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Radar indicates temporary wartime shelter

Radar indicates temporary wartime shelter under Latimer Square

A recent underground survey investigating reports of a World War II shelter under Latimer Square suggests remains of temporary trenches rather than a solid bunker. Sophisticated radar equipment was used to examine the south west corner of the square where residents recalled the shelter being sited.

Managing Director of AVO New Zealand Trevor Lord, who conducted the survey, said that the shelter was probably dug out to about 1m by Home Guard volunteers and shored up with timber to a height of about 2m. “It would then have been covered over with earth from the excavation, to create a semi-underground but solid blast shelter against bombing or strafing.”

“There is no evidence of a permanent structure. The shelter was probably erected hastily following the Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbour and Darwin,” said Mr Lord. “It would have been built to government specifications, then dismantled after the war, with the trenches finally being filled in with soil, leaving little trace.”

Further radar scans along Worcester Street showed up other points of historical interest, including the remains of the 1884 tramline that ran from Scotts Statue through Latimer Square and out to Linwood Cemetery. The last remaining piece of the tramline is still visible near the cemetery, beyond the carpark on Butterfield Ave.

At one stage the council of the day introduced a new service - a tramway hearse to the cemetery, especially for people of meagre means. “Unfortunately the service wasn’t well patronised. It seems that even the poor wouldn’t been seen dead in this hearse,” commented Mr Lord.

The ground penetrating radar (GPR) equipment, a Noggin Smart Cart System, is specially configured and designed to survey through ground, employing conventional radar concepts adapted to this application. Mr Lord said that under reasonable conditions it can penetrate into the ground about 2 metres, showing up both ground layering and any interface to a buried object. Results are now commonly presented in a 3D format, making solid objects easily identifiable.

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