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New Zealand's Fortifications
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New Zealand's Fortifications

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Fort Ballance

Above Scorching Bay, Miramar

Fort Ballance was built in 1885 following fears of an impending war with Russia. It is one of the best preserved of a string of nineteenth century coastal defences constructed to protect New Zealand from a naval attack. In 1885, the Government, reluctantly acknowledging that they could not rely solely on Britain for protection, commissioned engineer Major Henry Cautley to design a series of fortifications to protect the country's main ports.

The 'See-saw' searchlight

Down the bank a bit on the Seaward side of the fort is an emplacement for a "See-Saw" searchlight emplacement. A lamp sat on the bottom end of a boom with a mirror on the top end to reflect the light outward. This arm could pivot to project the light in the desired direction. It was not that effective however. This was built about 1891/92 and was abandoned in the late 1890's. It is the only one built in New Zealand and is one of a small number of them internationally.

More info on the 'See-saw' searchlight

Murray Lewis tells me that the two pictures that I thought were the seesaw searchlight mounting are in fact the old 64 pounder / 4 inch gun position. The seesaw mount is further to the left (about 50 metres and down the bank in some scrub. He's also sent me these details and photos of Fort Ballance.





Bluff Fort

Bluff Fort





Fort Buckley, Wellington

Fort Buckley, Wellington





Fort Dorset, Wellington

Fort Dorset, Wellington





Moa Point, Wellington

Moa Point radar station, Wellington





Fort Opau, Makara

Fort Opau

Access to Fort Opau was overland but provision was made for beach landing. Fort Ohau consisted of two 6-inch guns installed in 1941 together with an operations post and a radar station. As the war drew to a close, having never fired a shot at anything, the fort was de-commissioned in 1944.





Somes Island

The Anti-Aircraft Battery

The Anti-Aircraft Battery consisted of a command post and 4 3.7 inch gun emplacements built in 1942. The Japanese threat soon diminished and, like the majority of New Zealand's fortifications, the guns were never fired in anger.

The De-gaussing Station

In 1940 the Germans laid magnetic mines in the Cook Straits and other palces on the coastline. De-Gaussing was carried out to shipping to reduce their magnetic signature, the process being run by a WRENS unit on Somes Island.





Fort Taiaroa, Dunedin

Fort Taiaroa and it's disappearing gun





Trelissick Park, Wellington

Kaiwharawhara Powder Magazine

Wellington's oldest standing stone building was once the Wellington district magazine. It was built in 1879-80 as a response to criticism of the practice of carrying gunpowder through Wellington streets to the store at Mt Cook. This magazine was built on land bought from Charles Schultze and designed by Charles O'Neill, civil engineer and architect. There were two separate magazine buildings, as well as a keeper's house, stables and coach house. The building was under continual threat from flood, and in 1890 the cottage was washed away. The army abandoned the magazine in 1921. It was then used by a variety of businesses, and much altered. In 2000 the just-restored magazine was partly destroyed by fire when a security van stolen in a robbery was hidden inside and torched by the robbers. Today the remaining magazine and part of one wall of another are being managed as a partial ruin by the Wellington City Council.





Wrights Hill Fortress

Wrights Hill Fortress

Planned in 1935, construction began in 1942 to house two 9 inch guns, installed in 1944, the order for the third was cancelled. The guns were scrapped in 1960 and the site decayed. Restoration began in 1988, firstly by the Karori Lions and subsequently by the Wrights Hill Fortress Restoration Society. The underground areas are now open to visitors on a few days each year.
For more information, go to the Restoration Society's website at www.whfrs.org.nz





Acknowledgments, sources and further reading.

Thanks for the use of their photographs and more information to :- Murray Lewis and Darcy Waters of www.capitaldefence.orcon.net.nz but the website seems to have been archived.


All rights reserved - Phil Jenkins