Some of you will remember RNZAF Shelley Bay nominally an Air Force lodger unit in Wellington. Well, it was originally the Naval establishment, HMNZS Cook. This image was found behind the hot water cylinder of a house in Tawa and has been sent to me. The image is thought to be have been taken sometime during WWII. There were certainly a lot Wrens present as can be seen by the row immediately behind the sitting Officers. It is thought that the photo was taken in 1943/44.
Thanks to Ken Berry for providing the image and John Bullock for the history.
Early in 1942 trees were cleared from the site and excavations dug for the magazines. In April the contract was let for the construction work for the armament depot situated on the hillside behind Shelly Bay. This involved the construction of ten magazine buildings, laboratory, office, garage and also a house for an ordnance officer. These buildings had a combined floor area of 20,845 square feet and were occupied by the end of 1942.
Meanwhile in May of 1942 reclamation work started in Shelly Bay and the adjacent northward bay for the creation of flat land space for the naval base HMNZS Cook itself. This was done by excavating adjacent hillsides and using it as fill for reclamation work. By the end of 1942 reclamation work had progressed far enough that construction of the base could start. The buildings were constructed as flat land and manpower became available.
While the reclamation work was occurring, dredging of the bay in preparation for the wharves was taking place. The wharves themselves were started on October of 1942.
By the time HMNZS Cook was complete it had facilities and quarters for personnel as well as workshops, shipwrights shop, and a small hospital. The buildings had a combined floor space of 69,050 square feet. While the wharf and breastwork totalled 37,200 square feet and had 1,200 feet of bearthage. Slipways and workshops were provided with “sideslipping” ways off the main slipway. These were for servicing the “Fairmile” Launches.
In April of 1946 HMNZS Cook was transferred over to the RNZAF and became known as the Shelly Bay Air Force Base.