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Table of Contents

Glimpse of the RAAF Meteorological Service




Chapter 1: Growing Up

Chapter 2: Port Moresby Before Pearl Harbour

Chapter 3: Port Moresby After Pearl Harbour
Work in the Meteorological Office
Japanese Land in Rabaul
Catalina and Hudson Operations
First Sight of the Japanese
Japanese Plans for the Invasion of Port Moresby
RAAF Meteorologists Under Threat of Japanese Advance
More Air Raids on Port Moresby
The Story of the Hudson
A Blow to Morale
More Air Raids but No 75 Squadron Kittykawks Arrive
Japanese Attempt to Invade Port Moresby by Sea
Japanese Submarines Attack Sydney
Attack on MV MacDhui
Return to Australia
The Meteorologists' Contribution

Chapter 4: Allied Air Force HQ and RAAF Command, Brisbane

Chapter 5: Japan Surrenders and We Are Demobilised



Appendix 1: References

Appendix 2: Milestones

Appendix 3: Papers Published in Tropical Weather Research Bulletins

Appendix 4: Radiosonde Observations 1941–46


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More Air Raids on Port Moresby (continued)

I have a clear memory of the occasion on 28 February 1942 when, having received an air-raid alert, we were scanning the skies when we saw a number of fighters, in line-ahead formation, enter the harbour from behind Paga Hill at low level. The cry went up "Here are the Kittyhawks!!". We soon realised our mistake when the first aircraft flew towards the four Catalinas (which had been moored along the far shore of the harbour in a precisely straight line) and opened fire. By the time the strafing run of the first aircraft was finishing the second aircraft commenced its strafing run and a similar procedure was followed by the other Zeros. As the last of the Zeros finished its run the first, which had flown down the harbour, executed a stall-turn and commenced a run back towards the Catalinas, conducted a return strafing, which was repeated by the other Zeros. In a few minutes the Zeros had disappeared, no doubt heading for home as they must have been at the limit of their range. Some of the Catalinas were on fire. Some of the ground crews who had been servicing them at their moorings were killed, others were injured. At least three of the Catalinas were made completely unserviceable, one was repairable.

From the reclamation area we had a grandstand view of the action but while my memory of the event is quite clear I cannot be sure of the number of Zeros involved and the number of Catalinas which were attacked at their moorings. I do recall that behind the bitter disappointment of witnessing the destruction of the Catalinas was a growing awareness that the Japanese airmen possessed remarkable skill and ability. As I was not keeping a diary I have no record of the date of the attack, but the listing of the raids on Port Moresby appearing in a number of the references in Appendix 2, particularly Wilson (1991), quoting Wing Cmdr Keith Bolitho, confirms that the date of this raid was 28 February 1942.

One reference in Appendix 2 lists the air-raid of 28 February 1942 as a bombing mission on the Seven-mile airstrip, supported by fighters. Other references in the Appendix describe the raid as resulting in the destruction of three Catalinas in the harbour. Another suggests that No 32 Squadron was formed in Port Moresby on 21 February equipped with Hudsons and Beauforts. It seems that while Japanese Zero fighters were destroying Catalinas moored in the harbour high level bombers were attacking the Hudsons and Beauforts on the Seven-mile airstrip. I had no transport to visit the Seven-mile airstrip and there was no source of news apart from the bush-telegraph or rumour-mill. After the raid of 28 February the only serviceable aircraft in Port Moresby were two Catalinas and one Hudson and these were withdrawn to Horn Island, Cooktown, Cairns or Townsville. So at that time there were no aircraft based at Port Moresby. For some time No 11, No 20 and No 32 Squadrons were withdrawn from Port Moresby, which was then used to refuel aircraft from Queensland bases en route to reconnaissance or bombing missions.

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Gibbs, W. J. 1995 'A Glimpse of the RAAF Meteorological Service', Metarch Papers, No. 7 March 1995, Bureau of Meteorology

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