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Loveday Internment Camp


During the years of 1941 to 1946 Internment camps were established throughout Australia to house ‘alien civilians’. They were German, Italian and Japanese civilians, whose countries were at war with the United Kingdom and the British Empire.
The majority of internees were taken into custody in Australia, while others were posted here from the UK, Northern Europe, the Middle East, and islands throughout the Pacific.

The Loveday Internment camp consisted of a headquarters, Camps 9, 10 & 14, and three wood camps at Woolenook, Katarapko and Moorook West. It was the largest group of camps in Australia, and housed nearly five and a half thousand prisoners, at the peak of the war in 1943.

Over fifteen hundred army personnel were stationed there at that time, and Lt Col Dean was the Group Commandant for the duration of the war. He was a man of great vision.

At the end of the war the internees were released back into the community or sent back overseas. Camp 14 was then used as a transit camp for POWS on route to be shipped home.

Loveday was selected as the site to build the camps because the land was arable & irrigation water was plentiful. A train service ran from Adelaide to the Riverland, a highway linked the area to the other major cities, and it was safely off the coast. Electricity and telephone services were also available.

The camps also housed a poultry farm and a piggery. The camps covered approximately four hundred and forty acres, much of which was under cultivation. The camps not only became self- sufficient, but Loveday was the only profitable internment camp in Australia.

The CSIRO worked closely with the authorities, and under their supervision opium poppies were grown at Loveday for the production of morphine for the war effort. Loveday was the largest supplier of raw opium in Australia during that time. They also grew pyrethrum daisies for insecticide, and they were experimenting with the growing of rubber trees at the end of the war.

Prior to the war, all vegetable seed was imported from the United States, so when the American merchant shipping was diverted to the US Navy, after the bombing of Pearl Harbour, Australia became a seed starved nation. In order to meet that supply, vegetables were grown at Loveday to provide seed for distribution.

Tomato juice was distributed to the allies throughout the Pacific, and led to start of the production of the canned juice industry in the Riverland.

Remnants of the former headquarters still exist in the form of foundations, and several buildings, (i.e. the recreation hall, a prison block, and a former pay office), are still standing. A vehicle maintenance pit is the only remaining remnant of the former army transport depot at the headquarters, and the original sullage pit ruins, stand near the cell block .