Loveridge Lookout, Anglesea

Response

Loveridge Lookout was one of many observation posts along the Victorian coastline during World War II established as an early warning system against enemy attack. Manned by members of the Volunteer Air Observers Corps throughout the war, the Lookout reflects the contribution of civilians in the defence of the country.

Built in 1938 by Bertha Loveridge as a memorial to her husband James, Loveridge Lookout captures some of the most scenic views of Bass Strait. However, by 1942 the site near Anglesea had been repurposed as a Volunteer Air Observers Corps lookout to protect Australia’s vast and vulnerable coastline from enemy attack.

A black and white photograph of a man using binoculars in front of a cement lookout. In the foreground is a barbed wire fence. A VAOC volunteer observer outside Loveridge Lookout, c1945. Source: Australian War Memorial. A worn, bold, colourful print featuring a man looking into the sky with a pair of binoculars. The accompanying text reads, Enroll in the Volunteer air observers corps. The eyes and ears of the air force. Recruitment poster for the Volunteer Air Observers Corps by artist Harold Freedman. Source: State Library of Victoria.

The Japanese attack on the US naval base at Pearl Harbor in December 1941 caused a distinct shift in the Australian public’s concept of war. Unlike World War I, there was now a tangible threat of attack on our own soil. Melbourne was considered a prime target for night-time Japanese aerial attacks due to its port and manufacturing facilities. As a result, from December 1941 to July 1943, brownouts were applied to dim lighting in Melbourne. Shopping and leisure were disrupted, traffic accidents increased, and there were fears that the brownout would encourage illicit behaviour in public. This also had a profound impact on the mood in Melbourne, as the war felt much closer than before.

In late December 1941 the Federal Government appointed the Royal Australian Airforce (RAAF) to develop an early warning system against attack. The Volunteer Air Observers Corps (VAOC) was formed to establish a series of continuous and regular observation posts along key sections of the Victorian coastline, particularly near population centres. At Loveridge Lookout, 56 VAOC members were assigned to the post, with members rostered day and night from 1942 to 1945.

Unfortunately, the program was not yet operational when Darwin was bombed on 19 February, 1942. This attack involved 54 land-based bombers and 188 aircraft launched from four aircraft carriers operating in the Timor Sea. It was the largest single attack mounted by a foreign power on Australia. These raids did not stop and the city was bombed a further 61 times, with the last raid occurring in November 1943.

As the war neared the end and the threat to the Australian home front declined, the VAOC's role was expanded to include coast watching, assisting air traffic control, weather reporting and fire spotting. However, due to the swift establishment and disbandment of the VAOC, the full extent of this civilian mobilisation is unclear. Record keeping was poor, but it is estimated that at its peak in 1944 between 24,000 to nearly 220,000 civilian men and women were involved at all levels including the 2,656 Observation Posts, 39 Zone Controls, and six Air Sectors in the capital cities.

A black and white photograph of 30 men and women sitting around a large map on top of a table. The map features a gridded overlay with alphabetised quadrants. Members of the Volunteer Air Observers Corps in their Melbourne Headquarters Control Room at a plotting table during a full scale exercise, 1944. Source: Australian War Memorial.

While Loveridge Lookout remains a reminder of the threat of war and the impact this had on the Australian public, it is also symbolic of the broad participation of the populace in the defence of the country.

Loveridge Lookout has recently been restored and is located within Anglesea Lookout Nature Reserve. Objects associated with the site, including a morse code machine, are held by Anglesea & District Historical Society. In August 2020, Loveridge Lookout and these related objects were added to the Victorian Heritage Register, as part of the program commemorating the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II.

Located on the lands of the Wadawurrung people.