WRIGHTS HILL FORTRESS
- ARTICLE -Wellington's 9.2" coastal defence battery.
© Darcy Waters 1999
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 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."
ANZAC day 1999 (April 25) was the 10th Anniversary of the Fortress being open to the public. On the same day the Fortress had it's 100,000th visitor pass through it's portals.
During a ceremony on Monday the 13th August 2001 at Parliament the Wrights Hill fortress Restoration Society was presented a group award by Conservation Minister Sandra Lee at the Conservation Awards 2001 held at Parliament.
The fortress is located in a Wellington City Council owned reserve
which has panoramic views of the city below. The above ground
works are readily accessible to the general public. However
the underground part of the fortress is only accessible during open
days (Waitangi Day - February 6th, ANZAC Day - April 25th, Queens
Birthday - June and Labour Day - October (which are public holidays
in New Zealand) or by arrangement. The money collected from admission
fees covers material costs for the ongoing restoration work which
is being done largely by a small group of volunteers within the
Official War History of the Public Work Department.
© Copyright Darcy Waters 1999-2003