The Royal New Zealand Navy
CHAPTER 27 — Organisation of Naval Staff
Organisation of Naval Staff
THE test of war quickly revealed that the staff organisation at Navy Office was inadequate to cope with the increasing pressure of work and the many matters calling for action. The position during the ‘precautionary’ and ‘alert’ stages and immediately after the outbreak of war was made difficult by the recall to England by the Admiralty in August 1939 of the Staff Officer (Intelligence), Lieutenant-Commander T. Ellis, RN. His duties had to be taken over by the Staff Officer (Operations), Lieutenant-Commander E. K. H. St. Aubyn, DSC, RN, who had only recently arrived in New Zealand. He was assisted by two RNVR officers for operations and intelligence duties and an RNR officer as merchant shipping officer.
It was on official record that Lieutenant-Commander St. Aubyn had to deal not only with operations and intelligence, but with a wide variety of other matters. In the result he built up a job which could more accurately be described as Staff Officer (Everything). In practice, however, this had the effect that the odd jobs took up too much of his time, to the detriment of his purely operational duties. As Commodore Parry commented later, it bore out the well-known fact ‘that when one officer was charged with operational duties, as well as administrative duties, the latter inevitably eclipsed the former.’
In October 1939 Commodore J. W. Rivett-Carnac, commanding officer of the Leander, had completed two and a half years' loan service as Commodore Commanding New Zealand Squadron and was due for relief. The New Zealand Government proposed that he should be succeeded by Commodore H. E. Horan, who would retain the appointment of Chief of the Naval Staff and First Naval Member of the Naval Board. While this was a reversion to the former organisation which combined those offices with the seagoing appointment (and which had been found unsatisfactory), the Government was prepared to accept it as a ‘temporary war measure, particularly as from his sixteen months' experience at Navy Office, Commodore Horan would be in a favourable position to give decisions and tender advice by signal’. Horan's suggestion that ‘in his opinion the Second Naval Member and the Naval Secretary … were conversant with his policy and opinions and well qualified to represent his views page 436 whenever he was temporarily out of touch with Wellington’,1 was doubtless inspired by his keen desire to return to sea service.
The Admiralty agreed to the proposal, and on 1 January 1940 Commodore Horan relieved Commodore Rivett-Carnac, who returned to England. This left Navy Office with only two Royal Navy executive officers – Captain A. B. Fanshawe, Second Naval Member, and Lieutenant-Commander St. Aubyn.
Soon after the return of the Achilles to New Zealand in February, the Government, with the full concurrence of both officers, proposed to the Admiralty that Captain W. E. Parry should remain in command of the Achilles and, on the departure of the Leander, should become Commodore 2nd class as Chief of the Naval Staff, First Naval Member, and Commodore Commanding New Zealand Squadron. Commodore Horan would relinquish that rank and remain in command of the Leander. The Admiralty concurred in the Government's proposal, and Parry took over his new appointments on 1 May 1940.
At that time the Admiralty was experiencing an acute shortage of trained staff officers – one of the many effects of the drastic cutting down of Royal Navy establishments during the ‘disarmament years’. On 12 June 1940 it requested the relief ‘from local resources’ of Lieutenant-Commander St. Aubyn to enable him to take the appointment of Staff Officer (Intelligence) to the Commander-in-Chief China Station. When it was pointed out by the Navy Board that there was no suitable officer in New Zealand to replace St. Aubyn and that his withdrawal would leave Navy Office with only one Royal Navy executive officer and no trained staff officer at all, the Admiralty replied that Commander G. F. Hannay, RN, (retd) would be sent out to fill the vacancy. This was accepted by the Naval Board, who informed Admiralty that, in view of increased operational activity due to the presence of a raider in the Pacific and minelaying in New Zealand waters, it was not possible to release St. Aubyn immediately. Commodore Parry, however, arranged that he should be relieved temporarily by Lieutenant-Commander E. A. Nicholson, RN, Squadron Signal Officer in HMS Achilles, pending the arrival of Commander Hannay, who assumed duty in September. Lieutenant-Commander St. Aubyn left Wellington for Singapore on 19 July 1940.
1 Governor-General to Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, telegram of 11 October 1939.
Commodore Parry also pointed out that it was a cardinal principle of naval staff organisation that operations and intelligence should be separated from material and technical matters. In this respect the organisation in Navy Office was fundamentally unsound and, under existing conditions, becoming unworkable. It was, therefore, essential to have a staff officer for technical duties to deal with such important matters as minesweeping, counter-measures to magnetic mines, taking up and equipping vessels required as minesweepers, etc., and the defensive equipment and degaussing of merchant ships. Accordingly, representations were made to the Minister of Defence, who approved the appointment of Commander Boyle, RN (retd),1 as Staff Officer for Technical and Material Duties as from 17 July 1940.
The course of events confirmed Commodore Parry's opinion that the duties of Chief of the Naval Staff were not compatible with the command of a seagoing cruiser, and in September 1940 he represented to the Government that the decision taken in October 1939 to combine the appointments of Chief of the Naval Staff and Commodore Commanding New Zealand Squadron should be reconsidered and that the former should be permanently at Wellington. He pointed out that from 10 June until 23 September the Achilles had been at sea for sixty-six days. He had, therefore, been available for direct consultation by the War Cabinet only on twelve days when the ship was at Wellington, and by teleprinter or long-distance telephone on twenty-one days at Auckland, out of 106. During that period a number of important questions had arisen from the operations of a German raider in New Zealand waters and the increased possibility of Japan entering the war, on most of which he had not been able to give any verbal statement to War Cabinet, whose meetings he had attended only once.
Commodore Parry's views were accepted by the Government. In a telegram dated 27 September 1940, it informed the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs that it felt obliged to reconsider the combination of the offices of Chief of the Naval Staff and Commodore Commanding New Zealand Squadron. Since Commodore Parry had held those appointments, the Government had found it more and more necessary to have him available for consultation at Wellington. On the other hand, his frequent absence at sea had created difficulties that were no longer to be accepted with equanimity. Consequently, the Government felt the need for the Chief of the Naval Staff to be dissociated from duties afloat so that he would be available at all times for the conduct of naval operations in association with War Cabinet and the other Chiefs of Staff at Wellington.
Accordingly, the Government proposed for the early concurrence of the Admiralty that Commodore Parry should relinquish command of the Achilles and be relieved by Captain H. M. Barnes, RN, commanding officer of HMS Philomel and Captain-in-Charge, Auckland. It was also proposed that the appointment of Commodore Commanding New Zealand Squadron should lapse for the time being and that Captain Barnes should take command of the Achilles as a private ship. The Admiralty's assent to these proposals was received on 15 October 1940, and the broad pendant of Commodore Parry was struck in the Achilles at sunset that day. Lieutenant-Commander Bingley, RN,1 Naval Control Service Officer at Auckland, was appointed temporarily to succeed Captain Barnes. Lieutenant-Commander Nicholson, from the Achilles, was apointed for duty in Navy Office as Station Signal Officer and for anti-submarine duties, and Paymaster Lieutenant G. H. Ashby, RN, as secretary to the Chief of Naval Staff.
1 Captain D. A. Bingley, OBE, RN (retd), US Legion of Merit; born England, 17 Jun 1893; entered RN Aug 1906; served World War I; retired 1919; farmer.
Commodore Rotherham, RN,1 arrived from Simonstown, South Africa, in January 1941 and assumed duty as Commanding Officer HMS Philomel, Naval Officer-in-Charge, Auckland, and Director of Recruiting, with Commander Bingley as his Chief Staff Officer and Naval Control Service Officer. In May 1942 Bingley was appointed Captain Superintendent HMNZ Dockyard, and Commander Elworthy, RN,2 Commanding Officer of Philomel and Director of Naval Recruiting. Commodore Rotherham, who was in ill health, was relieved in June 1943 by Commodore Dowding, DSC, RN,3 as Naval Officer-in-Charge, Auckland District.
From the beginning of the war Captain Morris, RN,4 had combined his duties as Director of Naval Reserves with those of officer in charge of the Naval Control Service and the staff for port duties at Wellington. He was, in fact, Naval Officer-in-Charge, Wellington, but it was not until November 1941 that his appointment in that capacity, to date from 20 January 1941, was gazetted. He was relieved as NOC in July 1942 by Captain R. E. Jeffreys, RN, who was succeeded a year later by Captain A. D. Boyle.
1 Captain E. Rotherham, RN; born England, Apr 1892; entered RN 1905; served World War I; Captain, Jun 1933; died 1947.
2 Commander J. C. Elworthy, OBE, RN (retd); born NZ 15 Jan 1907; entered RN 1921; retired 1935.
Another important aspect was that it was essential for warships operating in defence of trade to have correct and up-to-date information of shipping in the New Zealand Station area. For this purpose cruisers at sea maintained a shipping ‘plot’ compiled from signals despatched by Navy Office, enabling them not only to know where friendly vessels might be met, but also obviating the necessity to close an unidentified ship for investigation and thereby risking serious damage if the vessel proved to be a raider. The merchant shipping section also acted as the centre in New Zealand for the collection of information from New Zealand ports and those in adjacent stations. This was exchanged between the naval authorities of those stations and the Far Eastern Combined Bureau, which acted as the controlling authority for shipping intelligence in the Far East and the Pacific. The average daily number of merchant ships plotted was as follows: prior to November 1940, 107 (including 35 coastal); since 1 November 1940, 136 (including 36 coastal). In addition, an average of forty ships daily, principally foreign, which passed through the northern part of the New Zealand Station, had not hitherto been plotted owing to lack of staff and time, but, Commodore Parry said, should have been and must be in the future. Furthermore, the positions of British and foreign warships should also be shown on the wall chart in the Central War Room at Navy Office.
The many duties enumerated involved a great deal of careful plotting and clerical work that must be done at once and continuously if the merchant shipping section was to function efficiently. The ‘staff’ hitherto provided had been one RNR officer with part-time assistance from an officer of the intelligence ‘staff’.
1 Grim evidence in support of Commodore Parry's demand was forthcoming a few days later when the small steamer Holmwood and the 16,000-ton liner Rangitane were sunk by German raiders which had been patrolling the trade routes east of New Zealand for three weeks.
Although arrangements had been made on the outbreak of hostilities for the establishment of a Central War Room and Combined Intelligence Bureau, it was not until September 1940 that this organisation was set up in Navy Office by direction of the Chiefs of Staff. On the naval side it included the merchant shipping section and an intelligence section of two officers, under the Staff Officer (Operations and Intelligence). The latter section was responsible for all intelligence, both Pacific and internal, as well as for security. In respect of aliens, disaffected persons, and subversive activities it worked in close co-operation with the Police Department and the Security Intelligence Bureau, which came into being about that time. One Army officer and two officers of the RNZAF were accommodated in the Combined Intelligence Bureau.
This arrangement, though an improvement, was little more than a stop-gap. In March 1941 Commodore Parry raised with the Admiralty the difficulties caused by his having only one staff officer, apart from the signal officer, who was fully occupied as such. With the present rapid developments, the institution of convoys owing to raider activities, preparations for the possible entry of Japan into the war and so on, he was much disturbed by this lack of trained staff officers. A separate staff officer for intelligence duties must be restored, not only because there was full-time work for him in the Combined Intelligence Bureau, but to enable Commander Hannay to concentrate on his duties as Staff Officer (Operations). On 2 April Commodore Parry cabled to the Admiralty: ‘Every day that passes convinces me more than ever of the importance, not only to New Zealand, but to Imperial Naval interests of an early appointment as Staff Officer (Intelligence) at Wellington, vacant since August, 1939.’ Two days later the Admiralty replied that Lieutenant-Commander Beasley, RN,2 had been appointed. He took up his duties in Navy Office on 16 July 1941.
2 Lieutenant-Commander F. M. Beasley, RN; born England, 2 Aug 1903; entered RN 1916; HMS Ark Royal, 1938–40.
Naval intelligence officers were appointed to four area headquarters in the Dominion, each of which had a combined intelligence centre. In December 1941 a staff officer for operations and intelligence was appointed under the Naval Officer-in-Charge, Fiji, where a Combined Intelligence Centre for the three services was also established. Later, another naval officer was appointed for intelligence duties only. This organisation was superseded when the Fiji Islands passed to the operational control of the United States Commander of the South Pacific Area (comsopac), and a New Zealand naval liaison officer was then appointed to the staff of the United States officer-in-command at Suva.
Close co-operation with the Americans was maintained by the Combined Operational Intelligence Centre. After the transfer of comsopac headquarters from Auckland to Noumea in July 1942 there was a rapid and elaborate build-up of the United States intelligence organisation. In January 1943 Lieutenant-Commander Brackenridge,2 from Combined Operational Intelligence Centre, Wellington, was appointed New Zealand liaison officer on the staff of comsopac. From the beginning of 1944, when the tide of war had ebbed beyond the limits of the New Zealand Station, the need for much of the Combined Operational Intelligence Centre organisation no longer existed and it was considerably reduced. Lieutenant-Commander Beasley was succeeded as Director of Naval Intelligence by Lieutenant-Commander Barker, who was followed in September 1944 by Lieutenant-Commander Brackenridge. When the last was appointed in March 1945 as British naval intelligence liaison officer on the staff of the United States Commander-in-Chief, Pacific (cincpac), the duties of Director of Naval Intelligence were taken over by Lieutenant-Commander Cheyne, RNZNVR.3
1 Lieutenant-Commander H. S. Barker, RN (retd); born NZ Sep 1893; entered RN 1901; served World War I; HMS Warspite, 1916–19; HMS Chatham, 1920–21; retired 1923; company director.
The Chief of the Naval Staff considered it imperative that their functions should be entirely separate. The necessity for this, and the inadequacy of the existing staffs to cope with their many duties, had become increasingly clear since the institution of modified convoys as a protection against raiders, and because of the increasing numbers of ships passing through New Zealand waters and the additional DEMS work, principally in connection with the permanent degaussing of ships ordered by the Admiralty. Moreover, in the event of war with Japan, Wellington was to become a convoy assembly port, and this necessitated the preparation of plans for the institution of a full convoy system in the South-West Pacific. Plans to that end were under discussion with the Australian naval staff. In addition, plans were being prepared to provide for the trans-Pacific routeing of ships in co-operation with the United States naval authorities at San Francisco.
All this was stressed in a memorandum to the Minister of Defence, in which the Chief of Naval Staff proposed the appointment of nine additional officers at Wellington — six for the Naval Control Service and three for port duties; and four more at Auckland — three for the naval control service and one for DEMS duties. To assist the Staff Officer (Operations) at Navy Office, the senior merchant shipping officer was to take over the arranging of convoys and routeing of shipping, an additional watchkeeping officer being appointed. To enable the Chief of Naval Staff to make full and proper use of his secretary in dealing with plans, operations, and other matters, it was intended to relieve that officer of the work connected with naval personnel, including recruiting and drafting, by the appointment of a paymaster lieutenant RNZNVR as Naval Assistant (Personnel).1 On the administrative side, additional staff was to be provided for the Assistant Naval Secretary. All these proposals were approved by War Cabinet on 31 October 1941 and put into effect forthwith.
1 Paymaster Lieutenant-Commander G. H. Lloyd Davies, RNZNVR, was appointed. Born Wellington, 13 Apr 1912; accountant.
The need of the expert knowledge and administrative services of an engineer officer and naval constructor at Navy Office was met by the appointment of Engineer Rear-Admiral Bodell,3 who took up his duties on a civil basis in August 1941. Three months later Engineer Lieutenant-Commander Earnshaw, RN (retd),4 was appointed, also on a civil basis, as engineer overseer, becoming Assistant Director of Naval Engineering in October 1942. Mr J. H. Narbeth, RCNC,5 was promoted Chief Constructor but remained at Devonport Dockyard, which was in process of considerable expansion and whose staff was commensurately increased.
The absence from New Zealand of the Chief of Naval Staff, who was attending a conference at Singapore when Japan entered the war, emphasised the need of an officer to act as his deputy. In response to an urgent signal, the Admiralty nominated Commander Stirling-Hamilton, RN,6 whose appointment as Deputy Chief of Naval Staff was approved by War Cabinet on 28 December 1941. He travelled from Singapore by air and assumed duty at Navy Office on 19 January 1942.
1 Captain (S) N. H. Beall, OBE, RN; born England, 1893; entered RN 1906; Commander, Jul 1930; secretary to Admiral Sir James Little, KCB, in various appointments, May 1930-Jan 1940; died 1947.
2 Captain M. J. Yeatman, RN; born England, Dec 1895; entered RN 1908; served in destroyers, 1914–18; Commander, 1931; HMS Impregnable, Boys' Training School, 1937–39; HMS Sandwich, 1939–41.
3 Engineer Rear-Admiral G. W. Bodell, US Bronze Star; born N. Ireland, Jul 1878; entered RN Jul 1901; destroyers and Malta Dockyard, 1914–18; Engineer Captain, Dec 1927; retired Jul 1933.
5 Royal Corps of Naval Constructors.
6 Captain Sir Robert W. Stirling-Hamilton, Bt, RN (retd); born Scotland, Apr 1903; entered RN 1916; served in submarines; Naval Attaché, Bangkok, Jul 1941; DCNS, NZ, 1942–43; Captain, Dec 1944; Deputy Chief of Staff, C-in-C British Pacific Fleet, 1944–46.
New Zealand was fortunate to have had the services of Commodore Parry as Chief of Naval Staff during a critical period of the war. When he took up that appointment he found Navy Office ill prepared to cope with many urgent problems and needs. By the time Japan entered the war in December 1941, he had organised an adequate and balanced naval staff, as well as a sound recruiting and training scheme. His foresight in these and many other matters was confirmed by the march of events. When the time for his departure came, the Government was loth to lose him.
In August 1941 the Government had accepted the Admiralty's nomination of Commodore Sir Atwell Lake to succeed Commodore Parry. But in February 1942, when the swift tide of Japanese conquest was in full flood, the Prime Minister made urgent representations to the Admiralty that the latter should remain in New Zealand.1 In view of the grave situation in the Pacific, ‘the corresponding importance of the naval and other defence measures in New Zealand and Fiji and the continually increasing complexity and volume of the naval work involved’, the Government did not wish to lose the services of Commodore Parry, who had been responsible for the considerable expansion of the Royal New Zealand Navy and was in close touch with all that was being done. It had discussed the matter with Vice-Admiral Leary, USN, commander of the Anzac Area, who considered it ‘most undesirable’ that Commodore Parry should be lost to New Zealand at this juncture and that he should retain his post as Chief of Naval Staff. The Government held the view that both officers could well be employed on the New Zealand Station, one possibility being the appointment of Commodore Lake as Naval Officer-in-Charge, Fiji, ‘which appeared likely to become a key point in Pacific naval strategy.’ If the Admiralty felt it would not be proper to vary Lake's appointment as Chief of Naval Staff, the Government would feel it desirable to have Parry as their representative with Vice-Admiral Leary.
The reply was received that Commodore Parry was ‘definitely wanted by the Admiralty because of his particular qualifications’, and the proposal to extend his period of service in New Zealand ‘presented great difficulties.’ The Admiralty was prepared to allow him to remain for two months after the arrival of Commodore Lake, who had been most highly recommended by the Commander-in-Chief Portsmouth and who, because of his varied experience, was considered to be entirely suitable for the New Zealand appointment.
1 Prime Minister to Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, telegram of 25 February 1942.
To this the Prime Minister replied that the Government felt that the ‘immediate urgent requirements’ could best be met by retaining Commodore Parry, who ‘could not render better service than in his present post.’ The Prime Minister ‘earnestly begged for reconsideration of this matter which is of such importance to us’. The Admiralty, however, adhered to its decision. Commodore Lake, who travelled by way of the United States, where he had discussions with Admiral King and his staff, arrived at Wellington on 10 April 1942. He assumed duty as Chief of Naval Staff on 16 June and Parry sailed for England. Commodore Lake served as Chief of Naval Staff and First Naval Member of the Naval Board until 12 July 1945, when he was relieved by Commodore Faulkner, DSC, RN.1
During the war, and especially after the outbreak of hostilities against Japan, there was a great expansion in the communications branch of the Royal New Zealand Navy. In Navy Office, Wellington, the centre of communications in New Zealand, a large civilian staff supervised by naval officers and ratings handled an increasing volume of world-wide traffic. From early in 1942 the total number of signal ‘groups’ handled rose to 1,250,000, a figure that was maintained until shortly before VJ Day. The cipher office, dealing with the ciphering and deciphering of messages, and the coding office, under the charge of the port wireless telegraph officer, were linked with the W/T station and were an important part of the Empire chain of naval communications.
A staff of skilled operators recruited from the Post and Telegraph Department operated teleprinter circuits to HMNZ Dockyard, Auckland Combined Headquarters, Waiouru W/T Station, Purewa W/T Station, Auckland, HMNZS Cook, Wellington, the General Post Office, Wellington, and a morse line to Lyttelton. Over these circuits passed all overseas traffic, a large number of high-priority signals of the New Zealand section of the direction-finding net, as well as a large volume of administrative traffic within New Zealand. At one period, Navy Office ranked as the sixth largest telegraph office in the Dominion. Besides operating local port wave wireless stations at Auckland, Wellington, and Lyttelton, the Navy in November 1944 took over the former American naval W/T station at Purewa, Auckland, which provided communications with the United States Commander, South Pacific Area, and other American naval authorities in the Pacific.
1 Captain G. H. Faulkner, DSC, RN; born England, 27 Apr 1903; entered RN 1906; served in destroyers, World War I; Captain, Dec 1935; HMS Berwick, 1941–43; Chief of Staff to C-in-C South Atlantic, 1943–45.
The station's main achievement was in broadcasting for the British Pacific Fleet in Japanese waters. It was found that the American circuits were too heavily loaded to handle traffic for the Admiralty and this task was taken over by Waiouru. The station handled practically all the traffic between Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser, Commander-in-Chief British Pacific Fleet, and the British Government, including important messages on political and other questions. In addition, a large proportion of the messages of a similar nature between Admiral Earl Mountbatten, Supreme Commander South-East Asia, and the British Government passed through Waiouru. On 30 October 1951 Waiouru W/T Station was designated HMNZS Irirangi.
A naval barracks with accommodation for some 200 officers and ratings was built at Lyttelton and commissioned as HMNZS Tasman on 20 January 1944 by Commander T. S. Critchley, Naval Officer-in-Charge, Lyttelton. Tasman was used as a training establishment for telegraphists and for the accommodation of the staff and pool of ratings held at Lyttelton. A signal training school was established at Dunedin, the first class from HMNZS Tamaki entering in June 1943. During the first twelve months six classes totalling 144 ordinary signalmen went through the school, of whom 121 passed the final examination. Later, the training of telegraphists was transferred to Tamaki and that of signalmen from Dunedin to Tasman.
It was fortunate that the Government had approved in 1935 a three-year plan for the reconstruction and modernising of the naval base and dockyard at Devonport. By September 1939 many of the works had been completed and others nearly so. But it soon became apparent that the equipment and staff organisation were inadequate to deal expeditiously and efficiently with the many demands of the war. Hitherto, the dockyard had been looked upon as a small repair base. Now it was called upon not only to equip minesweepers and auxiliary craft but to convert and fit out the Monowai as an armed page 448 merchant cruiser. These and many other tasks were added to when the Achilles returned from the River Plate for repair of battle damage and a major refit. There was a shortage of berthage for ships, and store accommodation was insufficient for the large quantities of material arriving.
In 1942 a Royal Commission was appointed to inquire into and report upon the state of efficiency and control of the naval base and other matters relating to production and staff. The Commission made many recommendations (not all of which were adopted) for improving the layout of the repair shops and machinery and increasing the facilities of the base which, it said, had grown ‘in a piecemeal and promiscuous way without any thoroughly well-considered long-range plan.’ But that was not entirely the fault of the Navy Department, which over many years had had to plan and work on a strictly limited budget. In their entirety the recommendations of the Commission amounted to a long-term scheme, including the construction of a new dry-dock, the rebuilding of the barracks, the removal of the fuel-oil tanks, and other proposals, all of which would have cost some millions of pounds.
Nevertheless, a major programme of works, some of which were already in progress, greatly increased and improved the facilities of the dockyard and base. A traffic tunnel was driven through the adjacent hill to Shoal Bay, where reclamation provided ground for a complete storeyard with the necessary buildings. Underground storage tanks for fuel-oil were constructed, new workshops, wharves, and stores were built in the main area, and the Calliope dock was lengthened a second time to provide for larger cruisers.
Though these and many other works were in progress during the war and were not completed till 1947, the dockyard coped successfully with a vast amount of work, including damage repair to the Leander, major refits of the Achilles and Gambia and numerous ships of the United States Navy and the British Pacific Fleet, as well as repairs and refits of minesweepers and auxiliary vessels. HM Dockyard, Devonport, though not of great size, is now one of the best-equipped in the south-west Pacific.
The development and prospective expansion of the anti-submarine and minesweeping forces called urgently for the provision of base facilities at Wellington. The matter was raised in October 1941, when it was decided to establish a base at Shelly Bay, on the east side of Evans Bay. The scheme provided for dredging and reclamation, the construction of two wharves, slipways for launches, a cable tank and an underground petrol tank, and the erection of workshops and stores, administrative offices, living quarters for 31 officers and 260 ratings (later 38 officers and 350 ratings), and other buildings at an estimated cost of £230,000. The War Cabinet page 449 had already approved the construction of an armament depot with magazines above Shelly Bay and it was now proposed to establish a mining depot there.1
The Commissioner of Defence Construction informed the Prime Minister that it would take up to eighteen months to complete the works. In view of the ‘tremendous programme’ of urgent defence works in hand, a more unfortunate time could not have been chosen for the task. He proposed a modified scheme which could be completed in half the time. The Naval Board held out for the full scheme and also proposed the taking over of the women's borstal buildings on Mount Crawford, above Shelly Bay, as barracks for naval ratings.
On 17 November 1942, thirteen months after the matter was first raised, War Cabinet gave authority for £314,000 for the construction of the Shelly Bay base as shown in the Naval Board's plan. It was directed that work proceed to complete the wharfage in the southern bay, but that further consideration be given to the question of wharfage in the northern bay in relation to a suggested wharf near the patent slip on the west side of Evans Bay. Actually, neither of these wharves was built, that in the southern bay being found sufficient for all requirements; nor was the borstal building ever used.
Slow progress was made with the Shelly Bay works during 1943 and there were many alterations and additions to the original plans. In the meantime a temporary base for motor-launches was constructed on the west side of Clyde Quay in Lambton harbour at a cost of more than £10,000. It came into operation early in 1943. On 27 February 1944, Commander Taylor, DSC, RNZNVR2 was appointed Officer-in-Charge Shelly Bay. Though much work remained to complete it, the base was formally commissioned as HMNZS Cook on 1 June 1944, when the temporary base at Clyde Quay was closed down.
The question of custodianship of the disused borstal buildings was argued for about two years. The Treasury said it appeared that, as the Navy was not using the buildings, the expenditure of more than £100,000 on building a new borstal at Takapu Road was not warranted. In August 1946 Treasury ruled that since the old borstal had been taken on charge by Navy Office it was the Navy's responsibility. The property was transferred back to the Prisons Department in 1947. A return compiled after the war showed that expenditure on the Shelly Bay base from 1942 to 1947 amounted to £370,109, making with £17,354 for the Works Department's administrative charges a total of £387,463.
1 The mining depot was ultimately built at Mahanga Bay, on the west shore of the outer harbour.
2 Captain F. E. Taylor, DSC, RNZNVR; born England, Jan 1902; commanded HM minesweepers Ash and Springtide, 1940–43; CO Wellington Division, RNZNVR, since 1946.