‘Horrie the War Dog’ is a well-known Australian novel documenting the true story of Private Moody and his dog during World War II. Horrie was very intelligent and a valuable guard dog who warned the troops of approaching enemy craft. He saved the lives of men many times throughout the war.1 But did you know that Old Bar had its own war dog? His name was ‘Joker’ the cattle dog.
During World War 2, tens of thousands of Australian citizens volunteered to be part of the ‘Volunteer Air Observers’ Corps’ (V.A.O.C.). Formed at the end of 1941, the volunteers were trained to observe, recognise and report the presence of airplanes. The information was then given to the Royal Australian Air Force’s regional air control posts – one of which was in Taree. While enemy planes were rarely sighted the V.A.O.C. tracked and saved many allied planes.2
During the war, Mr Parish was the caretaker of Old Bar Reserve and ran a little shop and post office at the Pavilion. He was also the Chief Observer for the coastal area of the Taree zone. Every time a plane was heard the Parish family ran out of the shop to document and report the plane. Joker became so used to the family doing this that he took it upon himself to give his own warnings. Due to his keen hearing, he could hear the planes approaching before the humans and would run out and bark until someone observed the plane. He was even known to rouse the family at night time when a plane went over.3
Author: Janine Roberts
1 Roland Perry, Horrie the war dog, Allen and Unwin: Sydney, 2013.
2 AWM: https://www.awm.gov.au/visit/exhibitions/underattack/mobilise/scanning.
3 Manning River Times and Advocate for the Northern Coast Districts of NSW, 15 April 1944, 6.