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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

Chapter 4: Met in the Advance
Port Moresby to Milne Bay
New Pacific Stations
9 Operational Group
10 Operational Group
Northern Command
First Tactical Air Force
Labuan Island
The End in Singapore

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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Port Moresby to Milne Bay (continued)

By July 1942 when Fl Lt (later Sqn Ldr) W. J. Gibbs, who had succeeded Fl Lt (later Sqn Ldr) A. K. Hannay in charge, handed over control of the weather section to Fl Lt (afterwards Sqn Ldr) B. Mason, the office was back in the police barracks where it remained until the end of the war with Japan. During all that time no damage was caused to the building or to meteorological personnel, although there were many air-raids, major and minor, climaxing in the 100 bomber attack on the township on 12 April 1943.

There were, of course, times when things looked desperate. When the Japanese forces had reached Koitaki, for instance, all RAAF personnel at Port Moresby were told that there would be little or no chance of evacuation; every section was to make its own plans for escape. So far as the weather men were concerned, it was resolved that the officer in charge and a senior NCO should take the upper air equipment and join the field artillery as a mobile meteorological unit if the enemy actually reached the township, while plans were also made for other staff members to evacuate to Daru and thence, if possible, to the mainland, if such a move became necessary. Emergency packs, arms and ammunition were kept ready at the meteorological office, but, fortunately, were never needed.

Port Moresby weather office provided weather services and operational advice for the planes of 75 and 76 Fighter Squadrons in the Milne Bay battle, and for the Australian and American aircraft engaged in strafing the enemy on the Kokoda trail and dropping supplies to our forces.

Towards the end of January 1943, under instructions of D.Met.S., an inspection of the Milne Bay area was made by Fl Lt (later Sqn Ldr) J. L. Williams, who was then in charge at Port Moresby, and Fl Lt (later Sqn Ldr) J. S. Maher, to determine the most suitable site for a meteorological section which was to be the first established in Papua under wartime conditions. A month later the advance party of weather men under Fl Lt Maher arrived to set up the station which commenced operating on a restricted basis in March and swung into a full service a month later.

The Milne Bay weather section supplied locally based RAAF Hudson and Beaufort squadrons with forecasts for reconnaissance flights and bombing operations, for convoy duties and for air cover for the landings on Woodlark Island and Kiriwina Island (Trobriand group). Squadrons on photographic reconnaissance and interception work were similarly supplied, as well as Australian and American machines carrying out transport services to Port Moresby and the adjacent islands. Information was provided to the Naval authorities at Milne Bay covering local naval operations and services and included forecasts for the landings at Finschhafen. To the Army went climatological information and ballistic reports for the anti-aircraft and coastal guns.

Organisations in Australian Science at Work - Directorate of Meteorological Services (D.Met.S)

People in Bright Sparcs - Gibbs, William James (Bill); Hannay, Alexander Keith (Keith)

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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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