SAFE NAVAL OIL STORAGE - DARWIN, NT
UNDERGROUND OIL TUNNELS
BUILT DURING WWII

visits since 7 July 2011

 

The Japanese air raids of 19 February 1942, 16 March 1942 and 16 June 1942 destroyed 7 of the 11 above-ground oil storage tanks that were located on Stokes Hill Wharf.

Consequently, in November 1942 a decision was made by the Military for the Allied Works Council to construct eight Safe Naval Oil Storage tunnels in Darwin in the Northern Territory. Five tunnels were eventually built in secret by 400 men of the Civil Constructional Corps (CCC) with work starting in about May 1943. A number of issues were encountered, including flooding, cost increases and engineering problems which meant that only five of the eight proposed tunnels were constructed.

The horseshoe-shaped steel-lined concrete formed tunnels were initially excavated by hand using picks and shovels and hand-held pneumatic tools. The tunnels were then finished off using a Conway Shovel during 1944. At the end of 1943, William Payne, was asked to go to Darwin to operated the Conway Shovel while he was working for the SEC in tunnels at Bogong on the Hydro Electric Scheme. William Payne enrolled in the Civil Constructional Corps at Bogong on 27 July 1942 as Drill Runner. He initially worked with Albion Quarry Co. on the SEC Project at Bogong.

William Payne

Conway Shovel

Conway Shovel

Each of the storage tunnels have an internal width of 4.5 metres and a height of 5.4 metres. The smaller entrance tunnels are 1.96 metres wide by 2.01 metres high and contain a large oil pipe, tank vents, air handling vents and conduits. 

TUNNEL NO. STORAGE TUNNEL ENTRANCE TUNNEL Working Space
Tunnel No. 1 116 metres 51 metres 4 metres
Tunnel No. 5 171 metres 42 metres (2 off) 8 metres
Tunnel No. 6 78 metres 39.6 metres Pump Chamber 8 metres
Tunnel No. 10 184 metres 30 metres Pump Chamber 16 metres
Tunnel No. 11 124 metres 10 metres 5 metres

The tunnels were never used as intended during WWII. Tunnel No. 5 and 6 were used by S.G. Kennon for three years in the mid 1950s for the storage of jet fuel (kerosene). Tunnels No. 5 and 6 re-opened in 1992 as today's tourist attraction in Kitchener Drive to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the bombing of Darwin.

 

Sign at Entrance to
Tunnels 5 and 6

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn 2 July 2011

At the end of the entrance tunnel to Oil Storage Tunnels No 5 and
6 looking back towards the entrance on Kitchener Drive

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn 2 July 2011

The Pump Chamber located at the end of the above entrance tunnel

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn 2 July 2011

A sign inside the above Pump Chamber

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn 2 July 2011

Heading towards Oil Storage Tunnel No. 5 from the Pump Chamber

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn 2 July 2011

Opening in wall into Oil Storage Tunnel No. 6

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn 2 July 2011

Looking through the opening into Oil Storage Tunnel No. 6

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn 2 July 2011

Inside Oil Storage Tunnel No. 6 - It has running water in the floor of the tunnel

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn 2 July 2011

The entrance cut in the wall to Oil Storage Tunnel No. 5

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn 2 July 2011

Just inside Oil Storage Tunnel No. 5 looking back towards its entrance

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn 2 July 2011

Looking down towards the end of Oil Storage Tunnel No. 5

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn 2 July 2011

At the end of Oil Storage Tunnel No. 5. A new doorway cut
into the end wall and Emergency Exit stairs installed.

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn 2 July 2011

The other locked Entrance Tunnel to Storage Tunnels No. 5 and 6 which is
located in the car park of the Deckchair Cinema, Jervois Road, Darwin

 

The tunnels are now a well known Tourist Site on Kitchener Drive, Wharf Precinct in Darwin which is open as follows:-

From May to September, Monday to Sunday 9am to 4 pm.

From October to April, Monday - Sunday 9 am to 1 pm.

        Closed 12 - 27 December and New Years Day.

 

 
Video:- Peter Dunn

Video of WWII Oil Tunnels in Darwin 2 July 2011

 

Darwin WWII Oil Storage Tunnel Tours

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank Jan Horneman, daughter of William Payne, for her assistance with this web page.

 

 

 

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Copyright

 Peter Dunn 2006

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This page first produced 7 July 2011

This page last updated 20 August 2012