Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Wright's Hill Fortress on Waitangi Day

In Gun Pit One

On Waitangi Day, the 6th February, we walked up to the Wright's Hill Fortress, boy what a mission that was!!!!
We walked from Karori Road, up Campbell Street and then turned into the road that went up Wright's Hill.
It had been many, many years since I had been up here and the last time was in a car.

View from Wright's Hill

It wasn't that bad so far, but the 2 to 3 kms up the hill was really hard.
It was very sunny and getting quite hot, we were carrying jackets as it was really cold when we caught the train into Wellington early in the morning, so we were getting hot and hoping that we wouldn't get sunburnt.
It was a very steep walk.
There wasn't a footpath so we had to keep stopping while letting the many cars coming down the hill get by, we didn't want to fall off the side of the road down the hill into the bushes.
There was loads of cars going up and down the road.
We were very high up.

Taking a closer look

When we finally got up to the fortress, we had a bit of a rest before going in.
The electricity was down and the generator had stopped working so we were given a torch to go exploring.
It was so much fun going through all the tunnels in the pitch black by torchlight.
Salem was so excited.
We explored the engine room, gun pits, plotting rooms etc.....
We didn't stay as long as we would have liked to but plan to come back next time it is open and we will catch a taxi up!!!!!!

We were lucky enough to be offered a ride down the hill and then the lovely people took us right to the Railway Station.  Just in time for a train home and we were able to quickly by some icy cold drinks for the ride home.

Checking out the Tank

Open days are on:

Waitangi Day - 6th February
ANZAC Day - 25th April
Oueen's Birthday - June
Labour Day - October

Opening hours are from 10am - 4pm

Wellington's 9.2" coastal defence battery.
© Darcy Waters 1999

        In 1935 the top of Wrights Hill in Karori, Wellington was chosen as a site for a 9.2" coastal defence battery.  Although it was not as large as some overseas fortresses such as that on the Rock of Gibraltar, it was fairly extensive with 2,030 feet of tunnels linking magazines, gun pits, engine room, plotting rooms and more.
         In March 1942 the authority was given to construct the battery.  Engineering reports and cost estimates were submitted to Army HQ in July and  preliminary site work including roads was started in October. Downer and Company of Wellington got the contract for the underground work and started in November with the driving of the tunnels were completed late 1943.  On the 13th of April 1943 Downer and Company were  awarded the contract to do the concrete work for the pump chambers and gun pits.  The gun pits were completed in December 1943.
         The first gun was installed during June 1944, with the 2nd gun shortly thereafter.  Due to the improved situation in the Pacific theatre of the war the third gun was cancelled despite the gun pit and underground works for it having being constructed.  The only time the guns were fired was when they proofed them to ensure that they worked properly  The proofing consisted of 3 shots fired - each shot at a different elevation and bearing. The No.1 gun was proofed on the 28th of June 1946 and the No.2 gun was proofed on the 26th of March 1947.   The only damage caused by the proofing was some broken windows at the fortress and in the suburb of Karori below.
         About 1950 the Fortress Battery was put into care and maintenance with crews from Fort Dorset visiting weekly or biweekly to service and maintain the guns and equipment.  In August 1957 the Army decided to decommission many of the coastal defence installations including the Wrights Hill Fortress Battery.
         During the summer of 1960/61 the guns were cut up for scrap and the Battery was stripped of nearly all of its equipment.  The scrap dealer was from Sydney, Australia and they were also responsible for the scrapping of guns at Palmer Heads and  Fort Dorset as well as those emplaced in Auckland and Christchurch.  Ironically the scrap metal salvaged from the batteries was sold to the Japanese. 
 The Post Office took over parts of the former defence occupied area and used it as a receiving station.  The Post Office was later split up into Telecom and N.Z. Post.  Telecom still has a small presence on Wrights Hill.  
          The Karori Lions cleaned up the inside of the Fortress Battery, and they opened it up for public viewing for the first time on ANZAC day 25th April 1989.  The Wrights Hill Fortress Restoration Society Inc. took over the custodianship of the fortress in 1992. The incorporated society's aims are "To restore and preserve the Wrights Hill Fortress as a historical monument for the benefit of the community."

Down in the tunnels

Map only viewable with graphics on

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