What: Defended Fuel Depot
Derelict but intact
Page Updated: September 2016
The RAF fuel depot at Portfield, Chichester was built by Esso in 1938-9 as part of an Air Ministry contract for the supply and distribution of fuel to the nearby Tangmere, Westhampnett and
Merston Airfields. Unlike later depots, the site didn't have a connection to the national Government Pipeline and Storage System, instead being supplied by rail. The fuel was stored in four
500-ton and two 350-ton Whessoe Foundry steel tanks covered with earth. It was then loaded into bowser lorries and taken by road to the airfields. Power to the site was provided by a six-cylinder National marine diesel engine.
Despite being camouflaged, by 1940, the depot appeared on Luftwaffe target maps and was even mentioned in a broadcast by the infamous ‘Lord Haw-Haw’, William Joyce, with the chilling words ‘‘We know about the petrol dump in Chichester’’. Air raids were carried out by German bombers on two separate occasions, but luckily for the people of Chichester the bombs fell wide of their mark.
I've not been able to find out when exactly the depot was decommissioned: RAF Merston and Westhampnett were closed shortly after the War, but RAF Tangmere remained in military use until 1970. Control of the depot was passed from the Air Ministry to the Ministry of Power in 1959 and the site was later let out to Wm. Cory & Son Ltd who operated a Shell franchise distributing diesel and heating oils until the mid-nineties.
The depot was sold in 2011 and recent plans for the site have included a new Park & Ride, a waste transfer facility and a supermarket. So far none have gotten any further than the drawing board.
"New park and ride site on the cards for Chichester",
Bognor Regis Observer, 18/03/2011.
"Chichester Fuel Distribution Depot",
Airfield Research Group, 19/01/2009.
"Chichester Wartime Air Force Distribution Depot",
South East History Forum, 31/12/2013.