(I'm just updating this having added all the links to the old gun emplacements around Wellington that I managed to visit. I wouldn't say it's a definitive guide to what's out there, but it's as good as anything I found on the subject. For those interested, it's certainly a decent primer.)
I've rarely lived in one place long enough to become familiar with its soul. But we've done so much exploring in Wellington, that I believe I get the place. I think I know what makes her tick, what her story is, who her people are. Yet there is always room for discovery. On this morning's run I took a left at the Pass of Brenda instead of heading straight down into Breaker Bay, as I usually do.
|Magazine at the south end of Fort Dorset|
While the coastal batteries at Somes, Massey Point, Ft. Opau, Pol Hill, Wrights Hill, Palmer Heads were dramatic - and are hauntingly beautiful to this day - they were basically good for defending against a naval attack on Wellington harbor. Should the enemy, God forbid, land elsewhere, they would pretty much have free reign over Aotearoa - the Dad's Army home guard notwithstanding.
Churchill and Britain were busy elsewhere, New Zealand was told. So it fell to the United States to send troops. Almost precisely 70 years ago - on June 12 in Auckland and June 14 in Wellington - the first of what would turn out to be more than 100,000 U.S. Marines and U.S. Army fighting personnel arrived in New Zealand. They built camps and trained here and many, many headed out into the Pacific to die in battles on tiny atolls in the middle of nowhere.
|The view from the bunker|
I had no idea that Fort Dorset was so large in its day. It was, in fact, constructed in time for World War I, with two 6" MkVII guns, manned by the Wellington Naval Artillary Volunteers, constructed in 1912 on top of the ridge above what is today a nudist beach. Yes, a nudist beach. Don't you just love history laid bare?
|You can just see the Peace Poppy through the gun slit|
As with the other batteries around Wellington, not a single shot was fired in anger from the guns of Fort Dorset during World War II. Running around them at the breaking of a new day is particularly profound. The graffiti and detritus of modern youth seem to denigrate and celebrate the memories of these places at once - aren't the kids free, after all, to drink and smoke pot up there now? I was also delighted to see work around Fort Dorset that makes it look as if the Kiwis are actually thinking of making these old war memorials more presentable to the public. All of them seem to be suffering from sort of benign neglect.
Here are some of the shots of what remains today at the other coastal defense stations:
|The tunnels of Wrights Hill Fortress:|
|The guns of Pol Hill:|
|Palmers Head Fortress:|
|Fort Ballance - the first|
|Fort Opau - gorgeous|
|Fort Buckley - early and little|
|Somes Island - windy and wild|
|Massey Memorial - yes, there were guns under it|