December 13, 2017

Where U.S. Marines Called Home

 

Pamela Rogers Photo | Outdoor information panels, in the form of huts that were used by U.S. Marine base during WWII

Pamela Rogers Photo | Outdoor information panels, in the form of huts that were used by U.S. Marine base during WWII

Pamela Rogers Photo | the US Marines Memorial for the USS American Legion which took the lives of ten US Marines off the Kapiti Coast during an exercise

Pamela Rogers Photo | The U.S. Marines Memorial for the USS American Legion which took the lives of 10 U.S. Marines off the Kapiti Coast during an exercise

Editor’s Note: On this day of the North American premiere of “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” we have three stories from one place in New Zealand: Queen Elizabeth Park in Paekakariki on the North Island, courtesy of Pamela Rogers of New Zealand. The Daily Plant features the stunning Pohutukawa tree, known as New Zealand’s Christmas tree. Also at the park and Whareroa Farm are tributes to U.S. Marines who were at both sites during World War II from 1942 to 1943. You can read a bit about that starting below. And finally, there once was a lad named Peter Jackson who grew up near here and used the park and nearby land in parts of “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, for Pelennor fields battle scenes. You can read Pamela’s short piece on that here.

Pamela Rogers Photo

Pamela Rogers Photo

• By Pamela Rogers •

Queen Elizabeth Park at Paekakariki on the Kapiti Coast was formally established as a regional park after World War II. It was named after Queen Elizabeth II and opened by her during a royal visit in 1953. It is one of the regions most popular parks – given its beachside location, lots of picnicking opportunities, walking tracks featuring native plant and birdlife or local Maori history, wetlands, a refurbished 1950s tramline, stables for horseriding, and its ties to the US Marines.

Between early 1942 and 1943, the land now occupied by the park was home to thousands of U.S. Marines. It was amongst a number of Marine Corps camps in the Wellington region, three of which were in the Paekakariki area.

 

Pamela Rogers Photo | Click to enlarge

Pamela Rogers Photo | Click to enlarge

Camp Russell housed 4,850 men in 112 tent decks and a number of officer’s quarters. This camp was home to men from the 5th Marine Regiment of the 1st Marines Division and the 6th Marine Regiment of the 2nd Marine Division.

In nearby Whareroa Farm (now a recreational area), Camp Mackay housed 4,650 men. The camp was home to men from that same regiments as Camp Russell.

The camps were used for training  (the nearby beach/sea being ideal for Pacific theatre purposes) and for general R and R.

More information about the US Marines in Kapiti can be found at this excellent resource here. A video on its homepage of this year’s Memorial Day service at QE Park features unveiling of the USS American Legion memorial. Although much of it is in Maori, it is still easy to follow what is going on.

Pamela Rogers Photo | How the land looks today at Whareroa Farm

Pamela Rogers Photo | How the land looks today at Whareroa Farm