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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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The Attacks on Darwin and Broome (continued)

Broome was, at the time, a busy refuelling station for the Dutch, American and Australian flying boats that were engaged chiefly in evacuating men, women and children from the path of the advancing Japanese forces in the East Indies, but antiquated refuelling arrangements and the hampering effect of the huge tide fall combined to present the enemy with an ideal target when half a dozen planes appeared about 10am on 2 March. As usual, the Japanese had sent a reconnaissance machine over the township several hours earlier, so that the raid was to some extent expected, but when four attackers descended on the flying boat base in mid-morning, machine-gunning from about 50 feet, there was terrible destruction. It was about the turn of the tide, and many of the flying boats had their passengers aboard preparing for the take-off when the raiders appeared. Terrible scenes followed, when every Allied machine was destroyed with serious loss of life to the passengers, amongst whom were many women and children.

Not content with this, the enemy machines took toll also among the assembly on the pier, leaving the base a shambles. At the same time, other attackers devoted themselves to the aerodrome which was about a quarter of a mile from the weather station. There, when the enemy arrived, a Liberator had just taken off, but was quickly destroyed with its entire crew. Back on the strip another machine, with Fl Lt Holmes among the passengers, was warming up prior to departure and there was just time for its complement to dash to safety before it was, too, destroyed, along with every other machine at the aerodrome.

Thus, Broome was left isolated, without air communication with the north or south. Generally, the township was desolated.

Among the flying boats destroyed that day was a RAAF machine, not long taken over from Qantas service, which was to have been used in an attempt to bring Fl Lt Rofe and his party out of Timor.

Two days after the raid Fl Lt Holmes, who was on posting to Geraldton, succeeded in getting a seat on a McRobertson-Miller Airways machine to Port Hedland. En route, six Dutch flying boats that had missed or bypassed Broome were seen on the beach, alongside large signs calling for water. In response, the civil plane turned off its course to Anna Plains station, where food and containers of water were obtained to drop to the survivors on the beach. From Port Hedland, Fl Lt Holmes went on by Dutch machine to Perth.

He was replaced at Broome by Fl Lt (later Sqn Ldr) A. K. Hannay, who arrived on 13 March from Singapore via Perth. Fl Lt Hannay found the weather office still functioning with most of its equipment intact in an almost deserted township. Most of the civilians had gone and the services were represented by a RAAF advanced operational base and a handful of Army demolition troops. However, aeradio was operating across the road from the met office and the work went on.

Five Japanese planes raided the strip again on 20 March, strafing buildings, tearing up craters and setting the only plane at the aerodrome on fire. On the same day orders were received to move the RAAF signals organisation to Port Hedland, and, midway through June, the Broome forecasting section was reduced to observer status and major activities moved to Port Hedland with the communications personnel.

People in Bright Sparcs - Hannay, Alexander Keith (Keith); Holmes, Ralph Aubrey Edward; Rofe, Bryan

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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

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