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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

Chapter 3: Met in the Retreat
The Evacuations from Ambon and Namlea
Fall of Salamaua
The Singapore Expedition/ Brief Visit to Singapore
Trek across Timor/ The Retreat in Timor
Sea Escape from Tulagi
Vila and Noumea Bases
The Attacks on Darwin and Broome

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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Chapter 3: Met in the Retreat

The Evacuations from Ambon and Namlea

Two years before war commenced with Japan, the Australian Government decided to go ahead with plans to include New Guinea in its air development programme. A seaplane base was established in September 1939 at Port Moresby as the operational centre for a RAAF flying boat squadron, while another was set up at Rabaul with outlying anchorages at Tulagi (Solomon Islands), Vila (New Hebrides) and Noumea (New Caledonia). Consequently, when war came with Japan there were two RAAF squadrons in the New Guinea area, devoted chiefly to reconnaissance designed to provide an outer line of air observation, while a composite squadron was sent soon afterwards to Rabaul, but was overwhelmed by the enemy in air attacks preceding the capture of the township in January 1942. Australia also sent a RAAF general reconnaissance squadron to Ambon and Namlea, in the Ceram-Boeroe group, in fulfilment of an agreement made at the Anglo-Dutch conference in Singapore in February 1941. The Australian civilian weather organisation was already operating a forecasting station at Port Moresby, with an observing post at Salamaua, when the changeover to the Department of Air took place, but thereafter a considerable extension was carried out in the area. Meteorological stations were established at Ambon, Namlea, Koepang (Timor Island), Tulagi, Vila and Noumea, while a party of Australian weather men under Fl Lt (soon afterwards Sqn Ldr) G. W. Mackey left for Singapore in December 1941 to set up forecasting units at Khota Baru and Sungei Patani in order to augment the Malayan meteorological service, which had its only service establishment at Kalang airport, Singapore Island. The Australian meteorologists, however, found the Japanese in control of the Malay Peninsula. Then began the general retreat movement through the islands as the enemy advanced through New Guinea and the Netherlands East Indies, bringing its Air Force into position for the historic raid on Darwin on 19 February 1942. Abandonment of the Ambon and Namlea weather stations, which were operating in conjunction with Fl Lt (later Sqn Ldr) R. A. E. Holmes in charge, had already become necessary, with the evacuation of the two advanced operational bases on 30 and 31 December 1941. The stations had been in operation for only two and a half months in each case, under trying conditions, and the service provided was commended highly by the respective commanding officers.

Nor did the evacuation come too soon, for as our men moved out of Ambon in Hudsons of 13 and 2 Squadrons, they passed over the Japanese convoy making for the island.

A great job was done by the Hudsons, practically the remnants of these two badly depleted squadrons. One even took off from the 600 yard strip with 23 aboard—a feat that many would describe as impossible. First out were the sick RAAF and army personnel, then the remainder were crammed aboard to the capacity of the machines. The met men—Fl Lt Holmes, FO (later Fl Lt) R. J. McConnell, WO (later Fl Lt) C. C. James and WO (later Fl Lt) J. A. O'Connor—saw the last of the island early on 31 December and less then five hours after were in Darwin.

Two weeks later Fl Lt Holmes left for Broome to commence forecasting for the transport planes engaged in evacuating personnel from the Netherlands East Indies. He was just in time to catch the first large scale enemy attacks on the pearling port.

The end of February 1942 saw a very gloomy situation for the Allies. Malaya and Singapore, on which Australia had counted so much, were in enemy hands. Borneo, Celebes, Sumatra, Ambon and Timor had been occupied by the Japanese and Java was isolated. Australian soil had known enemy bombs for the first time at Darwin and in the north-west, while in the east the Rising Sun flag flew in New Britain and New Ireland.

General Japanese air superiority was coupled with control of the seas in which their vessels were operating so that Australia was forced into a defensive position designed to hold the country as a base for training and concentration of forces for our ultimate offensive.

People in Bright Sparcs - Holmes, Ralph Aubrey Edward; Mackey, George William

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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

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