During World War II vulnerability of standard fuel storage tanks to aerial bombing stimulated the innovative approach of underground fuel storage in concrete and steel lined tunnels. Construction of the tunnels was part of an overall defence strategy for Australia and the Pacific region.
In 1943 contractors Johns and Waygood commenced building the storage tunnels, finishing number 11 in 1946 after war’s end. Difficulties and delays in construction, material deficiencies and the inability to effectively seal the tunnels from infiltration of water meant that the tunnels were never used for their intended purpose.
Despite this they are evocative of the desperate years when the Japanese were pressing their attack on mainland Australia and the Top End, in particular as the ‘sharp end’ of our defence effort. The tunnels are redolent of the immense difficulties of maintaining defensive operations so far from supporting industrial infrastructure in unfamiliar conditions. They are unique in Australia and are a symbol of the dogged determination and willingness to try against the odds that characterises the defenders of Australia.