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9 Coast Regiment at Fort Takapuna

by AA Wright, 1944

To Tales from the Trails

9 Coast Regiment formed part of the coastal defence of Auckland, New Zealand, during World War 2, and later disbanded. This account was written by its members in 1944 so that future generations would know what they did.

Some months before September 1939 four 4" guns had been emplaced at Fort Takapuna, two of them in their present position, and two over on the right flank nearer the present Naval quarters. These latter were placed there to cover a proposed examination anchorate. Early in 1940, two more guns were brought over from the Auckland Museum, and put alongside the two on the left flank. All these guns were Mk VIIs, originally part of HMS New Zealand's armament. A further gun, although not serviceable was erected on the extreme left flank after four of the gunds had been removed. Two (the museum pieces) were transferred to 'Cautley' in September 1941 and the two from the Right flank went to the Islands in December 1941.

Known on the outbreak as the 4" Mk VII Taka Battery, it became the 11th, then 61st, then 62nd. Its Examination Role has always kept it on its toes, with complete day and night mannings, large OP staff of signallers and telephonists, and a gun crew with itchy trigger fingers in case a vessel required pulling up. Whitelaw, the fisherman, though elsewhere regarded as a pest was very popular with the 1940 gun crews. This was of course in the days of short ammunition supply.

Taka, in the early days of the War, was certainly the most comfortable Camp of them all. The commodious RNZA barracks 'Siberia' were handed over to the Battery and the single bed rooms made a close watch on movements difficult. BSM Oram and S/Sgt Body would collect returning AWLs inside the hole in the hedge at the back of the barracks late at night. The new camp was built in good time and was moved into in November 1939. It was some time before roads were sealed and there was plenty of mud and slush. The usual trouble in keeping the one serge suit presentable was experienced.

Major Marshall was OC for a week or so at the start, and lived in a caravan back of the OP. Lt J Burns RNZA took over and was BC until November, when Lt Gilbert RNZA came, remaining until February 1940. Capt A Munro followed then Major WJ Hicks from April until Oct 1940, Capt RW Yates Oct 1940 to Feb 1941, Capt K Mills February 1941 to February 1942, Capt C Woods to June 1943, Capt FM Gifford-Moore to March 1944. Capt WC Carson to September 1944 and then Capt CE Price. Other Officers who served in the Battery include RF Adams, GD Beresford, JT Bedggood, RC Connell, BG Craig, KH Crawford, RM Coote, CB Connery, DP Dumbleton RNZA, CW Ensor, DR Gillies, RD Horton, GE Harper, GF Ireland, JR Kingston, JT Molloy, A Mervyn-Smith, CS McCable, KN Price, H Perceval, AG Smith, D McL Swan, N deC Squires, GM Shortt, JJ Swindells, HG Tansley, GH Turner, AAO Tulloch, MK Uren, AB Walker, GO Wiles, RL Walton, ES Weston, BR Winstone and M StJ Wells.

Men commissioned from the ranks include GB Beresford (61st FCP 2 NZEF), RC Connell (61st Staff Course), GT Coxhead, WC Carson (60th, BC 62nd), KH Crawford (2 NZEF), AO Dryland (OCSL), CC Duigan (IG Staff Offr Arty SMD), JW Easteal, GB Fowlie (61, 68th), RD Horton (Tanks), FA Knight (Sig Sec 2 NZEF), GEH Lewis (61st, 64th, Air Force), JT Molloy (2 NZEF), FL Mason RNZA (AHQ), EJ McCaffery (61st, 2 NZEF), RG McElroy, RM Nutsford RNZA (BC 61st), JD O'Brien (68th RHQ), CE Price (61st, 68th, BC 62nd), KN Price (68th Navy), H Perceval, RJS Rabone (2 NZEF), HW Revell (61st, 63rd, 68th Navy), AM Smith (2 NZEF), JH Sweeney (Air Force), CH Turner (AA 2 NZEF), SWB Vaughan RNZA, AB Walker, SE Weston (63rd, 61st, 2 NZEF), OK Winstone and SR Young.

BSMs include WO1 Oram, WOII Brizzell and WOII Collinson. BQMSs were S/Sgt Body RNZA (killed on active service), S/Sgts JD O'Brien and Mallett.

Takapuna was considered a good camp at all times. It was fortunate in having a football ground within the area, although it was actually a waterlogged, smelly patch of grass and mud. Adjoining the District School, from the start it had the use of a wet canteen, two of three institutes, and a gate guard it didn't usually provide itself. It was handy to town and not unduly hard to slip away from. In the early days there was great rivalry between the Watches. On one night manning, Left Watch marched off headed by a Scot complete with bagpipes. Centre Watch followed with a saxophone. Right Watch was headed by Weston carrying a portable wireless blazing out 'Colonel Bogey' by arrangement with 1ZB.

Taka and North Head have always been rivals and any sports fixture between the two was fairly hectic. And of course, during Cautley's two year life, the two Batteries were always interested in each others shoots. With six guns it was for a time the largest battery and felt very much its reduction in 1941. The usual improvements took place in Battery Area, Camouflage, overhead cover, gun shields and auto sights on guns. One or two Naval Officers were stationed here in early days and later on, in fair strength with Loop and degaussing operation stations.

It was at Takapuna that the Regimental newspaper 'The Gunner' was edited and issued. This paper ran for about two years, and gave all the bits of news and gossip that gunners seem to like. JL Catton RNZA was mainly responsible.

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