- Tonson, A.E.
- History - WW2
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- June 1982 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
Her Majesty signed two photographs of herself making the speech, one being in the trophy cabinet at Irirangi and the other a treasured memento of its commander at that time.
The naval camp at Waiouru had to be self-sufficient in its early years, the main link with other centres being the railway from Waiouru, passing through the townships of Ohakune to the north-west and Taihape to the south. Quarterly truck trips were made to the Naval Stores Depot at Auckland to replenish stores and vital items, an adventurous trip before the Desert Road was sealed, and all transport left with spares and a full survival kit. Slips and washouts were not unknown and detours could be necessary. Irirangi was frequently called upon for assistance in accidents and emergencies and a four-wheel drive vehicle was maintained and specially equipped for such tasks.
Chains on tyres were often needed in winter because of snow and ice on the treacherous slippery roads. In warmer weather, when flames from local burn-offs threatened naval property, all hands would turn out voluntarily to eliminate the hazard.
Sports played a large part at the naval station and the Waiaruhe Naval Golf Club, with a course of nine holes on adjacent farmland, was always well patronised. Players became good enough to mount a four-man team, which beat one from the Waiouru Army Golf Club to win the Wedgewood Holmes Cup, a handsome silver trophy. Invitations were received from the Karioi Golf Club, and others. A tennis club was formed and competed with the Waiouru Military Camp Tennis Club and the Taihape Tennis Club, and friendly competition games were played at Mangaweka and with Wrens’ teams from HMNZS Cook. A concrete cricket pitch was formed on the camp playing area and matches arranged with local teams and naval teams from Wellington. The Taihape Cricket Sub-Association arranged for competition games between six or eight teams, including one from the naval station, and matches were played at Karioi and against Utiku. Boxing and wrestling had followers and contests were regularly held, and there was swimming in the river pools in summer. The Rifle Club was well supported and had competitive shoots at the Waiouru Military Camp range. Rugby, soccer, hockey, basketball and other sports also had their adherents and games were often held.
When pressures of desk work became too great for officers in Wellington or Auckland, or they happened to be passing through the district by car, they could find Waiouru a convenient stopping place, well worthy of a visit or inspection, so the naval establishment did not lack for visitors. Some saw it as a veritable oasis off the Desert Road, where they might enjoy the hospitality of the messes, with perhaps some trout fishing or hunting on the side. Admiral of the Fleet Lord Keyes, of Zeebrugge fame, even found his way there during the war years, as did Admiral Bruce Fraser, Commander-in-Chief of the British Pacific Fleet.
Waiouru did not lack for entertainment and there was surprising talent among those drafted there, even during wartime. The camp had its own dance band, all correctly dressed, and regular dances and even fancy dress balls were held, extras sometimes played on the bagpipes. Films were also shown on occasions. When augmented by sixteen families after the war much more could be accomplished and a full version of ‘The Mikado’, a Gilbert and Sullivan opera, was produced by an enthusiastic team, aided by the Royal Marine Band of HMNZS Bellona. So successful was this that it was also staged for Army Camp personnel at Waiouru.
Plays were also produced, among them the psycho-thriller ‘Rope’ and ‘Seagulls Over Sorrento’.
These and concerts, and square dancing aided by young ladies of Taihape, all helped to ease feelings of isolation felt by naval personnel and their families while they served and lived in a remote area away from busy seaports. There were opportunities for fishing, hunting and tramping, with trophies much in evidence, so what personnel lacked in city pleasures was compensated for in other ways. Families were transported once weekly to Taihape for shopping and children attended school there daily, while older pupils travelled to Ohakune. Liaison with the local people has always been good and invitations have been exchanged and many over the years have enjoyed honorary membership of Irirangi messes. A fine acquisition was some land leased at the Duchess Pool on the Tongariro River, where a hut, erected some thirty years back and since moved, has developed, with additions and refinements, into a popular and well patronised facility.