Monday, November 3, 2008

2008. Godley Head Guns

2008. World War11 Road Block 1942, Sumner Lifeboat Shed, Christchurch

The return drive from Burnside to the end of Godley Head Road on the Port Hills to Godley Head was a about 70 kms. At Sumner lifeboat slipway I stopped to snap a WW2 concrete Road Block 1942.

2008. Top of Evans Pass between Sumner, Christchurch & Lyttelton Harbour

2008. WW2 Concrete Guard Hut, Godley Head Road. Port Hills Summit Road & Evans Pass, Christchurch

2008. Godley Head Road above Sumner Valley, Christchurch, overlooking Pegasus Bay

2008. Scarborough & Southern Alps from Godley Head Road, Christchurch

2008. Taylors Mistake & Scarborough from Godley Head Road, Christchurch

I drove up Evans Pass and stopped at the saddle to snap road signs. Thereafter I stopped several times on Godley Head Road to snap Sumner Valley, Taylors Mistake, Scarborough, Giants Nose and Whitewash Head. Along the way I snapped a WW2 concrete guard hut. A farmer's gate was left open, so daggy sheep on the road blocked my way.

At one stop, I found a smelly dead lamb, buzzing with flies. At a cattle-grid I saw a brown rabbit hiding, which explained why Godley Head reminded me of overgrazed Transkei hills. A fence sign had warned me of heavy trucks on the road, and a couple passed me lugging loads of stone to the end of Godley Head Road where the carpark was being revamped.

2008. Department of Conservation (DOC) Signs on Godley Head, Christchurch

At a temp carpark, I parked amongst three tourist cars and followed Department of Conservation (DOC) signs: Keep Out; Tunnel Track; Follow Markers. I did, red plastic tubes over fence standards led me to more signs as follows: Tunnel Track 1 hr return; Coastal Lookout 30 mins return; Gun Emplacements 30 mins return. A Ministry of Fisheries sign stated rules for Recreational Fishing of Paua (Abelone).

2008. WW2 Concrete Guard Hut, Top of Tunnel Track, Godley Head, Christchurch

On top, I snapped another WW2 concrete guard hut, then walked down the Tunnel Track to three WW2 buildings, all with DOC signs inside, explaining WW2 use. Years ago, the signs weren't there when I'd walked a bit of Godley Head.

2008. Top of Tunnel Track & WW2 Buildings on Godley Head, Christchurch, overlooking Lyttelton Harbour Entrance

Building 1: 1939 Minature Range - Scale Model depicting the sea and coast in front of Godley Head. Building empty.

Building 2: 1939 Battery Plotting Room - 12 inch thick concrete walls and steel shutters to protect soldiers and WAACs plotting inside. Building empty.

Building 3: 1939 Electricity Generator Room - for WW2 camp's own electricity supply. Building empty, but still smelling of oil and grease.

2008. WW2 Lookout, end of Godley Head, overlooking Lyttelton Harbour Entrance

I trekked along Tunnel Track halfway down Godley Head and came across more DOC signs directing me up to the Coastal Lookout. I trekked UP! The concrete Coastal Lookout with thick concrete roof was on top of the cliff, so I climbed the hill behind to snap the lookout with spectacular views over the sea into Lyttelton Harbour entrance and Adderley Head entrance to Port Levy. I admired cotyledons, lush green grass and small maroon legume flowers too. The wind off the cliff was cool.

2008. DOC Sign: Godley Battery Compound WW2, describing E1, E2, E3 Gun Emplacements

Heart pounding I sweated up a steep path, turning round to admire views, to the top again to find the three Gun Emplacements at the end of Godley Head: E1, E2, E3. I liked the names. E1 Gun Emplacement had an underground concrete magazine for shell storage. I climbed down steep steps and the magazine was so dark, even after my eyes adjusted, I couldn't see the magazine rooms. (Torch needed).

2008. WW2 Battery Ruins overlooking Concrete Roof of E1 Gun Emplacement, Godley Head, Christchurch

Each E1 and E2 Gun Emplacement had a thick concrete roof to protect gunners. E3 had no roof. Down the steep steps into E2 underground concrete magazine, several rooms and nooks, lights automatically switched on, and a DOC sign told me about magazine soldiers wearing cloth footwear, overalls and silk undies to stop static electricity blasting them to bits while they handled explosive shells.

I thought if Japs had ever made a direct hit on E2 Gun the mag boys would've been souped, stewed or minced by the blast, as there was a ramp hoist for shells joining the mag to the Gun above. The separate escape tunnel for the mag boys looked ridiculous, as they were dead meat, whatever the blast.

2008. Side of E1 Gun Emplacement, Godley Head, Christchurch, overlooking Lyttelton Harbour Entrance & Banks Peninsula

The DOC sign inside E2 Gun Emplacement stated: "The guns were Vickers MK XXIV, six-inch breech-loading guns. Each weighed 30 ton, with a barrel 6 metres long.

They could elevate to 45 degrees, and depress to 10 degrees. They had a firing range of 22 kilometres, as far north as the Waimakariri River mouth.

Each gun had a protective turret of 3/4 inch (15 mm) steel, open to the rear. In addition E1 and E2 had concrete covers overhead for aerial protection. They were camouflaged during the war.

The gun's ammunition was a six-inch (152mm) shell, weighing 100lbs (45kg). It came in three types: solid shot for practice, high explosive, and armour piercing. Full or half-charge cordite cartridges propelled the shell. A full charge cartridge was 2 feet (60cm) long and weighed 30lbs (13.5kg).

When coordinates were received from the plotting room, the gunners trained (lay) the guns in the correct direction and range. Ammunition was brought up by hoist from the magazine below and the gun loaded and fired."

2008. Pegasus Bay from Inside E2 Gun Emplacement, Godley Head, Christchurch

According to the DOC sign at the entrance to the Gun Emplacements, about 500 army, navy and airforce personnel, including 150 WAACs, were maximum personnel complement at any one time at the Battery during WW2. I wondered how many babies were conceived on the Head with all those WAACs outnumbered by gunners?

After WW2, the guns were used for training, and in 1959 were scrapped, leaving big empty circular concrete craters and storage places for shells, all looking quite new, except for the rusty electric wiring pipes, despite being seven decades old. With the thick concrete, I expected the Gun Emplacements would last for centuries. The dark magazines reminded me of Roman catacombs I'd seen years before.

2008. DOC Sign: Old & New Lighthouses on Godley Head, Christchurch

A DOC sign told me about the old Godley Head lighthouse being demolished to make way for the WW2 Guns, and being rebuilt at the cliff base. Looking towards Scarborough, on another promontory I saw ruins of Taylor Gun Emplacements without roofs. The WW2 Guns were never fired in anger against Jap submarines or warships in the Pacific.

2008. Distant Godley Head Promontory with Taylor Gun Emplacement Ruins, before Scarbourgh, Christchurch. Pegasus Bay & Alps Backdrop

2008. DOC Sign: Dummy Guns on Godley Head used to train gunners after WW2

2008. DOC Track, Top of Godley Head, sprayed with weedkiller, overlooking Lyttelton Harbour Entrance & Banks Peninsula

I walked barefoot back to my car along the top of Godley Head, along a golden "road," wide enough for a SUV to drive on, and I wondered what weedkiller Department of Conservation oxymorons had sprayed to kill all that lovely green grass. Never mind what poison residues my feet imbibed.

I'd misread incomplete DOC signs and gone on a 40 minute detour to the Gun Emplacements, when I could've done the walk in 10 mins on top. WW2 military tunnels had been dug into Godley Head. I didn't complete the Tunnel Track to the bottom, as years before I'd already done it with Luke.

On my return drive to Burnside, more daggy sheep and a truck full of stone blocked Godley Head Road again, and I let a speeding cyclist whizz past me at 60 kms/hr down Evans Pass, but I passed him in Sumner while he slogged along the flat.

Content & pics Copyright Mark JS Esslemont

See Department of Conservation (DOC) NZ

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