Monday, March 30, 2009

The Aussie (?) Mokau Mine

A friend sent a clipping to me, dated earlier this year, on the Taranaki Mokau Mine. Since World War II, the now brightly painted mine has had pride of place as a memorial in Mokau, a town with 400 people, so Wikipedia tells us.

93-year-old Stan Warren says the mine wasn't German in manufacture, but rather hailed orginally from Australia. The local Tainui Museum agrees, adding that they possess a letter from Australia, written by the son of one of the mine's explosive disposal team:
"... his dad had always known the mine to be one of thousands built at the Ford Motor Company car factory at Geelong in Australia during World War II.

"Close to 1400 of them were laid by New Zealand defence forces as "friendly" mines, and it is known that a large number of them broke loose and either washed ashore or were never seen again.

"There were also thousands more of the mines laid off Australia, and many of them also broke loose and floated off in the general direction of New Zealand."

(Taranaki Daily News, 27 January 2009)

But, there are doubters. Murray Dear from Hamilton wrote in response to the Waikato Times passing on the story:

"It is highly improbable that the mine displayed at Mokau is of Australian origin as has recently been claimed ...

"It is simply not credible that a defensive mine laid off Australia could break from its moorings then drift thousands of kilometres and end up at Mokau by December 2, 1942.

"It is much more probable that the Mokau mine is one of 230 Y type mines laid by the German raider Pinguin and the minelayer Passat off the southeast coast of Australia in late October/early November 1940."

The KMS Pinguin was sunk in 1941, but not before carrying out much of its intended mission.

"Kr├╝der and his navigator, Lieutenant Wilhelm Michaelsen, had meticulously worked out a plan to mine six Australian and Tasmanian channels with the fewest mines in the least time possible. Pinguin and the new auxiliary minelayer Passat, ex-Storstad, carried out the plan which the Seekriegsleitung (naval operational staff) deemed 'outstanding in its planning, preparation and execution'."
So, the question remains -- is the Mokau mine a genuine souvenir from Germany's attempts to cripple British imperial trade down under, or is it really just an Aussie local from across the Ditch?


  1. When I was young my grandfather show me internal parts of this mine and I remember pieces having german writing on them.

  2. It was 45+ years ago I was shown these porcelan(I think)parts and him explaning them to me.We farmed at Awakino(up the road) for over 20 years,my grand parents that is.His name was Dick Waite and he fought in WW1.