19th Century Background to Coastal Defence Developments
As early as 1852 coastal defence was amongst the possible purposes allocated to Godley Head. However, despite repeated expert reports and considerable public agitation the New Zealand Government did not actively pursue coastal defence till 1878 when the tensions of the Russo-Turkish War propelled the government intopurchasing 22 RML (Rifled Muzzle Loading) guns to arm the ports though these were never put in place before the scare died down. Another Russian scare in 1885 coincided with the appointment of Sir William Jervois as Governor of New Zealand (January 1883 to March 1889). Jervois was a military engineer by training who had been responsible for designing and overseeing the construction of British harbour defences. Soon after taking office he offered the government advice on defence and he urged the preparation of coastal defence works for New Zealand. He wrote and lectured extensively on the subject and as a consequence of his advocacy and the nervousness of both the government and the general population about the intentions of the Russians, an ambitious programme of coastal defence installations was undertaken.
During this period a number of muzzle loading batteries were constructed along the North shore of Lyttelton Harbour but no installations were undertaken at Godley Head itself. In 1885 construction was started on Fort Jervois, which was sited on Ripapa Island (on the South shore of Lyttelton Harbour). This is the most complete surviving Russian scare fortification in New Zealand. Work continued on the permanent fortification of harbours even once the immediate scare was over.
Early 20th Century
In 1903 the new Commandant of the New Zealand Army, Major General J.M.Babington, inspected the country’s port defences. He advocated the installation of two six inch guns mounted one on Godley and one on the opposite Adderley Head. Minister of Defence Richard Seddon rejected the advice on economic grounds even in the face of pressure from the British War Offices’ Colonial Defence Committee, who supported the plan.
Field Marshall Lord Kitchener toured New Zealand’s defences in 1910 and urged the installation of two six inch coastal defence guns at Godley Head. Again the New Zealand government declined the advice on economic grounds.
During the 1920’s and 30’s New Zealand followed a British forward defence plan and contributed moneys towards the building of a major naval base at Singapore, hoping to keep any threat far from its shores. However Japanese military expansionism in the thirties could not be ignored and modern coastal defences were begun at New Zealand’s major ports.
In 1934 approval was given for building of coastal batteries around New Zealand as part of the defence programme planning prior to the outbreak of World War I. A construction programme followed, with work beginning in 1934 at Palmer Head, Wellington and in 1936 at Motutapu Island in Auckland. In 1937 it was decided that Godley Head would become a counter bombardment battery to ensure Lyttelton constituted a 'defended port'. Early in 1938 a British army officer, Major Edney R.E. (Royal Engineers), toured New Zealand advising the Government on the development of coastal defence batteries. As part of his tour he visited Godley Head with Colonel Parkinson R.N.Z.A. (Royal New Zealand Artillery) to advise on the siting of the two six inch guns planned for the site. Later that year a survey of the area was commenced and a map was produced pinpointing the locations of the guns and areas of dead water. The guns were to be located on either side of the lighthouse, but as this would result in an area of dead water it was decided to move the lighthouse. Before work was completed on the siting of the guns it was overtaken by the outbreak of World War II and became part of a much bigger project.