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Table of Contents

War History of the Australian Meteorological Service




Chapter 1: D.Met.S.—Australia's Wartime Weather Service

Chapter 2: The Weather Factor in Warfare
Meteorology Through History
Enemy Use of Weather Strategy
Battle of the Coral Sea
Milne Bay and Buna-Gona
The Lae and Salamaua Landings
Weather in the Allied Advance
Chemical Warfare Experiments

Chapter 3: Met in the Retreat

Chapter 4: Met in the Advance

Chapter 5: Meteorology in Aviation

Chapter 6: Central Forecasting Services

Chapter 7: Met With the Army

Chapter 8: Research and Personnel Training

Chapter 9: Instrumental Development and Maintenance

Chapter 10: Scientific Developments in the RAAF Meteorological Service

Chapter 11: Divisional Bureaux and Their Work

Appendix 1: List of Reports Provided by D.Met.S. for Advances Operational Planning and Other Purposes

Appendix 2: List of Service Personnel RAAF Meteorological Service

Appendix 3: List of Civilian Personnel Who Worked Together with Service Personnel of the RAAF Meteorological Service

Appendix 4: List of Locations at which RAAF Meteorological Service Personnel Served


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Enemy Use of Weather Strategy (continued)

Germany early showed her appreciation of the importance of the meteorological factor in warfare by utilising the unusually dry weather conditions in Poland in September 1939 to launch the blitzkrieg that began the war. There is authoritative information to show that this exceptional weather was accurately predicted by Professor L. Weickmann of the German weather service, and that the timing of the thrust was based upon his forecast, while it is considered equally significant that although Hitler withheld major activities against the western Allies during the winter of 1939–40 when weather was unfavourable for an air-ground campaign, the panzer divisions made good use of the unusually fine conditions that followed to rout the French Army. In the same way, the Germans skilfully timed their invasion of Norway in April and May 1940, advancing into the country under the protective cloud cover that is common to storms in that area at the time. In late April unusually clear weather was experienced, so that its air force was able to give effective support to the ground units and drive off the British fleet in its attempt to establish bases in Norway. It is considered that this plan coordinated with the invasion of France and the Low Countries so that Great Britain could be attacked subsequently both from Norway and from other positions along the North Sea area and the English Channel.

Other examples of capable long range forecasting by German meteorologists are relatively common throughout the fighting in Europe and Africa, but few showed more skill in timing and execution than the escape of the Nazi battleships Gneisenau and Scharnhorst from their hideout in France through the English Channel to a home port. In this famous escape our enemies made use of a narrow zone of bad weather, behind a cold front, to escape the vigilance of the British surface ships and aircraft.

On the other hand, appreciation of the weather factor was absent in the Italian campaign against the Greeks in October 1940 when Mussolini's generals attempted to copy the German panzer technique that had proved so successful in Poland and France. The Italians launched their campaign just as heavy autumn rains had set in with the result that mobility of the invading forces was greatly reduced and they failed to attain their objectives.

However, it was Japan, probably more than any other warring nation, that made the greatest operational use of weather during World War II. As early as November 1940, during the long China campaign, Japan had drawn meteorological attention to its competent use of the weather factor in the landing at Hanchow Bay, where there was shown the same nicety of timing that later was to be demonstrated at Milne Bay (24 August—8 September 1942), the Buna-Gona landings (22 November 1942) and, in fact, throughout the enemy advance in the South-West Pacific. Generally, it may be said that the Japanese invasion strategy consisted of moving in seaborne forces under a protective cloud cover and rain area, for the most part behind a front, and it is admitted that these tactics played an important part in the phenomenally fast southern advance by the enemy.

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Haldane, T. 1997 'War History of the Australian Meteorological Service in the Royal Australian Air Force April 1941 to July 1946', Metarch Papers, No. 10 October 1997, Bureau of Meteorology

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