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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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Weather in the Allied Advance (continued)

Meteor reports, as the ballistic compilations were called, were supplied by detachments of two, or sometimes three, men in a jeep working with forward troops or batteries of artillery and were used for computing the correction of moment for observed or predicted fire. As a general rule, for harassing fire, these reports had to be prepared every four hours or so throughout the day and night, and since they involved calculation of upper wind currents measured by following the movements of a pilot balloon through a theodolite, it was no easy task. Especially was this so on occasions when the minute-spaced observations through the theodolite had to be made in jack-in-the-box fashion from a slit trench while bombs or shells threatened the instrument. On many occasions the hydrogen-filled pilot balloons were themselves shot down, but the importance of the reports can be seen by the fact that gunfire was frequently altered by anything from 300 to 1200 yards—and this for targets sometimes not more than 50 yards in depth.

In the case of barrages, close support or objective target, meteor reports were needed even more frequently than for harassing fire. When it was necessary, for instance, to bring overhead fire down to within 50 yards or so of our own troops, the meteorological detachments had to go their hardest, turning out reports every hour, or perhaps every 30 minutes in places where a mistake might mean the artillery firing into our own men.

The work of the detachments allowed Australian artillery to use, with an effectiveness hardly to be expected in the jungle, methods of fire depending on accurate and regular meteor reports. For example, defensive fire at night assumed greater importance as an effective means of countering the Japanese habit of endeavouring to infiltrate through the jungle in the early hours of the morning. This was done by registering a number of zones about a hundred yards ahead of the forward infantry lines, so that, after meteor corrections were applied to the range, guns could bring down fire on the particular zone about half a minute after an alarm was given. In the same way, where good maps were available, as in the Borneo campaign, the use of reliable meteor reports allowed concentrations to be brought down without giving warning to the enemy by the customary few ranging shots. Such shots necessarily indicate what place has been chosen as the target, but where our guns were concentrated by meteorological calculation without actually opening fire, the enemy was caught unprepared and much heavier casualties were, in most cases, effected. In one instance, at Balikpapan, 150 Japanese dead were counted when what had been a heavily defended position was occupied with no opposition after a sudden heavy artillery barrage.

Close companions and adjuncts to these detachments were the meteorological sections of survey batteries, Royal Australian Artillery, which were raised by the Army from surveyor personnel. Although solely an Army organisation, these units were sometimes called upon to provide last minute information on target conditions for aircraft of the RAAF and Royal New Zealand Air Force engaged on strikes in the islands. As another instance, the reports of sea, swell and surf provided by a survey battery in the Brunei-Miri areas were of great assistance in preparing important advices for the Navy of conditions along the exposed west Borneo coastline.

More will be said about mobile meteorological detachments and survey battery met sections in a later chapter: here it is desired only to record briefly their function and the great part they played with the aviation weather establishments in dealing with the meteorological factor throughout the advance that ended in Borneo and victory.

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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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