Te Whare Taonga o Kororareka

Hiding in the Hills – #188

Hiding in the Hills – #188

One December night in 1917, most of Russell’s populace left their homes and beds for the safety of the hills. They were hiding from the “Sea Devil”, Count Felix von Luckner, captain of the German raider SMS Seeadler (Sea Eagle). Late in the war, he was captured and imprisoned on Motuihe Island but on 13 December he escaped. Les Hirst remembered: Judge Martin decided there was only one thing that von Luckner would do and that was that he must come into Russell to fill up with benzene and fill up with stores and make his escape… But evidently von Luckner had another idea. He got in this scow and he wanted to put as much distance between Auckland and him as he could and so he hurtled off towards Cape Te Reinga way. We didn’t know that at Russell. ..this sort of home guard…paraded the streets and the launches were patrolling the harbour and then there was this strange launch seen around Kerikeri way… a home guard knocked at the door and said, “Von Luckner‟s coming, this is what you have to do.” They had it all worked out. We went up there to a little plateau behind Martin’s old house. About two in the morning I think it was. And they told us to get up the hill. From memory my mother and brothers and young Alice would have been a baby…We saw the sun rise. And no von Luckner and the Salvation Army boys…they went somewhere else. They hid in the bush I think. I think they were missing for the whole day.”  The photo shows Russell c.1916.