HIDDEN in the hills of Nemingha, a piece of World War II history is buried deep underground.
It was 1942, Australia was under threat of invasion by the Japanese, spies were caught tapping into telephone lines in Tamworth and the Royal Australian Air Force was desperate to protect aviation fuel resources from air attacks.
Almost 80 years later, the bunkers are still there.
“In those days railways had their own morse code, the Japanese were caught up those poles tapping into the morse code,” Quirindi RSL president Doug Hawkins said.
“The intention was to invade Australia and information would have been paramount, they would have people out here gathering information.”
The 20th Inland Aircraft Fuel Depot was built in Tamworth at a cost of 32,000 pounds, flush to the old rail line and the owner of the land at the time was Chaffey Bros Nemingha.
Nine people worked the fuel depot, one non-commissioned officer, a storekeeper, a cook and six guards.
The old guard house still exists, weeds have crept up the old wooden door and the glass in the window panes is long-shattered.
The Tamworth fuel depot had four underground tanks built, three held 243,500 gallons and one was for mixing with tetraethyllead, an octane booster that increased engine performance.
A secret RAAF memo details the vital importance of protecting the valuable product ‘to give maximum protection in the event of an air raid’.
The beauty of hiding fuel reserves in Tamworth is that it would have been off the radar Mr Hawkins said.
“It was close to a marshalling yard for a railway and a major airport, Tamworth wouldn’t have been as well known – if people did reconnaissance to find those places they would have been pointed to Richmond, Raymond Terrace or Amberley in Queensland where the main airforce bases were,” he said.
“They wanted to be away from main bases because there were a lot of spies pinpointing where everything was so it would have been important to have reserves so they couldn’t be bombed.”
The depot was built in late 1942 by local bricklayer George Curtis and plasterer Normal Semple – at the time he travelled to work on his bicycle with his buckets, trowels and tools hanging from the handlebars and a hose slung over his shoulder.
The land was later sold to the Australian Motorists Petrol Co in 1946 with the final fuel storage in 1999.
And, in an ironic twist of fate, the old fuel reserves, now decommissioned, sit behind a Tamworth petrol station.
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