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Posts: 139
Reply with quote  #16 

Posts: 139
Reply with quote  #17 
Secret WWII fuel storages uncovered
By Julia Holman from Canberra 2600
Friday, 08/04/2011

The tiny village of Lake Bathurst, an hour north-east of Canberra, seems a very long way from the battlegrounds of World War Two.

But while war was raging in the Pacific, huge concrete structures were being built under the hills of Lake Bathurst, ready to store thousands of litres of fuel in the case that Australia's supplies were cut off by the Japanese. 

The fuel stores were just one of 32 facilities which were set up all around Australia. 

Today in Lake Bathurst, what remains of this piece of Australia's war history is owned by Colin Dennett.

"Back in 1942 the land was purchased by the Defence Department, and specifically the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), to construct a number of these emergency fuel depots for the RAAF around Australia," he says.

"It was to disperse the fuel storage in the event that the Japanese got a foothold to the point where oil imports were excluded or prohibited, and they needed something like 20 million gallons capacity of storage to keep the Air Force flying for six months.” 

American influence

The parcel of land that was purchased is about four hectares, and the American Armed Forces paid for the Lake Bathurst site, as well as the other stores dotted around the country. 

"The Americans in particular could see the dangers that Australia was facing here, because the supply lines in the South Pacific for the defence of the Japanese and the attacks on the Japanese who were invading and moving further south, were highly dependent on supplies from Australia.

"And the Japanese at that time had some 30 mega submarines off the coast between Brisbane and Gabo Island near Eden and were starting to threaten coastal shipping.
"The Americans encouraged the Department of Defence to construct some 32 bills and they met the bill. It was one million pounds back then.”

The US forces even paid for two American guards to be stationed at the facility. The whole operation was done in complete secrecy, and the fuel storages were designed to fit into the natural landscape. 

The fuel stores today

Today you could easily drive past and miss the storages. The only evidence that they exist is a few metal pipes sticking out of the hillside.

But if you take a tour onto the property you can walk into the underground cavernous concrete tunnels. Colin says that there is debate about whether these tunnels actually every held fuel.

"I talk about things as if they all happened to plan, but a common question is was fuel ever stored in here?" he says.

"A bit like the oil tunnels in Darwin, where they were constructed after all the above ground naval storage was knocked out after the first Japanese attack.

"The tanks took a long time to build in that case. Here the whole job was completed in 18 months, but by the time the job was complete, the Japanese threat had eased. 

"So were they filled? There's some doubt they were filled. In many ways it's good for us today because the contamination is virtually nothing because there wasn't the fuel here."



Posts: 139
Reply with quote  #18 
World War II Fuel Storage Tanks
Railway Terrace , Wolseley SA 5269 
There were 31 of these fuel storage depots at various inland sites that were considered secure from attack by sea-borne aircraft. Two others were in South Australia; Port Pirie and Crystal Brook. Initially two standard 120,000 gallon storage tanks and one 40,000 gallon ethyl mixing tank and a barracks, etc. were erected.

Mrs. Colwill, whose land was acquired at the time said that only one tank was ever filled, another partly so. They were erected in haste and camouflaged to look like farm buildings with pressed broom bush and straw.

The depot commenced operation in mid-1942 with a personnel establishment of a sergeant, a cook and 3 guards (who, again according to locals.... apparently were quite studious and checked out any unusual lights they may have seen on a Saturday night!)

Later, 3 additional tanks were erected but these were only dull-painted and not camouflaged. Today, they look red/orange brick, abandoned and falling apart.

May 1944, The Air Board decided to close down the inland fuel depots.

June 14th, 1944 The Wolseley depot was disbanded.

Local Story - Apparently a local identity wanting extra fuel (due to shortage - wartime rationing) "helped himself" to some stored fuel for his car, only to discover that the fuel (aviation fuel, to be precise) would not drive the engine!!

There is no access to the tanks; it is on private property, and the tanks are abandoned and likely quite unsafe.

The vantage point both for viewing and to get an emotional feel of what was happening to this small town in 1942 is from the Railway Line on the other side of the road.

Image courtesy of Paul Stokes


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