On Monday evening 14 August 1944, Chief Observer of the Laurieton Volunteer Air Observers Corps (VAOC), Mrs I M Grierson, was on duty when she saw a Catalina flying boat make a forced landing and become grounded on a sandbank at Haven River. She reported the incident to the Taree Control before rushing out to offer assistance.2 Can you imagine her surprise when she saw that one of the passengers was US comedian and film star Bob Hope?
Bob Hope and his party were in Australia to entertain the troops during WWII and were flying from Brisbane to Sydney when engine failure forced them to land near Laurieton. The passengers were brought ashore by local fishermen.3
In later interviews Hope talked about the concern he and fellow passengers had felt during the landing, stating that they had their parachutes on. They had thrown cases of whisky and luggage with glamorous dresses overboard. Hope and his colleagues shrugged off the somewhat frightening ordeal with an impromptu party at Laurieton where he first learnt to dance the Hokey Pokey.4
Meanwhile the Taree VAOC Control contacted the RAAF and the US air authorities and made all arrangements for extra transport, repair and salvage of the Catalina and accommodation for Hope and his party. En route to Williamtown the next day Hope asked if he might stop in at Taree Control (Solomon’s Fruit Market, 2019) so he could personally thank everyone involved including Commandant Tom Dyball.5
Author: Janine Roberts with thanks to Brian Crisp for sharing this story.
1 Daily Telegraph, 14 August 1944, 3.
2 Daily Examiner (Grafton), 17 August 1944, 5.
4 Sun, 15 August 1944, 3.
5 VOAC Bulletin, March 1945, 6.