At Bankside just north of Rakaia in Canterbury is an old secret fuel dump built in 1942, also i am told was a airstrip capable of taking big aircraft like B-17. Fellows I work with talk of parting in the tanks in the 60s, then they became dump sites for the locals with car bodies and toxic chemicals tossed into them.Does anyone remember them, worked on the construction, or have photos of the site.I stopped in on the way past this morning to take the snaps shown and was greeted by a recorded message, (just like in the movies) with "This is a secure site, you have set off an alarm, please leave the area immediatley."
I supplied some aerial and ground photographs of the Bankside Fuel Storage Depot (which originally had its own rail siding) to a man at a government department (was it DOC? - think his name was Sam Hill) who was interested in documenting old defence establishments around the country. From memory the official designation of the Bankside site was AR.14 (for Aviation Reserve - these were intended to be under RNZAF control, for aviation fuel only). I think it was the biggest such tank in New Zealand (750,000 Imperial gallons) and had steel sides with an impervious clay bottom; however the tank sides and top were removed and scrapped in early 1950s from memory; it was tested by partial filling in 1943, but I think it leaked - it was never used for the purpose it was built , so economically it was a dead loss in the greater scheme of things. However one thing it was not, it had no connection whatsoever with or to the Te Pirita dispersal airfield which was several mile inland, near Hororata, which had its own system of underground tanks (again from memory, four separate 10,000 gallon tanks, intended only for topping off tanks of B-17s so they could return to their permanent airfield in NZ - never intended for mounting operations.) Incidentally the Bankside tank was located in a deep pit (about 25 - 30 feet deep) dug into the stony ground on a river terrrace, with a most impressive double brick retaining wall to stop wall collapse. There is an excellent RNZAF/PWD file at Archives NZ on the history of AR.14; the site was selected by that well known rebel aviator S/L A J Bradshaw on the basis of cost of land, difficulty of digging, access to bulk transport, etc. I had a photocopy of this file many years ago, but unfortunately loaned it to someone I knew well (has since died), who subsequently loaned it to somebody else (without asking me!), and I have never heard of it since! Does anybody know of its whereabouts? Would love to get it back. David D
Post by Dave Homewood on Sept 23, 2012 11:04:44 GMT 12
You're right about the Aviation Reserve fuel depots having no connection to airfields, the very reason for their purpose was to store aviation fuel well away from the airfields in case the airfields were bombed and their on site tanks destroyed. The AR tanks were a reserve in case of loss of the airfields' main tanks. Hence the reason we had AR9 in the centre of Cambridge, with the closest RNZAF stations with runwayd being Rukuhia and Waharoa.
Actually on reflection I think that the (missing) photcopied file referred to above and compiled by S/L A J BRadshaw was about the Te Pirita airfield project; I recall that he described the advantages and disadvantages of all the areas occupying the areas between the braided river systems (running west to east) on the Canterbury plains (from most northern to most southerly), and how they came to choose the site they did, which was very low cost, sufficiently clear of rising ground, not prone to fogs, very strong bearing ground (could support a taxiing B-17 or similar heavy aircraft without too much modification beyond removal of fences, scrub, and some levelling), very deep water table, nearby planations which could act as cover, good distance from sea (in case of shelling or invasion). David D
Thanks for that info Dave @ David, i did a google search as well and had a read up, it's amazing just what is out there in local history. I see the north end of the Rangitata bridge has machine gun bunkers built to the banks.
Post by baronbeeza on Sept 30, 2012 10:13:29 GMT 12
One of those machine gun bunkers is very easily seen as you come off the bridge. It is set into the bank about 20 metres from the road. I think Google map and then Streetview would show it. Perhaps not the most eagerly anticipated posting to have during the war years.
Edit.. Easily see. About 200 metres off the end of the bridge is a 'No-Stopping' sign. Just uphill a little from that you can see the bank and the bunker is set into the side of it facing downhill.
Post by Dave Homewood on Oct 1, 2012 17:43:41 GMT 12
That is interesting to hear that Bankside had machine-gun bunkers. The AR9 tank facility in Cambridge only had two permanent staff as far as I have been able to establish, who were actually RNZAF Station hamilton staff and were rostered into and out of Cambridge on short stints so the two men were ever changing. They lived in a small hut at Lake Te Koutu (the tank was above the lake's bank in the railway yards). I believe it was all fenced off to keep locals out and generally locals actually had no idea what was even there, despite it being in the centre of a busy town. Hence the reason so many runours over the years have developed around what was there when people have seen the tunnel left in the bank side. One night one of the airman sloped off into town to the pictures when meant to be on duty, and the other fell asleep in the hut and his cigarette set the bed on fire, then the hut, and he was killed. it was reading about that incident in Errol Martyn's 'For Your Tomorrow' book which was the catalyst for me to learn more about RNZAF connections with Cambridge, and that developed into my website, which sporned this very forum. So in a way his sad and unnecessary death was not in vain I guess.
Post by geraldpetrie on Dec 7, 2017 5:26:51 GMT 12
This photo is dated 20 October 1942. The rail siding begins to the left of the railway station and crosses the main highway into the plantation, thereafter it disappears, completely concealed from the sky. As the siding opened twelve days before this photo was taken, I speculate the photo was commissioned by the military just to see what was visible.