The Home Front - Timaru Coastal Defences -  Smithfield BOP

 The battery had two Vickers BL six-inch Mark VII wire naval guns, in a large concrete emplacement with a small magazine and overhead cover installed in 1942 and removed in 1945. The fire of the guns was directed by fire-control equipment housed in a battery observation post built, also in concrete, in front of and below the guns. A battery camp was built about 300 metres behind the guns. Timaru Coastal Defence - Gun emplacement, Smithfield. YouTube  Probably Vickers weapons - Nos. 1506 and 2095. Range twelve miles. Note on private property.

Registered in June 2008 with the NZHPT. Category two historic places are places of historical or cultural heritage significance or value and once registered the trust recommends that the structures not be modified in any structural way, or any building be built within a distance of five metres.

13/05/2008 Timaru Herald  -Ready to defend our port

Excerpt from a registration report on the Timaru Coast Defence Battery, courtesy of the New Zealand Historic Places Trust
The Japanese invasion scare in 1942 led the War Cabinet to look at permanently defending secondary ports such as Timaru. After the country's four main harbours had been taken care of, the Government's military advisor, Major General Sir Guy Williams, had suggested in October 1941 that other ports be given fixed gun defences in the event of a Pacific War. He initially classed Timaru as a port of major military importance but shortage of artillery prevented him from allocating any to it. With the outbreak of war with Japan the Government pressed ahead with this programme. It went as speedily as the supply of guns and ability to place them allowed. By early 1942 this and 16 other minor ports (as they were all now known) were allocated gun defences. Timaru to get two guns (or one if numbers were short). Outside the main harbours in the South Island (including the Marlborough Sounds), Nelson, Akaroa, Timaru, Oamaru, Bluff, Greymouth and Westport were to be armed. Initially two 5-inch US naval guns were allocated to Timaru. Their arrival was delayed, by which time, in March 1942, Timaru was allocated two British 6-inch guns by the Chief of Defence Staff. These were rifled MkVII wire-wound guns made by the Royal Gun Factory around the first decade of the 20th century. Formerly used as naval armament (details unknown) they were now intended for mounting on merchant ships. Their mountings, model P-III, were intended for simply bolting to a ship's reinforced deck. The guns arrived in mid-June. With the decision to erect the battery, a reconnaissance was carried out to find the best location for it. The only headland in the vicinity of Timaru harbour which had enough flat land for the guns, Battery Observation Post (BOP) and a camp was in front of the Smithfield freezing works. Two parcels of land were therefore taken from the New Zealand Refrigerating Company Ltd under Section 252 of the Public Works Act, 1928. The Temuka office of the Public Works Department (PWD) notified the New Zealand Refrigerating Company Ltd on May 12, 1942, of the intention to enter the land and use it for defence purposes.

Smithfield gun emplacement, Sept. 2011.

On a rolling 12-month lease, 2 acres 2 rods 26 perches (2.66a, 1.07ha) were taken at the headland, where the guns and BOP would go, with another two acres for the battery camp site about 300 metres behind or west of the emplacements. Both were open paddocks, fenced for stock holding. A rental of 10 per annum was arranged a little later. Taking land at Smithfield was not meant to affect the operation of the freezing works plant, which had earlier in the year been declared an "essential undertaking" for the purposes of the National Service Emergency Regulations, 1940. This protected its workforce from being called up and helped it supply New Zealand's export markets. Late in May, 1942, T G Beck, the PWD District Engineer in Christchurch, was instructed to start the process for building Timaru's coastal battery and battery camp. He requested plans from the Engineer in Chief in Wellington (which were largely standard British War Office plans). Copies of the standardised plans for the battery structures arrived in the first week of June. The seven plans covered the emplacement itself for a 6-inch MkVII gun (of which two would be built, with overhead cover), the holdfasts for bolting down the PIII-type naval deck mounting inside each emplacement, the BOP, magazine, and war shelter. There were also plans for general buildings in the battery camp. No specifications had been drawn up for the work, and Beck was left to allocate workforces or contractors to do the work. For the emplacements and war shelter, Beck suggested the PWD's own labour build them, but contractors would be used for the other structures: Timaru Combined Builders No. 1 Group for the BOP and various camp buildings (the quarters and latrines), and Petrie Construction for the magazine and camp showers, stores, mess and recreation room.

An allocation of funds had been made for this work in Timaru on the April-September half-yearly estimates. 10,000 out of an estimated total of 50,000 was placed on the estimates, and Beck calculated the work would in the first instance cost 30,000. This included around 9000 for the permanent concrete structures, and 300 for land purchase. The rest was for the camp and laying down the utilities (water, electricity, sewerage). To reduce costs, HQ Southern Military District in Christchurch revised the plans for the camp buildings. Various other adjustments brought the job estimate down to 18,900. Other changes cut costs. Rather than being built in concrete, the war shelters were to be three four-man removable huts and the main magazine was reduced in dimension to 23.5x18ft (7.1x5.6m). While the details of the battery camp were being finalised, work had already started on the gun pads. The clerk in charge of the Temuka Works Depot, W P Noble, received a requisition on June 17 to start this job, and by July 15 work was well under way. He said he was forced to start the job when "Army artificers, etc. from the North Island arrived with the battery guns and we had no option but to put the job in hand". June 17, 1942, is the date from which the Army lease on the property begins.

Sept. 2011, Gun emplacement Smithfield.

From the beginning, the unit to operate the guns was known as 85th Heavy Battery, New Zealand Artillery. It was regimented (controlled for administrative and corps purposes) by 11 Heavy Regiment, New Zealand Artillery, which was headquartered in Christchurch. The process for building a battery such as this was to get one gun in action as soon as possible. For this, a circular thick concrete pad would be laid, into which were set the holding-down bolts. This would allow the first gun to be mounted, which happened on July 16, 1942. From around September the battery was deemed to be ready for action, able to offer the fire of one gun. Only later would the overhead covers be built, as a second phase of the work. When these artillerymen arrived without warning some accommodation was required for them and a cottage on the freezing works property was made available. The New Zealand Refrigerating Company agreed not to demand rent but charged for the cottage's water usage. This arrangement was initially intended to last 6-8 weeks, but may have continued "for the duration" of the war. The camp was built between August and October 1942. The BOP was started in October and completed around March 1943. To give the guns a field of fire, 40 trees (planted in 1917) were cut down. The field of fire was roughly NNE through the eastern arc to SSW.. With one gun in use, work on the second emplacement slowed. It was ready in November when the first gun was moved to it (on November 5). The second gun was not mounted in emplacement No. 1 until February 11, 1943. After this date fire from two guns was possible. Work by the Timaru Combined Builders No. 1 Group was "satisfactorily completed" by June 14, 1943. It is presumed this included the BOP and part of the battery camp. A naval-type Barr & Stroud stereoscopic rangefinder was in use with the guns from the beginning. At first it would have been located in the open, probably between the two gun positions and protected by earthen parapets, until being relocated to the BOP once it was finished. As built, the camp had about 19 buildings. The sloping ground was first terraced and paths laid and gravelled. According to the PWD, sleeping quarters included a two-man hut for officers, two two-man huts for non commissioned officers (NCOs) and seven four-man huts for other ranks. These 34 beds were to augment the existing cottage to provide accommodation for a total of two officers, five NCOs and 37 gunners. The artillery's records later in the war show more people accommodated in the camp -- two officers, 12 NCOs and 20 gunners, and 14 WAACs (Women's Auxiliary Army Corps, personnel who operated fire-control equipment and communications), a total of 48 people. As well as the war shelters, buildings such as the orderly room and Regimental Aid Post (RAP) were converted from the standard four-man hut shell. Other buildings were the mess, cook-house, ablutions, latrines, laundry and various stores. For the latrines a septic tank was laid, with overflow waters drained off into the sea. This, and some terracing and foundations, remain of the camp.

With the battery and camp complete and functional from February 1943, life settled down to the routine of training and vigilance. The battery worked with at first the local National Military Reserve infantry company (later mobilised Territorial Force company of 7 Battalion Canterbury Regiment) and D Company of the Timaru Home Guard Battalion, in providing local defence. For this the battery site was fenced with an unclimbable fence, and slit trenches dug in front and on both flanks. From weapons pits machine-gun and rifle fire could be brought to bear on any advancing enemy. Only members of the artillery battery lived in the camp. With a lessening threat, the battery was reduced to a Care and Maintenance state later in 1943. In this state the called-up personnel was reduced to just eight (including three officers) who were to provide a slow rate of fire at 10 minutes notice. The rest of the personnel were either demobilised (for return to industry) or transferred to other defence roles. This state continued until August 1944, when the camp was finally disestablished and the battery site handed to Headquarters, Area No. 10, in Timaru for administration. The guns were removed on February 18, 1945, [and shipped back to Auckland] and the holding-down bolts covered in weak concrete (for possible re-use). All other equipment and wiring was also removed at this point, leaving the emplacements in the state they have been in ever since.

Immediately after the war the Army and the New Zealand Refrigerating Company agreed to a compensation package. Army and PWD representatives jointly inspected the site with Mr W W Baxter, the New Zealand Refrigerating Company's plant manager. The permanent defence structures were to remain undisturbed, with Army given a right in perpetuity of access should they be required again. The company resumed use of the land around the emplacements and BOP (and magazine) for holding stock, with the fences reinstated. The camp site was returned to pasture (and non-concrete buildings were to be removed). The camp, which was by now called Camp No. 50, had 24 buildings in it. Ten were Ye huts (four-man) with five others being for officers and NCOs.

In March 1946 the local member of Parliament Clyde Carr attempted to get some of the huts assigned for local housing (which was in acute shortage), but was unsuccessful. All buildings except two had been sold by August.  The guns are by popular lore believed to have fired only twice. This at least proved that the technology of the battery (the guns, ammunition and the fire control equipment) worked. Of the personnel stationed at the Timaru Defence Battery, a number were local residents serving in the Army, and the commander for most of the time was Captain Roberts. Names of the officers and men of the 85th Heavy Coastal Battery include Nelson Bent, Sergeant Jack Dobler, Captain Roberts (Commander), Cunningham, G Stericker, Dakar, C Andreassend, J M Andrews, J Flett, R Miller, A Collett and Hamilton. Two of the local gunners, Charlie Andreassend and Andy Collett are recorded as revisiting the site in 1985 to mark over 40 years since they served at the place.

The New Zealand Refrigerating Company Ltd signed a deed with the Government on July 21, 1947, agreeing to the terms as negotiated for the site's future. W H E Flint and H E Agar signed as directors of the company, with Robert Semple on behalf of the crown (witnessed by civil servant W Janes). After negotiation, the company received 488-11-0 in compensation for the use of its land and reinstatement of fences. When coast defences were disestablished in 1957-59, the four structures at Smithfield were "struck off charge" late in 1959, meaning that the Army no longer had any use for the structures, and for all intents and purposes they became the property of the owners of the land on which they were built. The deed signed in 1947, however, outlined that the Government would have rights in perpetuity of access and that the structures were not to be demolished or their field of fire impeded. There is no indication of the deed being revoked.  - The Timaru Herald 

The Home Front 

Mum, lived in Wellington during WWII, Glenbervie St., said everything was rationed - butter, sugar, tea, bread, stockings, clothes, elastic - the elastic was no good to use, would break.  Had a few Marines home for meals - mother was a good cook, they ate a lot. They were very polite, we didn't like being called "Ma'am". They were camped up above in Anderson Park. They gave us their marine badges, looked like a world, still have them. Friends we knew were in the Home Guard. Mum worked as a tailoress making army officer uniforms. She had to work overtime three nights a week so had to walk home in the dark with Joan, her sister, as it was dark due to the black out and no trams were running. Everyone had to work overtime. Joan was in the Women's War Service Auxilliary, she looked smart in uniform. OB Nov. 2012.
    The US 1st Marine Division arrived in Wellington aboard the USS Wakefield on 14 June 1942. After leaving the ship, the Marines boarded a train to Paekakariki, where they disembarked and marched into camp. The 1st Marines did not stay long, departing six weeks later for the Guadalcanal campaign in the Solomon Islands. Yesterday I met a WWII veteran, a former marine, US 1st First Marine Division. He joined the Marines straight after high school. He couldn't say enough about New Zealanders. The welcome the men got when they arrived was incredible; they have never forgotten the visit. It was a wonderful port of call, the best during the war. OB 29 Nov. 2012
 

Air raid shelters, Station Street, Timaru. 
The entrance of three air raid shelters can be seen from Station St. Timaru. On Saturday afternoons there would be a drill - all the sirens would go. The Army, Navy and Air Force (ANA) Welcome Club, upstairs in Church St, where soldiers or airmen on leave could come for a social evening, dancing, and a cup of tea.  There were 44 concrete tank traps used in the streets of Timaru e.g. Beswick St. The massive concrete cylinders, designed to stop tanks, were dumped in the area after the war ended, and development of the wetland area at the Whales Creek stormwater outlet in February 2009 revealed four. The 6-metre long traps stand about as high as a man and are thought to weigh at least 25 to 30 tonnes. 
 

Evening Post, 17 December 1940, Page 9
Enrolments in the Home Guard to December 7 had reached nearly 38,000. For convenience of administration and to ensure more efficient organisation, the country has been divided into twenty-seven Home Guard areas. The following are the figures to December 7, with those as at November 20 shown in parentheses:— Timaru, 1500 (400);  

Making Do - We felt it necessary to build up our NZ industry, where a new factory could be established, in a shed, or a garage or anywhere else it was. Engineering industries in particular began to expand. Engineering industries was the basic industry that during the war period helped immensely by turning out with articles necessary for war. Had the drawing for the Bren gun carrier. They did a lot of planning, work was controlled by General Motors, inspection was done by the Army. Railway work shops had a lot of equipment. A good example was the Bill Hamilton's Irishmen Creek workshop in the Mackenzie. They became involved with making parts for Bren gun carriers, rifles, machine-guns and trench motars. Same with Stan Jones in Fairlie, in Binney's Stables up Mt. Cook Rd, he installed a number of lathes and other machinery, hired Fred Miles as manager and trained staff to make motar barrels, shell cases and even Bren gun carriers. Stan made all the equipment necessary for this Munitions factory.

Bay of Plenty Beacon, 11 March 1942, Page 4 Offenders' Lighting Cut Off
Thirty premises at which there were flagrant breaches of the regulations during the recent blackout trial in Timaru will have their electricity supply cut off, according to a decision made at a meeting of the Reduced Lighting Committee. Mr P. B. Foote, acting-Mayor of Timaru, declared that the trial was the worst yet held in the borough.

Evening Post, 21 April 1941, Page 6 Home Guard Deer Shooting.
An expedition by a party of members of one Home Guard unit had a double purpose. It was arranged for the weekend, and the members taking part were to assist in the campaign in culling deer and chamois in the Mount Cook region, for which object they had the permission of the Minister of Internal Affairs (Mr. Parry). In addition to gaining shooting practice, the party hoped to have tests in field exercises. Signallers accompanying the party were to keep the various groups in contact with headquarters at the Ball Hut.

Auckland Star, 4 October 1944, Page 3
Daisy Basham, of Wellington, told San Francisco interviewers a few weeks ago when she stated that cosmetics were not considered essential vitally in New Zealand and their sale had been cut down in view of concentrating on the war effort in the Dominion.

Otago Daily Times 1 May 1918, Page 8
The Lyttelton Times states that Colonel Lt. H. Rhodes, the Red Cross Society commissioner in England, has sent a message to the society, "More honey wanted," and the society is appealing for unlimited quantities to be sent to sick and wounded New Zealand soldiers as soon as possible. The schools have been asked) to contribute, and the society's branches at Geraldine, Sumner, Lincoln, and Glenroy have decided to take part in the work.

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