Hidden Bendigo: Wartime escape revealed: Pictures, video

Post Office Tunnel, by Leigh Sharp

THE Post Office building on the corner of Hargreaves and Williamson streets is the unsuspecting location of a hidden relic from a bygone era. 

It houses a secret tunnel, built with the building in 1941, designed as an escape passage in the event of a bombing.

Peter Randall, 80, is one of the few who knew of its existence.

He has known about it since 1950 when he began working for the State Electricity Commission in that building.

The tunnel lies in the basement - originally an air raid shelter for staff and the public in case of a bombing during the war years. 

"The idea was if the building was bombed and they couldn’t get out, then they used this escape tunnel right in the bowels of the building," Mr Randall said.

He said the mystery was about where the tunnel led.

"To my knowledge it was never ever used and I don’t know of anyone who ever crawled up the tunnel. I never saw where the escape hatch was," he said.

He said the escape exit came up some distance away from the building, in the lawn, where the Bendigo Library currently stands.  

"Nobody ever identified where it was," he said.

He said there would be the occasional practise run, where the manager would order all the staff down to the basement - a familiar drill during the first half of the 1940s. 

He said builders mistook the escape exit for a drain during the construction of the original Bendigo Library in the 1980s and diverted drain water to it. 

"Water came down drain and flooded the tunnel and the air raid shelter and basement."

The water was three feet deep.

Mr Randall said the only other people who knew about the tunnel would be past State Electricity Commission workers or those involved in the building's construction.

If you know of a part of Bendigo that may be a hidden gem then email leigh.sharp@fairfaxmedia.com.au  


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