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Loder, Sir Louis Francis (1896–1972)

by T. F. C. Lawrence

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

Louis Francis Loder (1896-1972), by Graham Thorley, 1961

Louis Francis Loder (1896-1972), by Graham Thorley, 1961

National Library of Australia

Sir Louis Francis Loder (1896-1972), civil engineer and public servant, was born on 30 December 1896 at Sale, Victoria, eldest son of James Edward Loder, a watchmaker from England, and his native-born wife Marie Dorothea, née Jensen. From his primary school at Sale, Louis won a scholarship to Wesley College, Melbourne, and thence another to Queen's College, University of Melbourne (B.C.E., 1923; M.C.E., 1926). On 26 April 1916 he suspended his studies and enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force. He sailed for England in August and began training as a pilot in December.

In April 1917 Loder completed his course and was commissioned in the Australian Flying Corps. Two months later he was grounded for medical reasons, but remained with the A.F.C. as an assistant machine-gun instructor and armament officer. Promoted lieutenant in July, he was sent to the Western Front in October. He served with No.2 Squadron and was mentioned in dispatches. His A.I.F. appointment terminated in Melbourne on 15 May 1919, but he remained on the Reserve of Officers until 1945. Loder graduated from university with first-class honours and was awarded the Stawell research scholarship for 1923. That year he worked as a designing engineer with (Peter) Johns & Waygood Ltd before joining the Victorian Country Roads Board in November. On 5 April 1924 at Trinity Church, Camberwell, he married with Presbyterian forms Jean Arnot, daughter of G. A. Maxwell.

At the C.R.B., Loder helped to design and supervise the building of bridges, including a timber structure, 295 ft (90 m) long, at Echuca, and another of steel and timber, some 300 ft (91 m) in length, at Stratford. Promoted highway engineer (1925), he oversaw the development of hundreds of miles of cheap, bituminized roads suitable for heavy traffic. He was promoted again in 1928, to chief engineer, and held this post until he was appointed chairman of the board in 1940. When the Allied Works Council was formed in 1942 he became its co-ordinator of State instrumentalities in Victoria. Complying with the council's request, in 1942-45 the C.R.B. surfaced with bitumen 787 miles (1267 km) of the Stuart Highway in the Northern Territory. In 1944 Loder succeeded E. G. Theodore as director-general of allied works.

In February 1945 Loder was appointed director-general of the Commonwealth Department of Works (Department of Works and Housing from July 1945 to June 1952) with responsibility for the design, costing, supervision and execution of all architectural and engineering works for the Federal government. He saw the completion (1945) of the Captain Cook Graving Dock in Sydney Harbour, the building (from 1947) of the rocket range at Woomera, South Australia, and the start (1961) of construction of the 'beef' roads programme in northern Australia. Loder chaired the joint Commonwealth-States technical committee which reported in 1948 and 1949 on the proposed Snowy Mountains project, and the committee which investigated the Western Australian comprehensive water-supply scheme. In 1950-61 he was deputy-commissioner representing the Commonwealth on the River Murray Commission.

Having begun as part-time lecturer in 1937, Loder remained a member of the engineering faculty of the University of Melbourne until 1961. He was an associate-member (1920) of the Institution of Engineers, Australia, serving (from 1934) on the committee of its Melbourne division (chairman 1941); he became a full member of the institution in 1935, was elected to the council in 1941 (president 1947) and in 1966 was made an honorary member (honorary fellow from 1968). Loder delivered several papers to meetings of the institution, including a dissertation in 1931 on low-cost road construction in Victoria and another in 1949 on the planned Snowy Mountains project. The institution awarded him its (Sir) Peter Nicol Russell memorial medal for 1954; the University of Melbourne named him the (W. C.) Kernot medallist in 1955; and the University of Western Australia conferred on him an honorary doctorate of engineering in 1949.

Loder retired in 1961. He had been appointed C.B.E. (1953) and was knighted in 1962. From 1963 he chaired a sub-committee of the Melbourne transportation committee; he later reported to the Commonwealth government on transportation requirements in northern Australia. A teetotaller, Sir Louis was a tall, sparsely built man with a resonant voice and a finely tuned sense of propriety. As a youth he had been a keen footballer and an accomplished sprinter; in his advanced years he enjoyed tennis. He died on 11 February 1972 at Healesville, Victoria, and was cremated; his wife and three sons survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • W. K. Anderson, Roads for the People (Melb, 1994)
  • Journal of the Institute of Engineers, Australia, Dec 1954, Dec 1966
  • Chartered Engineer, Nov 1966
  • private information.

Citation details

T. F. C. Lawrence, 'Loder, Sir Louis Francis (1896–1972)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/loder-sir-louis-francis-10849/text19253, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 16 October 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

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