HMS Achilles memorial, St Heliers

HMS <em>Achilles</em> memorial, St Heliers

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On 16 January 1940, to recognize the role the New Zealand ship HMS Achilles had played in the Battle of the River Plate, Auckland City Council resolved to name the tip of the headland on the western side of the Tamaki River as Achilles Point. The headland itself was known to the Tainui people as Te Pane o Horoiwi, but commonly referred to as West Tamaki Head.

On 13 December 1940, a memorial lookout was opened on the point. Its structure took the form of a ship’s bow. The memorial plaque was inscribed:

This reserve is dedicated to / commemorate the gallant performance of H.M.S. Achilles / and the bravery of her captain / officers and ship’s company / in the victorious naval battle / fought in the South Atlantic / off the River Plate / on December 13th. 1939.

Two memorial seats were later dedicated adjacent to the memorial: one donated by Private J.E. (Ted) Scherer in memory of a friend, Douglas O. Stanley, who lost his life in England on 26 October 1940; the other donated later by Mr A.H. Scherer in memory of Private Scherer himself , who was killed in action in Italy on 10 April 1945.

The memorial as a whole was restored and upgraded in time for the 70th anniversary of the Battle of the River Plate in 2009. Another plaque was added commemorating the four naval ratings who lost their lives during the battle: Ordinary Seaman Ian W. Grant; Ordinary Telegraphist Neville J. Milburn, Able Seaman Archie C.H. Shaw, and Telegraphist Frank Stennett.

The redevelopment also included the installation of a new ship’s mast and the erection of three totara pou whenua on the boardwalk platform to acknowledge the Māori heritage of the site.

Sources: ‘Men of Achilles: Citizens’ Memorial: Opening Ceremony Today’, Auckland Star, 13/12/1940, p. 8; Elizabeth T. Jackson, Delving into the Past ... St Heliers Bay, 4th ed., Auckland 2005, p. 111; ‘Achilles Pt Platform Starts to Take Shape’, East & Bays Courier, 13/11/2009, p. 4.

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