World War II Remembered on Matiu/Somes Island
7 February 2011
The Department of Conservation and Meg Pilcher warmly invite you to join us on Matiu/Somes Island at 11.00am Saturday 12 February to remember the contribution of a little-known but significant WWII story – the Matiu/Somes Island Degaussing Station. Meg is one of a handful of WRENS (Women’s Royal Navy Service) who ‘manned’ the Station during WWII, and she will be returning to the island with family and friends to open a new interpretive audio device located at the Degaussing Station. From Saturday, visitors to the island will be able to listen to Meg’s stories and get a clear understanding of what life was really like on the island during WWII. Attendees also include Robbie Ross, a soldier in the 16th heavy anti-aircraft regiment, stationed on Matiu/Somes Island during WWII
When: 11.00am Saturday 12 December 2009
Where: Degaussing Station site Matiu/Somes Island (or if inclement weather – Caretakers Cottage)
(East by West Ferry leaves Queens Wharf for Matiu/Somes Island at 10.00am)
- Meg Pilcher was only 18 years old when she lived and worked at the Degaussing Station on Matiu/Somes Island as a signaller WREN.
- The Degaussing Station was erected in 1942 to ensure the safety of vessels leaving Wellington harbour from the threat of German magnetic mines in international waters. Vessels leaving Wellington during WWII had to pass over detectors on the harbour floor to the east of Matiu/Somes Island, hidden from the view of the city. From there the ship’s magnetic signature was recorded by WRENS working from the top secret Degaussing Station onshore. The WRENS would then deliver the information by launch to the vessel before it left the safety of the harbour. Vessels had cables that passed around their hulls so that they could adjust the magnetic signature/ ‘degauss’ when required.
- A concrete slab and piles are all that remain of the Degaussing Station today.
- Robbie Ross was stationed at other anti-aircraft guns around Wellington, including Mount Victoria, but he describes his Somes Island experience as “the longest time we were at any camp, and it was a good camp because we were a long way from top brass, who had to come by boat with warning!”