A West Australian by birth, I joined the R.A.N. college in 1920, and was retrenched in 1922 following the Washington conference on disarmament. It is amusing how the disarmament conferences have occurred without permanent result in the 20th century . . .
Following that was a period in the Merchant Navy where, in 1925, I qualified for a certificate as 2nd mate, foreign going steam. After a further short period at sea and about 15 months teaching in Victorian High Schools, I joined the Bureau in August 1927 as a very lowly Meteorological Assistant Grade 1.
One of the interviewers was W. S. Watt (the second Commonwealth Meteorologist) and I recall his writing in the recommendations for my appointment that wrote a good hand, a most important qualification in those days when so much of our work was hand-written. At that time, Meteorological Assistants were the maids (or men) of all work, and were called upon to do all the lowly jobs from printing the bulletins on the gelatine trap (a primitive wet copying device) to writing the bulletins, or decoding the messages at the Post office.
They also did the observers' jobs, including pilot balloon flights, and when necessary would find themselves relieving the records clerk, or Fred Weisser, the accounting officer . . .
Safety was not considered so vitally important then, or perhaps we were less aware of danger, because the hydrogen was then kept in what is now ADM's room, and we filled our balloons there. However, Mr. Hunt wouldn't have it on the verandah outside his office in case it exploded.
One of my first jobs was under Bernie Newman, checking out records of occurrences of insect plagues for Hunt's four-year cycle theory. This postulated that the continent of Australia operated like a sponge, where a wet year which saturated the sponge was followed by two drier years, until in the fourth year the continent was very dry, and sucked in a great deal of moisture in preparation for the wet year.
Newman and I spent many hours watching convective patterns set up in a glass tank with a back-lit map of Australia on its bottom. Convection patterns were followed by dropping pieces of indelible pencils into the corners. I cannot recall that we proved anything beyond the fact that convection would occur, and that there were lots of insect plagues . . .
After a period I was transferred to the Marine Section under A. G. Akeroyd, because of my sea-going experience. There I learnt a considerable amount of meteorology, and as a sideline I was inducted to the intricacies of the Share Market by "Ak".
By this time I had completed a few University subjects part time. We either attended night lectures or, if this were not possible, we were given time off for the daily lectures. We had to make time up after working hours and also pay our own fees. Because of the promotion prospects, I sought an appointment as a cadet engineer in the P.M.G.'s Department and took up duty there early in 1930. In those days cadets worked when not at University, and one soon learnt to mix concrete, erect or take down poles and dig holes, as well as running wire and learning the intricacies of automatic and manual telephone equipment in Exchanges. But at least we got our University fees paid and time off for essential day-time lectures.
However, the onset of the depression late that year brought this idyllic existence to an abrupt end, with a smart reduction to base grade clerk and a 20% salary cut. During this period I completed my degree at Melbourne University. When the economy improved and the country started to climb out of the depression in 1936 I was promoted to Assistant Meteorologist with Allan Cornish and returned to the Bureau.
The following year I was transferred as OIC Darwin, to relieve W. A. Dwyer. Mr. Barkly, then Assistant Director, gave me a choice of transfers somewhat after this manner:- "We require a meteorologist to go to the Antarctic in the Discovery, and one to go to Darwin. which would you prefer?" Of course I was quite excited at the idea of going to sea again but my hopes were soon dashed by his next remark: "I would like you to go to Darwin", and so I went! Darwin in those days was very different from the present town and though I took over a good new house there was no reticulated power or reticulated water. Hence, washing machines, refrigerators and septic systems were out of the question. However, I was much better off than my predecessor who occupied nineteen houses for short periods before he finally got into his own.
The next three years were very hectic. My only assistants till the end of 1937 were young officers with no training except on the job, and all plotting, analyses and forecasting fell to my lot. About the end of 1937 I was given the assistance of the illustrious F. G. Rose, who was later transferred to Groote Eylandt and replaced by R. A. E. Holmes about the middle of 1938. Towards the end of 1940, having completed my period of exile, I was granted leave and transferred to Sydney Bureau under the benign D. J. Mares (then Divisional Meteorologist) and my former taskmaster B. V. Newman.
At this time I held the rank of Lieutenant Commander in the R.A.N.R. and I was anxious for a release from the Meteorological Service to go to sea. However, in April 1941 I was enlisted in the R.A.A.F. as a Flight Lieutenant, with the honorary rank of Squadron Leader, and in December 1941 I went with Keith Hannay, Doug Forder and Andy Murfett to Malaya for service with Headquarters, Far East. After the evacuation of Malaya we returned to Australia, and my next appointment was Area Meteorological Officer, North-west Area, in Darwin. In 1943 I was transferred from Darwin to HQ Directorate of Meteorology in Melbourne, and remained there until the end of 1944.
In December 1945 I was posted to Southern Command and took up duty in the position of Divisional Meteorologist, Tasmania, remaining there until I was posted to Sydney in flay 1946 for demobilisation.
My next move was from Sydney Bureau to Deputy Director, South Australia, in July, 1947 and some twelve months later I was temporarily transferred to Central Office, finally going to WA as Deputy Director in February 1949. Since then, apart from a period of relief as Deputy Director, New South Wales, in 1955, I have remained west of the Rabbit Proof Fence . . .