Childhood Contributions During World War II: Unsung Heroes and Their Impact

During World War II, countless young individuals made significant contributions to the war effort. One such unsung hero is Irene Jones, who, at the age of 12, served as a volunteer air observer for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). Living on a family farm in north-east Victoria, Irene would grab a pencil and paper whenever she heard aircraft activity in the skies above. She diligently documented information about the planes she saw, helping the Air Force keep tabs on aircraft movements.

Located at the base of Mount Separation, which was a direct route for planes flying between Melbourne and Sydney, Irene’s family property was an ideal spot for monitoring aircraft. While most planes were expected to be to the east of their farm, any planes in the west were considered unusual and potentially enemy planes. With the help of charts, Irene quickly became skilled at identifying different types of aircraft, distinguishing between passenger planes and warplanes.

Irene’s valuable observations were relayed to the Air Force by her mother, Rachel, who would telephone the information and send completed forms by post each month. While most of what Irene witnessed was routine, she vividly remembered hearing the military Wirraway A-20-265 aircraft on a foggy morning in April 1942. Tragically, the very same aircraft crashed in the nearby Strathbogie Ranges, claiming the lives of two Australian airmen.

Beyond her role as a volunteer air observer, Irene engaged in various other war efforts. She fundraised by selling homemade cakes and preserves at fetes and contributed knitted socks to comfort packages for soldiers. Additionally, she and her family crocheted edges around milk jug covers and face washers to provide a sense of comfort and familiarity to soldiers.

Reflecting on her experiences, Irene, now 91 years old and residing in Euroa, acknowledges that she may not have fully understood the war as a child. However, her active contribution to the war efforts instilled a sense of pride in her and her peers as they genuinely felt like “little soldiers” doing their part to keep their country safe.

Q: What was Irene Jones’s role during World War II?
A: Irene Jones served as a volunteer air observer for the Royal Australian Air Force, documenting and reporting aircraft movements.

Q: What contributions did Irene Jones make apart from being an air observer?
A: Irene Jones participated in various war efforts, including fundraising activities and knitting socks for soldiers.

Q: What exhibition is honoring the legacy of young people like Irene Jones?
A: An exhibition titled “Toys, Tales & Tenacity: Childhood experiences of war” at Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance is honoring the contributions of young individuals during wartime.

Q: How long will the exhibition be open?
A: The “Toys, Tales & Tenacity: Childhood experiences of war” exhibition will run until July 2024.