WANGANUI GUN EMPLACEMENTS
- ARTICLE -
Pillboxes and gun emplacements around
Wanganui, New Zealand.
On the west coast of New Zealand's North Island is a town called Wanganui.
It is about 3 hours drive from Wellington-the capital city of New Zealand.
Since pre-European days Wanganui has been a provincial
centre. The Maori had settlements in the area especially around the
mouth of the Wanganui River. Over the years the Maori built their own
defences to defend their villages from other tribes or Europeans.
After the Europeans arrived, the river mouth remained
an important area with the river providing access in-land before roads
In the 1880's and the height of "Russophobia"
Coastal defences were erected at a number of ports. As Wanganui was
not near a coal field or similar important place, the port did not have
coast artillery emplaced to defend it from sea-borne Russian raiders.
However during the Second World War the port was still highly active
and was classed as a secondary port.
Unlike Auckland or Wellington where there were multiple
coast artillery batteries of various calibres, Wanganui had just one
Coast artillery battery which was positioned on Landguard Bluff. It
was a 5" ex-US naval gun.
On a number of key roads there were blockades or other field works in
place or ready to be deployed with the intention of preventing an enemy
from being able to progress inland via the roads etc.
Wanganui also had at least a dozen Pillboxeserected near
the coastline in 1942 (1942 was the height of Defence Construction).
I know of 10 or 11 that remain today - some of these are on private
property. I have been told of two that have been demolished but have
been unable to confirm it. These were of the "Arrowhead" design
- named due to their shape being similar to that of an arrowhead.
There is also one round structure off Morgan St that
may have been a Pillbox. This is unusual in that North Island pillbox
design was usually variations on the arrowhead design. Round Pillboxes
were more common in the South Island.
Here are the pillboxes around Wanganui I am aware of.:
- 2 pillboxes buried in sand dunes neat the Surf Lifesaving
Club (Castlecliff coastal reserve management plan Oct 1994)
- 1 Arrowhead Pillbox in the sand dunes of Castlecliff
Beach. This one is between ½ and 2/3 the way toward the sea
from opposite No. 5 Seafront Road, Castlecliff. It is facing the sea.
- 1 Arrowhead Pillbox in the north end of a large
clearing in the sand dunes about ½ the way between Bamber St
and Egmont St, Castlecliff. This clearing is accessible from part
way along the main sealed track going to the beach itself from the
end of Morgan St. It is facing the sea.
- Just off the end of Morgan St, Castlecliff as the
sealed track to the beach starts there is a round object that looks
a bit like a pipe sticking up with a lid on it. It has slits in it
that correspond with those found on a round pillbox similar to the
South Island design. I am almost certain this is a round pillbox.
- 1 Arrowhead Pillbox in Short Street, Castlecliff.
This has a small building - no more than 5m x 5m odd built on top
of it. It may be port control or Coast Guard (unsure of use). The
pillbox is acting as it's foundations and appears largely intact.
- 1 Arrowhead on the river's southern edge, north
of Wanganui Airport's runway. After passing the airport terminal,
turn left at junction where the road goes uphill to the speedway,
And follow the unsealed track around to the river, past some Army
huts. The pillbox is about halfway along the stretch of track running
alongside the river's edge facing on a bearing of about 280º
which is away from the river toward the coast.
- 1 Arrowhead on the eastern side of the runway at
Wanganui Airport about 2/3 the way towards the southern end of the
runway from the main passenger terminal building. It is just over
the outside of the fence (from the runway) about 70-80m before the
fence turns and runs eastward. It is facing more or less directly
at the runway. The only photo of this is a still from my video camera
that I had running during a round-trip to Auckland (with permission)
while I was in Wanganui in May 2003 and a Wanganui City Council aerial
- E side of Airport runway below the coastal battery
on Airport land.
- By the mouth of the Kaitoke Stream - largly subsided
into the sand. The sand around this one is UNSAFE.
- On Private property near the Kaitoke stream.
- One (possibly 2) on the seaward side of the Airport
- One at Mowhanau Beack (Kai Iwi Beach) which is off
Rapanui Rd - about some 20min drive north of Wanganui. It was knocked
down a bank due to the instability of the bank to prevent it falling
on anyone and is now accessible only at low tide. While I have not
been able to visit it myself, Kathleene Brereton kindly provided photos
Most of the Pillboxes south of the Wanganui River/around
the airport have not been visited by me. They however have been visited
by Mr Jonathan Welch of the Wanganui Conservancy - Dept of Conservation.
Pillboxes that I know have been removed.
Wanganui also has a military drill hall and associated
facilities in teh inner city which is still in use today.
Although Wanganui didn't have defences to the extent that
Auckland, Christchurch or Wellington had, a large proportion of what
was built in Wauganui during WW2 remains today.
Darcy Waters 2005