOITI.
During this period ROYALIST played a major part in a number of combined exercises with units of other Commonwealth and SEA TO power navies and air forces. Ports visited included Hong Kong and the Vietnamese port of Saigon where national salutes and courtesies were exchanged. On completion of a large-scale maritime exercise in the South China Sea, ROYALIST, in company with ships of most SEATO power navies, paid a two-day visit to Manila.
The ship returned to Auckland, via Cairns, on 3 July 1958 after an absence of 14 months and commenced a period of leave, refit, and docking.
In January 1959 ROYALIST, in the course of a short New Zealand cruise, visited Wellington, Lyttelton, Timaru, and Dunedin. During this cruise, the Minister of Defence, Hon. P. G. Connolly, D.S.C., V.R.D., M.P., took passage from Lyttelton to Timaru and Dunedin. After participating in the annual ceremony at Waitangi in early February the ship proceeded for a further period of service on the Far East Station and joined RAN and RN ships in an intensive exercise programme in Australian waters before arriving in Singapore on 26 March 1959.
HMNZS ROYALIST has spent a busy and fruitful year, which began with two months spent on the Far East Station during which she took part in the SEATO exercise “Sea Demon”. On passage back to New Zealand a goodwill visit was made to Brisbane in connection with the Queensland Centenary celebrations.
In July and August 1959, ROYALIST had the honour of carrying His Excellency the Governor-General and Lady Cobham on their Vice-Regal tour of island territories, during which the ship visited 15 islands in the Tonga, Friendly, Samoa, Cook, Tokelau, and Fiji groups.
In November 1959 ROYALIST temporarily joined the Australian Fleet for a brief but extremely valuable period of exercises in New Zealand waters with HMA Ships MELBOURNE, VOYAGER, VAMPIRE, and HMNZS KANIERE. Captain H. D. Stevenson, RAN, took command in January 1960 under an exchange agreement, which heralds an era of even closer cooperation between the two navies.
In February 1960 HMNZS ROYALIST attended the annual Treaty of Waitangi celebrations at Port Russell with HMNZ Ships ROTOITI and KANIERE, HMAS SWAN, and HM Submarine ANDREW in company. This was the largest number of ships of combined navies to be present for the Waitangi celebrations for some years. A naval guard and the band of the Royal Marines took part in the ceremony and the ships were illuminated at night.
After a three-day exercise with these ships in the Hauraki Gulf, ROYALIST sailed for an exacting but popular and successful cruise of the major ports of New Zealand.
From May to September 1960 HMNZS ROYALIST underwent a major refit in HMNZ Dockyard at Devonport, the first to be undertaken on such a scale since the ship completed modernisation in 1956.
In September 1960 the ship re-commissioned under the command of Captain H. D. Stevenson, RAN, and after successfully completing trials the new ship’s company proceeded to work themselves up to a peak of efficiency in an intensive period of drills and evolutions. The first half of this programme was carried out in the Auckland area, and this was followed by a further period of exercises at Jervis Bay, during which the ship visited Sydney. On return to Auckland Christmas leave was given,,
On 23 January 1961 the ship again sailed for Australian waters, this time en route for a six months tour of duty on the Far East Station as New Zealand’s contribution to the naval element of the Commonwealth Strategic Reserve. Her first assignment was to participate, with ships of the Royal Australian Navy, the Royal Ceylon Navy, the Royal Navy, and the Indian and Pakistan Navies, in the most ambitious combined exercise yet held in this annual series, known by the code name “JET ’61”. This was followed by highly successful flag showing visits to Madras in India, and Chittagong in Pakistan, on conclusion of which the ship arrived in Singapore on 27 March 1961.
HMNZS ROYALIST sailed from Singapore on 19 April 1961 to take part in Exercise “Pony Express”. This exercise, which entailed an opposed landing on North West Borneo using British and American troops and equipment, was successful and showed once more the high degree of compatibility achieved by ships of the different navies.
A cruise to Korea and Japan with units of the Royal Navy had been planned for May and June. Unfortunately, because of the unsettled political situation, the visit to Korea was cancelled but the ships were made welcome in Sasebo, Nagoya, and Yokohama. The ship sailed from Singapore on 8 July, being relieved on the Far East Station by HMNZS PUKAKI, and after calling at Darwin, Port Moresby, and Noumea arrived at Nukualofa on 31 July. His Excellency the Governor-General embarked at Nukualofa to carry out a Vice-Regal tour visiting Rarotonga, Mangaia, Mauke, Mitaro, and Atiu in the Lower Cook’s, Apia, and Pago Pago before disembarking at Suva on 17 August 1961. The ships arrived at Auckland on 22 August 1961 for docking, self-refit, and leave.
On 23 October 1961, ROYALIST under the command of Commodore J. O’C. Ross, with HMNZS OTAGO in company sailed for exercises with the Australian Fleet. After a comprehensive series of anti-submarine and surface exercises the ships participated in the Royal Australian Navy’s fiftieth birthday celebrations in Melbourne. A combined force comprising HMNZ Ships ROYALIST, and OTAGO, HMA Ships ANZAC, VOYAGER, QUEENBOROUGH, YARRA, and PARAMATTA, HMS CAPRICE, and HM Submarines TRUMP and TAPIR, then departed for Auckland. Trans Tasman anti-submarine exercises were conducted during passage. The force arrived in Auckland on 25 November 1961 and, after participating in exercises (AUCKEX 6), maintenance and pre-refit trials were carried out before Christmas leave started on 14 December 1961.
The refit of ROYALIST started on 15 January 1962 and is due to be completed on 13 April. After trials ROYALIST will be operational on 25 May 1962.
HMNZS ROYALIST added to New Zealand naval history when the ship left Auckland for Pearl Harbour in June to undergo the first work up by an RNZN ship under the U.S. Navy system. A call was made en route at Apia where a four-gun saluting battery was presented to Western Samoa. On arrival at Pearl Harbour ROYALIST began a month of battle-training exercises with units of the U.S. Navy, during which all functions of the warship were tested. The experience proved so satisfactory as to raise hopes of repeating it with other RNZN ships.
ROYALIST then sailed for Canada and the U.S.A. on the first extended cruise of the North American Pacific coast by a ship of the RNZN, and visited Victoria, B.C., Vancouver, Seattle, San Francisco, Long Beach, and San Diego, before returning to New Zealand in October. ROYALIST sailed again from Auckland in February 1962 to relieve HMNZS TARANAKI on the Far East Station, visiting Brisbane, Darwin, and Port Swettenham en route to Singapore.
HMNZS ROYALIST, serving with the Far East Fleet, participated in exercise “SEA SERPENT’, described below. The ship also visited Hong Kong, Manila, Hakata, Kure and Tokyo before sailing from Singapore in June for return to New Zealand. Visits were made to Darwin and Townsville en route to Auckland.
ROYALIST sailed from Auckland in August to participate in a joint exercise with Australian warships. Following her return from Sydney, ROYALIST began a New Zealand cruise and. visited Lyttelton, Picton. Nelson, and Napier before returning to Auckland in October 1963.
ROYALIST visited the Bay of Islands in February 1964 to participate in the Waitangi Day celebrations and subsequently carried out exercises and gunnery practice in the Hauraki Gulf.
HMNZS ROYALIST sailed in April 1964 from Auckland with the Governor-General, Lady Fergusson, and their party for a four-week tour of 17 southwest Pacific islands. The ship then proceeded to the Far East where she took part in exercise “LIGTAS” and visited Hong Kong, Bangkok, and Singapore before returning to New Zealand via Darwin and Brisbane in August. The ship then refitted at Auckland until November, and in March 1965 sailed for Pearl Harbour for refresher training with the U.S. Navy’s Fleet Training Group.
Before relieving OTAGO in May 1965 as New Zealand’s contribution to the Commonwealth Strategic Reserve, the cruiser ROYALIST underwent refresher training at Pearl Harbour earning a final average grade for training of excellent and a pass mark of 90 per cent. While on the Far East station the ship made visits to Thailand and Japan. ROYALIST left Singapore for New Zealand on 21 October 1965.
On 1 November 1965, in the Solomon Sea, serious salt contamination of the boilers forced the ship to come to a stop. Following assistance from HMS DAMPIER, ROYALIST was taken in tow by the Australian ocean-going tug CARLOCK and, shortly afterwards, HMNZS LACHLAN replenished her at sea with urgently needed supplies.
By 12 November 1965 the crew had carried out sufficient repairs for ROYALIST to be able to slip the tow and complete the voyage home under her own power. ROYALIST arrived in Auckland on 17 November 1965 and has since been used alongside for training purposes.