FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Forts of the North Shore

Posted in Auckland, New Zealand by folkestonejack on March 30, 2013

On our last full day in Auckland we headed to the North Shore to see two of the fortifications that we had not managed to visit on our previous trip, starting with a stop at Mount Victoria Lookout and then moving on to Fort Takapuna historic reserve.

The lookout at Mount Victoria offers wonderful views across the harbour to Auckland city, Devonport, North Head, Brown Island and Rangitoto. The freighter E. R. Darwin (1996) was heading out into the Rangitoto Channel accompanied by a pilot as we arrived, a giant amongst the usual cast of yachts and fast ferries.

The view from Mount Victoria

The view from Mount Victoria

Apart from the terrific view, the stop gave us an opportunity to get a closer look at Fort Victoria’s disappearing gun which was installed with considerable effort in 1899. Indeed, they had to construct tram tracks just to haul it up the side of the volcanic cone. It is the last disappearing gun in New Zealand still on its original mounting and you really do need to see it in situ to understand how well it was hidden in its pit.

The gun could easily have reached the practice targets that were set up on Rangitoto, although in fact it has only ever been fired once with fairly disastrous results, breaking windows across Devonport!

Disappearing gun at Mount Victoria

Disappearing gun at Mount Victoria

A little further on, Fort Takapuna, built between 1886 and 1889, was another strong point in the chain of defences constructed around Auckland harbour at the time of the Russian scare. The fort and its surrounds have seen quite a bit of history over the years – including spells as a training school, a prisoner of war camp and a flu hospital. The interior of the fort is only open a few times each year but you can wander freely around the grounds.

It has a different feel to the other forts, partly down to the distinctive red bricks of the Victorian Fort and the stark appearance of the World War 2 defences. In particular, the three empty concrete shelters of the left battery (known as ‘Colchester gun covers’) create a dramatic impression. Originally the shelters housed four inch guns from the First World War battlecruiser HMS New Zealand, which were installed between 1938 and 1941. Later two of these guns were given to the Auckland War Memorial Museum.

Gun battery at Fort Takapuna

Gun battery at Fort Takapuna

The pitter-patter of the long anticipated weekend rain was getting steadily stronger as we walked back through the reserve so we didn’t linger long, but did stop for a moment at the Wakatere Boating Club Memorial Starting Tower which was erected in memory of those members of the club who did not return from the war. Against the darkening clouds it looked a particularly poignant sight.

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