Following the aftermath of the bombing of Pearl Harbour on 7th December 1941, New Zealand was gripped in fear of an invasion. A plan would have to be made so that the Government could continue to govern if such an event should take place. The cities of Wellington and Christchurch were chosen to house two top-secret headquarters.
So you can imagine the surprise of the Cracroft Wilson family when their ‘Cashmere House’ home was volunteered from them for this purpose. The family, who had farmed the Cashmere property since 1854, were forced to move out and they took up residence on the nearby Hackthorne Road. Sometime during 1942, the Public Works Department began to dig secret caves under the Cashmere House which would house the Combined Headquarters Southern Command. The largest cavern would measure 30 metres long with the height and width between 7 and 10 metres respectively.
The planned caves were never finished or even used as WWII ended in 1945. As the Cracroft Wilson’s planned their return home to Cashmere, their beautiful historic home mysteriously burned down to the ground.
As for the Cashmere Caves, they were sealed up and passed into urban legend – that is until 1987 when they were ‘rediscovered’. With the suitable conditions found inside, the Canterbury University’s Physics Department soon found it a great place to monitor the earth’s rhythms; their ultra-sensitive ring-laser experiment being the largest of its type in the world.
Although not promoted, tours were conducted on request by the Christchurch City Council. Unfortunately due to earthquake damage, the caverns are now closed.
*photo taken by Annette Bulovic*