- ARTICLE -
6" coastal battery at Makara.
In April 1941 construction was authorised for a 2 gun coastal battery
for close defence located above cliffs near Opau Bay on the
western coastline of Wellington. It was armed with two 6" MkVII
breach loading guns on PIII mountings.
Before work could commence a two mile road had to be created to provide
access to the site. Part of a nearby gully was filled in to
provide a flat area to be used as a barracks area. This
was hidden from the sea by being below the landward side of the ridge.
7 November 1941 saw the contract for the gun emplacements
being let with work on the No.1 emplacement starting immediately.
The No.2 emplacement was started on the 15 of November. Work
started on a Radar Direction Finding station on the 29 November as
radar was used to guide the guns.
Both of the 6" guns
had been temporarily stored at Fort Dorset and then they were moved
from there up to Fort Opau. Installation of the No.1 gun was undertaken
between December 14 1941 and the 22nd. After Christmas,
between December 28 and January 3 1942 the No.2 gun was installed.
Both of the emplacements were completed during January.
The guns were proofed
on the 26th of January in 1942 with the results being deemed satisfactory
by the army.
The RDF (Radar Direction Finding) station was completed on the 28th
of February. Construction of the BOP (Battery Observation Post)
and Command Post was started on the 20th of January 1942 and completed
on the 9th of April. Although this may seem like along time
by today's standards 1942 saw an enormous amounts of defence related
construction being undertaken due to the Japanese expansion within
the pacific. At the same time due to the war construction manpower
was stretched to the limit.
By late 1943 the situation in the Pacific had improved so on the 6th
of September 1943 Fort Opau was put into care and maintenance.
The decision to decommission the fort was made about June 1944. On
the 28th of June the guns were loaded onto rail to be sent to the
Royal New Zealand Navy armament depot in Auckland. On
the 4th of September the same year the radar equipment was dismantled.
It is interesting
to note that Fort Opau was decommissioned before the end of the war
in the Pacific (which ended on the 15th of August 1945) and before
the 9.2" battery on Wrights Hill above Karori was operational.
Like many coastal defence works in New Zealand history, Fort
Opau never fired a shot at any enemy vessels during its short life.
On 20 March 1988
a plaque was unveiled on the north side of the northern emplacement.
It briefly describes the history of the Fort Opau Battery.
Although devoid of all of their fittings, the concrete remains
of the observation post, command post and emplacements still remain.
Part of the RDF station building remains although in ruin. Nearby
in the barracks area, the foundations for most of the buildings are
all that remains of the camp that housed the gunners of Fort Opau.
The Fort is publicly
accessible from the Makara walkway which is a circular walk of about
6km starting and finishing at Makara beach. The walkway is administered
by the Dept of Conservation and is open for most of the year except
during lambing season.
* Fort Opau Fort Record Book
AD88 item reference 5
National Archives, Wellington.
* Official History of the Public Works Department
Grattan, F. G.
* The Stockade No.21 (vol. 16) Dec. 1988.
* Site visit 21st April 1996