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Published July 13th 2014
You have to dig around
An Underground Tunnel in Adelaide's Coastal Fort Glanville
Some people in Adelaide have an almost fanatical interest in underground tunnels, secret bunkers and hidden air raid shelters. It's not just urban explorers who dream about a secret labyrinth beneath the city streets, as it regularly crops up in forums like Reddit too. It's also one of the main reasons that people join groups such as the Adelaide Cave Clan.
As far back as 1925 people were curious about underground Adelaide tunnels, when an intrepid reporter explored this city beneath a city.
Most of the stories about tunnels under Adelaide are just elaborate urban myths - there is no secret link between Parliament House and Government House, or to the Adelaide railway station. Reports of a tunnel from Modbury High School to Tea Tree Plaza should also be consumed with a grain or two of salt, and similarly claims of a tunnel from General Motors Holden to the RAAF base at Edinburgh.
An unassuming Eastern suburbs property boasted a secret bunker - an underground air raid shelter built during World War 2. It was fitted out like a caravan, with four bunk beds and a movable table. The walls were made of eight inch thick concrete and the room was buried under twelve inches of earth. It had electric lighting, and three ventilators, and a special gas proof door was planned.
Other underground air raid shelters were built around Adelaide during the war, and some still exist in Unley, Glenelg and Torrensville. While not secret bunkers, they served as communications centres and shelters for air raid wardens.
Army Girls Dig Tunnels in the Adelaide Parklands 1942 (Courtesy State Library of SA B21657)
Some air raid shelters were simple trenches and tunnels in Adelaide parks. Women did their bit and dug them while their men were off fighting in the war.
A Pipe Air Raid Shelter in the Botanic Gardens (Courtesy Australian War Memorial)
In March 1942 basic pipe air raid shelters were installed in the Botanic Gardens with sandbags to protect from flying debris. You wouldn't want to spend much time in them as they were quite cramped. Similar shelters on North Terrace became notorious havens for courting couples in various states of undress. At one time the whole of the police plainclothes licencing squad was instructed to keep the air raid shelters under surveillance.
Enormous Air Raid Shelters Were Located Near Daw House at the Repatriation General Hospital
But some air raid shelters were of a completely different scale - archaeologists and urban explorers have long dreamed of finding two 300 person air raid shelters reputedly incorporating an underground hospital at Daw Park.
Patient Air Raid Shelter Plans for Repatriation General Hospital
In wartime some scandalous behaviour was reported between virile young servicemen and young army nurses in these shelters. These secret bunkers were located near the Repatriation General Hospital, and were probably lost between 1958 and 1970.
While it seems quite difficult to "lose" such a large structure, other enormous air raid shelters in Adelaide's western suburb of Hendon have also been lost. Built in 1942 for the employees of Carr Fastener Company, the current occupants of the building can no longer find these underground bunkers that once housed 400 people.
Many private houses also built underground air raid shelters during World War 2, including this house in Joslin advertised for sale as a "fine upstanding residence". Port Adelaide firemen built underground bunkers accommodating 40 people for their families, while The Advertiser offered advice for home makers on building air raid shelters.
Urban Exploration - Adelaide's Long Forgotten Basement
It isn't widely known that there are underground tunnels in Adelaide's two coastal forts, known as caponiers. The caponier at Fort Glanville is concrete, while the tunnel at Fort Largs was originally made using jarrah but largely filled in around 1936.
And finally, urbexers searching for underground tunnels in Adelaide recently stumbled across an enormous underground space beneath a city block. Originally the basement of a department store built in 1928, the area still contains an old lift and stairs that are nearly 100 years old. It probably doesn't win the title of Adelaide's scariest place, but it remains quite eerie.
Thanks Dave, Your articles are always the best!
I volunteered at Ayers House for three years, and the number of people who "knew" there was a "tunnel " between the old RAH and Ayers House while the nurses were there was astounding!
I used to say that if there were really that many tunnels in Adelaide, we would have 'imploded' years ago.
There are tunnels beneath the Torrens Building in Victoria Square, ......I did a " theatre experience' one Festival, I think 2008, called Dont Look Back.
I do love tours. I am a tour guide at the West Tce Cemetery. Cheers Dave
I heard a rumour that many years ago they were trying to dig massive tunnels in the CBD with old trucks and equipment etc, but they decided to abolish those plans and they had no way to get all the machinery out of the tunnels so they just covered them in tarps and burined them underground. to this day they are still supposed to be buried. i dont know exactly where it is in the cbd, but do you know or have you heard of this story?
My Mum was in the Voluntary Red Cross during WW11. They regularly had "practice runs" Some women were families with children. So that the Mums could arrange standby people to mind their children they were told approximately when it would be. Apparently my Mum her uniform where she could grab immediately when the siren sounded, She and many others in her area were picked up in a truck that normally delivered tea to grocers, snack bars, delis etc. Needless to say it smelt of tea. She would have gone to one in Edwardstown or nearby. Through Red Cross she also volunteered at what was then the Adelaide Childrens Hospital and a Rehabilitation Hospital down Glenelg area somewhere. She managed her Mum's shop so she had to get somebody to mind the shop because my Grandma was almost blind.
Sorry Claire Halliday but that is incorrect. I realise that your adoptive father owned a factory at 6 Ferry Ave Melrose Park called RJ Halliday engineering. I have spent the past 18 months working out exactly where the Edwardstown tunnels are located. There is an old one in the cellar under the Avoca Hotel which was run by my father's bestie Bruce Hart in the 80's and 90's. That tunnel was photographed in SA Weekend magazine on the 29th of Feb this year. There are large storm water tunnels all over Adelaide - there is actually a government and very public website advertising them. The large, walkable storm water tunnels beneath Edwardstown run along one side of Cross Road, South Road and down Towers Terrace, as well as by the railway line towards East Terrace and Goodwood. The walkable tunnel also runs parallel to Chitral Terrace beneath Gurney Street, dissecting Castle Street. I also have photographs of maps of all the smaller 1m diameter storm water tunnels which was provided by the Marion council. Through comparison of both the small storm water tunnels with the government website of the walkable tunnels that I was able to discern which tunnels were large enough to walk through. I even went out to prove the theory that these particular lines on the maps available on this website indicated the larger tunnels by walking some of the tunnels myself. At present there is a pdf I have authored circling around my friends and associates giving a link to the government website detailing the location of these tunnels. That pdf also details the extensive evidence I have gathered substantiating my allegation that there are a series of bunkers beneath Edwardstown. These were converted from old Wunderlich's tile and brick kilns built by that factory on the corner of South Road and Cross Road between 1910 and 1930. The one under my father's former home at Macklin Street was built in the 1926 Wunderlich's expansion. During the 1938 govt mandate that every home, factory and meeting place have a tunnel/trench/bunker within 20 feet of the back door, these old Wunderlich's kilns were converted to bunkers to protect the extensive 160 strong workforce at Wunderlich's at that time. The tunnels which serviced those kilns turned bunkers were necessary to allow the workforce to access those shelters from the back door of the factory. Information pertaining to that government mandate can be found in Martin Wimmer's phd 'Gimme Shelter.." The reason the kilns/bunkers are located beneath the ground is due to the Edwardstown area once having an extensive clay deposit. As the clay was dug out, the kilns were built at the dug out level. At that time the area was named Vermont, after a similar clay deposit in NSW which Wunderlich's were also exploiting. Once all of the clay was excavated and fired into bricks and roofing tiles, fill was brought in to bring the suburb up to the same level as neighbouring suburbs. The suburb was then renamed Hammersmith, and later Edwardstown. I have also published in the aforementioned pdf two 1955 property titles proving the existence of tunnels beneath numbers 6 and 1 Macklin Street, along Lindfield Ave, and at the back of number 11 Railway Terrace. I think your friend LK Mayne may have a kiln turned bunker beneath his home on Cross Road as well. Did he not tell you about it? I'm surprised that you grew up in the area and did not hear about the tunnels. I now know a large number of people who have been in the Edwardstown tunnels. Didn't Danny tell you about them? He went in them many times. I have to say that it was partly in an effort to prove you wrong about my mental health in forums such as this that I did all of this research. It has been immensely cathartic for me to do so. It has also put me in touch with a large number of people who are able to corroborate my allegations of the Edwardstown tunnels existence.
Hello Phillipa. Perhaps you could tell me where exactly you lived in Edwardstown and I can fill you in on the location of the tunnels nearby? If you take a look at the Edwardstown railway station on the southern side directly opposite Maxwell Ave you will see a void beneath the station platform which used to be an access point. It is now covered at the back with galvanised iron. I have a series of photographs of this void.The galvanised iron is curled at the left as if it might be peeled back, however there is a mound of soil in the way holding the iron in place. It would probably be quite easy to excavate the soil to access. It seems most incongruent that the soil is even present as there is no loose soil anywhere else on the track or nearby - it's all stone chips and pine needles. During an upgrade of the platform last year there were blue witches hats sitting in the void obscuring the view inside. I found this fascinating - I had never seen blue witches hats before. After 18 months of cartography research I have learned that the colour blue in government references tends to allude to water. If there are any tradies reading this, perhaps they could explain the blue witches hats? Interestingly, according to Wikipaedia, 'the Edwardstown branch of the freemasons is responsible for the station's landscaping'. There are no plants or playgrounds or any seating apart from the shelter on the platform which might be described as 'landscaping'. I am wondering if the freemasons are actually in control of the old communications tunnels and bunkers in the area beneath the Edwardstown railway station. There is one communications bunker on Macklin Street where I grew up; one located at 862 South Road (confirmed by Marion council); and I have been told of another at the back of number 19 Castle Street, just a short distance from the void in the Edwardstown railway station platform. I have a 1955 title substantiating tunnels at the back of 11 railway Terrace which borders the 19 Castle Street property suggesting the bunker I was informed about does exist. Whilst the Castle Street bunker remains anecdotal, it is also in line with the one at Macklin Street and 862 South Road.