Tom Dyball was not only science master at Taree High School during World War II, he was Zone Commandant of the Volunteer Air Observers Corps (VAOC) in Taree.1 Civilian volunteers were trained to observe and recognise the presence of airplanes, then report directly to the RAAF’s regional control room.2
Brian Crisp, a student of Taree High at the time recalls:
“Our physics teacher Mr Tom Dyball arranged for some kids (including me) to do a watching job for planes. We were all mad about planes, knew a lot of them by sight and some by sound. They put us in a small tower on top of Fog’s Pub (Fotheringham’s Hotel) with binoculars and a phone to report any and all sights or sounds of planes. The RAAF had a plot room in Dougal Watt’s garage in Victoria Street (now Solomon’s fruit market) with a table, large map and pins, tracing plane movements. As a 13 year old, to get out of school was exciting and I hopefully made a little contribution to the war effort. We were picked because we had good eyes and hearing. On one occasion, I heard a strange engine sound flying very high and duly reported it, boy did that cause a stir, it apparently was a Japanese reconnaissance plane.”3
In September 1943, in one week alone, the number of aircraft sightings reported by the Taree VAOC reached 2000 giving an indication of the work being completed by local residents 24 hours a day.4 The corps disbanded in September 1945.5
Author: Janine Roberts with thanks to Brian Crisp.
1 V.A.O.C. Bulletin, March 1945, 6.
2 AWM: https://www.awm.gov.au/visit/exhibitions/underattack/mobilise/scanning
3 Written notes from Mr Brian Crisp, 2018; NSW Land Registry Service, Vol-Fol: 3968-182.
4 ManningRiver Times and Advocate for the Northern Coast Districts of NSW, 11 September 1943, 2.
5 Northern Champion, 19 September 1945, 2.