Musick Memorial Radio Station

Musick Memorial Musick Memorial Musick Memorial Musick Memorial Musick Memorial Musick Memorial Musick Memorial

Musick Memorial Radio Station, Bucklands Beach

On 30 March 1937, Captain Edwin G. Musick landed the Pan American flying boat Samoan Clipper in the Waitematā Harbour on the first survey flight between the United States and New Zealand. Less than a year later, on 11 January 1938, Captain Musick and his crew were killed when the Samoan Clipper crashed into the sea and exploded near Pago Pago, American Samoa.

On 12 January 1942 Prime Minister Peter Fraser officially opened Auckland’s new radio receiving station at the tip of Bucklands Beach Peninsula. He named it Musick Memorial Radio Station in honour of Captain Musick and his crew.

The Māori name for the headland was Te Naupata (the pā near the tip was called Te Waiarohia o Ngaitai). In colonial times it had become known as East Head or East Tamaki Head, but since 1942 it has been called Musick Point.

Captain Musick memorial plaques

The dedicatory plaque unveiled by the prime minister in the radio station foyer reads: ‘This tablet / erected by the Government of New Zealand / commemorates the Samoan Clipper lost with / her crew January 11th 1938. / Capt. Edwin Musick, Capt. C. Sellers, P.S. Brunk / F.J. MacLean, T.D. Finley, J.W. Stickrod, J.A. Brooks.’ A quote from the poet Robert Bridges follows: ‘Now ye are starry names / Behind the sun ye climb / To light the glooms of time / With deathless flames.’

A medal presented to the station by Mrs Cleo Musick in 1954 also hangs in the foyer. One side has a relief portrait of Captain Musick in profile superimposed on a map of the Pacific, with these words along the rim: ‘Captain Edwin G. Musick / 1912 Flying Jubilee 1937’. The reverse side reads: ‘Captain / Edwin C. Musick / Born August 13 1894 / St Louis Missouri / Trail blazer / South America China / New Zealand / Harmon Trophy / 1935 / Lost at Pago Pago / January / 11th 1938’. The medal was one of a series celebrating aviation pioneers created by the American designer Felicity Buranelli in 1941. It is mounted on a wooden display board with a plaque reading: ‘Presented by / the Medal of the Month club / to / Mrs Edwin C. Musick / January 11th 1941.’

In 1965 the Department of Civil Aviation moved most of its operations to the new Auckland International Airport at Māngere. Auckland Radio ZLD continued operating from the Musick Point site until 1993. A lengthy controversy over the ownership of the site was resolved by an agreement between Telecom and the Crown which saw ownership of the land passing to the Crown while Telecom retained a lease on the building.

On 12 January 2003 the American Ambassador to New Zealand, Charles J. Swindells, rededicated the building as a memorial to Captain Musick and the crew of the Samoan Clipper. The grounds – but not the building – are open to the public.

Coastwatchers roll of honour

Musick Memorial Radio Station also houses a framed and decorated copy of a roll of honour honouring nine civilian radio operators (‘coastwatchers’) who died in the Gilbert and Ellice Islands during the Second World War.

It reads: ‘In proud memory of eight radio operators / of the New Zealand Post Office, and one / operator of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands / Colony – brutally murdered at Betio / Tarawa ─ and at Ocean Island ─ during / 1942 ─ after their capture by the Japanese. / Henry Rexton Cropper Hearn / Arthur Clarence Heenan / John Joseph McCarthy / Arthur Ernest McKenna / Reginald George Morgan / Thomas Colin Murray / Clifford Arnold Pearsell / Allan Leicester Taylor / Ronald Third / In the service of their country / they faced death with courage undaunted.’

The first eight were among the 22 British subjects, civilians and soldiers, beheaded by Japanese troops at Betio, Tarawa, on 15 October 1942. Ronald Third, who was captured at Ocean Island in August 1942, died in captivity.

In 1944 New Zealand Post Office radio staff were invited to contributed to the Tarawa Memorial Fund set up to provide a suitable memorial for their colleagues. A bronze memorial plaque was prepared and placed under a memorial cross erected by American troops at Betio. Wellington artist Len Black was commissioned to design a roll of honour. In 1948 framed and hand-coloured copies of this document were distributed to the main New Zealand coast radio and radio stations and some Pacific Island stations. Miniature copies were also distributed to the next of kin of the deceased.

A plaque on the copy at Musick Point notes that it was presented to the station by the Suburban Amateur Radio Club Inc.

IPENZ plaque

In January 2000 a plaque presented by the Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand Inc. (IPENZ) was unveiled at Musick Point.

It reads: ‘Musick Point Radio Station / IPENZ recognises that this site has an important / place in New Zealand’s engineering heritage. / It spans more than 50 years of New Zealand’s early radio / communications history from 1941, and was associated with the aviation / pioneer Edwin C Musick and the opening up of Pacific air routes. / It had special importance during World War II for / Allied forces in the Pacific Campaign, and provided / radio communication with the coastwatchers unit. / For 40 years most of Auckland’s aviation and maritime / radio communications were routed through this site.’

Further information

  • 'Famous Flier: Captain Musick: Memorial Opened: Anglo-American Unity', New Zealand Herald, 13 January 1942, p. 6
  • Kate Edwards, 'Is it a Building, is it a Plane?', Heritage New Zealand, no. 89, Winter 2003, pp. 37-9
  • Geoff Fairfield, Te Waiarohia o Ngaitai: The story of the Bucklands Beach Peninsula, Tamaki Estuary Protection Society, Pakuranga, 1995, pp. 61-4
  • John La Roche (ed.), Evolving Auckland: the city's engineering heritage, Wily Publications, Christchurch, 2011, pp. 181-7
  • Doug Morris, The story of Auckland Radio, Copy Out West, Henderson, 2002, pp. 42-7
  • Te Waiarohia o Ngai Tai Pa, Te Naupata Musick Point, Manukau City: Conservation Plan, Auckland, September 2008, 2 vols (esp. vol. 1, pp. 38-54)
  • D.L. Vaughan, Report on coastwatching radio stations in the Gilbert and Ellice Islands, 1941-45, rev. edn, author, Raumati South, 1997, part 28, pp. 1-6

Community contributions

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A.C. Swart

Posted: 12 Mar 2018

We visited this beautiful spot on Sunday, 11 March 2018. Such an interesting place, rich in history and so unique. Many people were enjoying the walks and views. Even some fishermen! It was rather neglected and this was disappointing. Also no ablution facilities. We have been on a six weeks’ vacation and of all the places we visited, this was not as well kept as other places of interest and beauty.