Topic: Cracroft Caverns

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The Cracroft Caverns, also known as the Cashmere Caverns, were constructed in 1942 during World War II in response to the perceived threat of a Japanese invasion.

The caverns were created in 1942 as a response to the Japanese threat to New Zealand's security.  They were designed as a combined headquarters so that the Army, Navy and Air Force could continue to operate in the event of an attack.  Four such centres were planned in the four main centres.

The Cracroft-Wilson homestead, built by Sir John Cracroft-Wilson,  in Cashmere was requisitioned and a series of large underground chambers excavated with an entrance directly from the homestead.

Construction stopped in 1944 and the homestead was destroyed by fire while the military were vacating the site and the entrances were sealed.  Although the caverns were rumoured to exist it was not until they were rediscovered during excavations in 1987 that they became an object of public interest.

The caverns are in the ownership of the Christchurch City Council and are now the site of a ring laser experimental laboratory set up by the University of Canterbury's Physics Department; however the laboratory and the caverns are currently closed due to the Canterbury earthquakes.

These photos come from the Christchurch City Council Archives from albums compiled by Halswell Quarry Park Ranger John Moorand most images were taken in the early 2000s when the caverns were open to the public.

More Information:

The University of Canterbury Physics and Astronomy Department site gives a lively account of the history and re-discovery of the caverns.

Cracroft Caverns Reserve - Reserve Classification and lease to the University of Canterbury, 1998.  CCC archived report: proposal to formalise Caverns reserve and lease of caverns to Canterbury University. Contains background information on caverns and their use by the unviersity.

Archives New Zealand Christchurch Online, Past caring virtual exhibition: Cracroft caverns

Christchurch City Libraries Papers Index of articles from local Christchurch newspapers on the rediscovery and recent history of the caverns, 1996 -

Cracroft caverns; World War II Southern Group HQ: combined Army, Navy, Air Force Christchurch, N.Z., Parks Unit, Christchurch City Council, 1996? Pamphlet produced by the Christchurch City Council Parks Unit.

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