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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

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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I did not meet Bill Gibbs until the Second World War was practically over. I returned to Australia from New Guinea after the best part of two years service there, first at Port Moresby and later with Northern Command Headquarters at Milne Bay and Madang.

Group Captain H. N. Warren, head of the RAAF Meteorological Service, sent me to RAAF Command Headquarters, Brisbane, to learn something of the techniques being employed there by Ralph Holmes, Bill Gibbs, Pat Squires and Henry Phillpot in providing meteorological support for strikes by General MacArthur against the enemy in the south-west Pacific region.

At that time I expected that my next tour of duty would be in Darwin, but with the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima hostilities ceased soon after I went to RAAF Command. I was at RAAF Command long enough to appreciate what a dedicated group of meteorologists Group Captain Warren had established there.

I can still see Henry Phillpot meticulously turning from chart to chart comparing pressure changes at individual stations and meteorological assistant Herbie Whittingham plotting charts at high speed. I was introduced to upper air charts, particularly at the 500 and 300 mb levels, which the group was using for their predictions.

Later as Senior Meteorologist at the Tropical Cyclone Warning Centre in Brisbane I found these charts invaluable for forecasting the behaviour of tropical cyclones. The 500 mb chart was also particularly useful for predicting the outbreak of thunderstorms in Queensland where the features of the surface chart showed little change from day to day but the upper air charts told a very different story.

I remember how this contrasted with the situation I encountered when posted to Archerfield aerodrome, near Brisbane, before the war in the south-west Pacific. In those days there was only one return air service per day between Brisbane and Sydney, made by such famous pilots as Keith Virtue and Alex Spence. In the absence of upper air charts the only upper air data came from pilot balloon flights. We learned something about the upper atmosphere by having a few beers with the pilots after they returned about 10 pm when we found what the weather was really like.

People in Bright Sparcs - Holmes, Ralph Aubrey Edward; Phillpot, Henry Robert; Squires, Patrick; Warren, Herbert Norman; Whittingham, Herbert E. (Herb)

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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
Published by Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre, using the Web Academic Resource Publisher