Karori, New Zealand – May 14, 2016
On a lovely Saturday morning, Leslie and I drove into Wellington. Our destination was Wrights Hill Fortress in Karori, a World War II-era defensive complex. The embassy had arranged for a private tour.
We arrived early, well before any of the rest of our group. We hiked from the parking lot to the top of the hill. The view was commanding. It is no wonder the Kiwis picked that particular hill to place three 9.2-inch guns. The projectiles fired from the guns weighed in at 380 pounds. Amazingly, those projectiles could travel 18 miles (30 kilometers).
At 135 tons, each of the guns was very heavy. The barrels alone were a hefty 28 tons. One has to marvel at just how they got such massive pieces up to the hill and into place. The actual installation of two of the guns was in 1944. The third gun was never installed. As it turns out, the guns were never fired at the Japanese because the war ended. The two weapons were test-fired in 1946 and 1947, firing three rounds from each. The guns required twenty men to operate.
By the mid-1950s, the fortress was mothballed. It sat deteriorating until 1988 when the Karori Lions Club took on the task of caring for and restoring the installation. The guns themselves are long gone. As noted on the fortress’s website, the arms were ironically sold to Japan for scrap.
The three gun emplacements are connected underground by nearly one-half mile of tunnels. Some of the tubes seemed to go on forever. Our guide took us through many of the tunnels. At several locations, there are historical displays that allow one to get a better idea of how the fortress operated.
One of the more interesting rooms was the generator room. Inside, there are two old 185 horsepower diesel generators that used to supply power to operate the guns. They are no longer in working order, but the volunteers seem keen to bring them back to life. With the technology available in the mid-1940s, it must have been deafening in the generator room when they were in use.
There was another room filled with several old, rusted items. That room was used in the filming of a recent horror film. Our guide told us the name of the film, but I had never heard of it, nor did I remember the name.