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Table of Contents

RAAF Meteorological Service



Chapter 1: The Weather Factor in Warfare

Chapter 2: Establishing and Developing the RAAF Directorate of Met. Services (D.Met.S)

Chapter 3: Recruiting and Training of Personnel

Chapter 4: Meteorology in Aviation

Chapter 5: The Met. Retreating

Chapter 6: The Met. Advancing
The Coral Sea Battle—May 1942
The Battle of Milne Bay—24 August to 8 September, 1942
The Bismarck Sea Battle—1 March 1943

Chapter 7: The Met With the Army and the Navy

Chapter 8: Divisional Offices of the Bureau of Meteorology During the War

Chapter 9: Research and Instrumental Development

Chapter 10: The End, Aftermath, and Beyond

Appendix 1

Appendix 2

Appendix 3

Appendix 4



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The Battle of Milne Bay—24 August to 8 September, 1942

'There's mud so past the axle that it takes the driver's seat,
Mud so penetrating that a man can't find his feet,
There's soupy mud and gluggy mud and mud that's on the high,
There's every type of muddy mud on the Isle of Morotai.'[63]

This verse might well have been written about Milne Bay—possibly one of the most forbidding spots on earth—characterised by the worst weather conditions in my experience. I was posted in charge of the meteorological section there in mid-1944 and remained there until seven months after the end of the war.

The rainfall at Milne Bay averages about 106 inches per year, the visibility is typically from a few miles on a clear day down to practically zero in bad weather, and the humidity remains uncomfortably high. A pilot of No. 76 Squadron, which arrived at Milne Bay on 25 July 1942, told me that 'It had been raining for days, and waves of water rose in front of the aircraft as we touched down'.

Many of the pilots arriving at the Bay were making their first landings on steel matting, and many aircraft ran off the strip into the mud at the sides, quickly sinking to their hubs. Milne Bay was indeed a place where at times 'even the birds walked' to denote that, at times, all flying was out of the question.

The Bay itself, guarded by the dangerous entrance through China Straits, extends some nine to ten miles inland, flanked on both sides by spurs of the Owen Stanley Mountains, which rise quickly from the coast to 13,000 feet, giving the impression of a long deep and narrow funnel. Ashore are vast coconut plantations hacked out of the dense jungle. Torrential rivers roar down from the mountains into the Bay. On an occasional day in the dry season Milne Bay presents a magnificent panorama of translucent blue and green water, spectacular mountains and flamboyant vegetation. Exotic birds and reptiles abound. Myriads of insects, mostly mosquitoes, flit, buzz and sting. Malaria is rife, scrub typhus common. On a clear night, fireflies flash like miniature neon lights. But, in minutes, the situation can change into an incredible darkness as cloud descends to the very surface of the earth, and torrential downpours obliterate everything.

To fly in or out of Milne Bay in these conditions was extremely hazardous. Many aircrew perished there solely because of bad weather. The typical accident was to fly slap-bang into the Owen Stanleys. I can vividly recall a young Beaufort pilot and his navigator strolling into the meteorological section at Milne Bay one evening for a flight route forecast to Port Moresby. The weather at the time was foul and deteriorating, so the crew was advised to stay over for the night. 'I think we'll carry on', smiled the pilot, taking The written report. About thirty minutes later the operations officer walked in—'You remember that Beaufort crew that was in a while ago. They just crashed into the mountainside'.

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Joyce, J. 1993 'The Story of the RAAF Meteorological Service', Metarch Papers, No. 5 October 1993, Bureau of Meteorology

© Online Edition Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre and Bureau of Meteorology 2001
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