The Mallacoota Bunker

The Bunker was a major Advanced Operations Base used by the RAAF during WWII for Communications. It was a high security installation forming an important link in a chain of Defence bases located around the Australian coastline.

The East Gippsland region was sparsely populated and the long coastline was considered to be vulnerable to attack. Strategically located at Mallacoota, the base was important because of its proximity to Gabo Island where a RAAF Radar Station was established.

A series of “radio shacks” within the bunker listened to coastal shipping, decoded and collated the coastal surveillance intelligence which was sent via a separate Transmission Station to Melbourne.

The Role of the Bunker 

Built during the second World War, the Mallacoota Bunker was never intended to be, nor was it ever used as an air raid shelter or as a fortification.

It was the headquarters of RAAF coastal intelligence activity in the region. The main purpose of its operations was surveillance of the area to assist in keeping our sea lanes open.

It is of considerable significance in the military history of Victoria.

Protection of Coastal Shipping

In 1917 German raiders laid mines in Bass Strait (near Cape Howe) and recognising its strategic importance, returned to the area in 1940.

Between June 1942 and June 1943 the 13 Japanese submarines operating off the east coast of Australia claimed 22 Allied ships, of which twelve were Australian owned, with the loss of 194 lives. These submarines were capable of carrying a midget submarine or a floatplane.

These aircraft were launched at sea using a catapult and carried out surveillance flights over Australia. Wartime censorship meant that these events were not reported.

Two ships were sunk off Gabo Island. The freighter “Iron Crown” was the only vessel torpedoed by a submarine in Victorian waters (70 km SW of Gabo Island) with a loss of 38 lives. A memorial is located near the RSL Cenotaph in the Mallacoota town centre.

A RAAF Landing Ground was located adjacent to the Operations Bunker. This extended the range of aircraft engaged in coastal reconnaissance by providing staging facilities for refuelling, re-arming and maintenance.

The aerodrome was used initially by Avro Anson aircraft, and later by Beaufort aircraft after a third runway was built.

A Seaplane Depot was also located on the lake at Mallacoota. No 9 SQD Detachment Operations was based at Mirrabooka House.

A camp situated close to the bunker provided barracks for Army and RAAF personnel –


  • 1OBU (No 1 Operational Base Unit)
  • No.16 Radar Station, Gabo Island (1942-45)


  • Military Guard Battalions 1st Garrison 38th Battalion


  • Signals Station on Gabo Island (1938 - 1942)

Geoff Gates on duty 1945

Bunker renovation