Page 564
Previous/Next Page
Federation and MeteorologyBureau of Meteorology
Table of Contents

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


Contact us

Learning to Forecast, January-July 1943

It was as a corporal, to which rank I had been promoted on 15 September 1942, that I left for RAAF headquarters on 1 January 1943 for training as an administrative and special duties officer, with forecasting as my special duty. This involved two months of administrative officer training at the University of Melbourne, where I was quartered in Ormond College, a pleasant experience. Geoffrey Blainey said in his History of the University of Melbourne, written in the early 1960s, that he had often met men like me who assured him they were Ormond men, or Trinity men, or Queens men after such experience of college living. This course was followed by almost six months at the Weather Bureau, where I learned much meteorological theory beyond the observational instruction and practice of 1942, to prepare me for the interpretational task which was forecasting. At this distance I do not remember the subject names, but we were grounded in climatology, geomorphology, the theory behind the formation of weather systems, world wind systems, modern frontal theory, and air-mass analysis. All of it was fascinating if one were anxious to learn. Seventeen of us undertook No 7 Meteorological Officers' Course, and I was placed second after my friend Walter Milthorpe, who now farms near Hillston.

Meteorological Officers' Course, 1943

Members of No 7 Meteorological Officers' Course, Melbourne, 1943. Left to right, D. P. Orr, R. M. Simpson, P. Hallett, H. R. Storer, W. J. Millthorpe, J. R. Joyce, E. F. G. Dibley, D. H. Forder (Instructor), R. G. Handley, H. D. Hocking, H. J. Carpenter, A. McCann, H. McCann, K. J. Swan, A. T. Brunt, E. G. Cuthbertson.

Most of the teaching during this course was the task of Flight Lieutenant (later Squadron Leader) Doug Forder, a South Australian schoolteacher; but let me return to him later. One of the highlights for me was the regular lecture, I expect weekly, given by the Professor of Meteorology at the University of Melbourne, Fritz Loewe, a kindly German scholar who stressed with us the fact that he had been a citizen of 'the old German Empire' rather than of Hitler's Germany. I saw his aim as being to have us understand weather phenomena oh a global scale, but at the same time to grasp the fact that latitude, topography, proximity to the sea, and the vast areas of the continents influenced weather phenomena. In some ways his approach built on the kind of elementary and secondary education I had received twenty years before the advent of television, in the relatively early days of radio, and before the advent of swift world travel by commercial aircraft. I was privileged to belong to a family fascinated with a world we could merely try to understand through books and maps, so I was familiar with the names and locations of places Professor Loewe mentioned. I remember him one day asking us to give the name of a place with latitude the same as Tiflis in Georgia, and from my 'atlas' knowledge I made a guess which I am certain was wrong; but I at least knew the location approximately. He was at pains, too, to have us understand that such terms as heat and cold were relative, illustrating this by telling us that he had taken the midnight observations at a station in Greenland clad only in underpants. In the light of that statement it seemed incongruous that he hobbled about on the balls of his feet, having lost some of his toes from frostbite in the Arctic region where he had carried out climatological research.

People in Bright Sparcs - Forder, Douglas Highmoor (Doug); Loewe, Fritz; Swan, Keith

Previous Page Bureau of Meteorology Next Page

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