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Memories of the Bureau of Meteorology


Memories of the Bureau of Meteorology 1929–1946 by Allan Cornish

History of Major Meteorological Installation in Australia from 1945 to 1981 by Reg Stout

Four Years in the RAAF Meteorological Service by Keith Swan
Enlistment in the RAAF, July 1941
Meteorological Observer Training, January-April 1942
Meteorological Observer, May-December 1942
Learning to Forecast, January-July 1943
Forecasting in Victoria, July-October 1943
Tropical Forecasting in New Guinea, October 1943-February 1945
Temperate East Coast Forecasting, February 1945-January 1946
Evaluating the Service

The Bureau of Meteorology in Papua New Guinea in the 1950s by Col Glendinning


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Meteorological Observer, May-December 1942

At all events, towards the end of April 1942 I went on posting to the meteorological section at the RAAF flying boat base at Rathmines on Lake Macquarie, only a few miles from my parents' home. The office was busy, and we worked three shifts—0730–1500, 1500–2230, and 2230–0730. The officer-in-charge was Flight Lieutenant Jack Johnson, and there were at least two flying officers—Andy Garriock, who had taught in Narrabri with me in 1938 and 1939, and Andy Kerr, another teacher. My fellow observers were Arthur 'Tinny' McCann, who preceded me at Armidale Teachers College, and Jack Joyce, who was my contemporary at the same college. There were one or two other staff whose names now elude me. Jack Johnson I remember as a whimsical, effective forecaster who encouraged me to sketch in the fronts and isobars after I had finished plotting information on the chart. Not my task, of course, but it was stimulating to extend one's experience, and this was invaluable preparation for the forecasting course I was soon to do. 'Johno' did not often change my isobaric maps, but did not hesitate to do so. One practice he taught me was no more successful for him than it was for me. As both his wife and his mother were living together, as so often happened in wartime, he decided to write one letter to both of them. When they objected and demanded separate letters, he obliged, using carbon paper to produce an extra copy. Faced with the same circumstance when posted to New Guinea late in 1943 I followed suit, but both my mother and my wife, bless them, also objected strongly.

An incident that I will always remember occurred at Rathmines, I believe, on 15 August 1942. For a day or two we had been watching the approach of a frontal system from the west, and we sent to various flying sections on the base the advice that a front would reach the station at about 2000 hours, with wind gusts to at least 65 mph. Some gusts exceeded 80 mph, but our timing was reasonably good and we had at least issued the warning. One section commander, Squadron Leader G. U. 'Scotty' Allen, had his Sikorsky aircraft tied down, but others were not so wise. As I remember it, there was a three-engined Dornier flying boat on the slipway minus its motors which a gust lifted and blew quite a distance, causing considerable damage to the airframe. At about that time my fellow observer was on the slip waiting for the launch to take him across the lake. Discretion proving the better part of valour, he returned to the office and could not be budged until daylight. Most of the staff, including me, were comfortable in our beds. Some flying personnel tried to sheet the blame for the damage on our section, but we had the documentary evidence for our advice.

People in Bright Sparcs - Joyce, John; Swan, Keith

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Cornish, A., Stout, R., Swan, K and Glendinning, C. 1996 'Memories of the Bureau of Meteorology', Metarch Papers, No. 8 February 1996, Bureau of Meteorology

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