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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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Labuan Island

In preparation for the move to Borneo, the weather section at 77 Wing was disbanded and personnel posted to 47OBU. Efforts were made to assemble a completely mobile section, fully equipped with supplies for six months, and once more the efficient nature of the D.Met.S. equipment system was in evidence. Requisitions on the 1st TAF store, and direct to Melbourne, produced quick results, so that when the 47OBU meteorological section left Morotai by landing craft for Labuan Island, it was completely equipped with all requirements. In this move the craft on which the weather men travelled was in the second convoy on D Day for Borneo (10 June 1945), and, after travelling in line ahead formation through the narrow, winding line of busy mine sweepers in Brunei Bay, arrived during the actual naval bombardment of Labuan. It was a thrilling sight, with assault barges still pouring troops ashore and Beaufighters persistently strafing and bombing the enemy positions. With the rest of the unit, the met men went ashore next morning, establishing camp about half a mile from the Japanese airstrip, for the possession of which the AIF was still fighting, so that the first night ashore was enlivened by the rattle of rifle and machinegun fire, the bursting of grenades and the roar of an artillery battery in a corner of the camp area.

The proximity of the Japanese to the strip delayed establishment of the base operations section with which met was to be housed, but the needs of transport aircraft caused the section to open for business beneath a tarpaulin slung from the base of the control tower—an arrangement that lasted for several days until the wooden framework of the operations building was erected. Prospect of a wait for fittings did not appeal, so, with forecasting requirements temporarily at a minimum the weather men proceeded to scrounge timber from nearby shattered buildings. This, plus the carpentry skill of the men resulted in the meteorological office being completed and fully operational in remarkably quick time. Foresight at Morotai in obtaining masonite assisted in no small measure in interior finishing. Incidentally, this masonite originally formed the floor boards of a stage erected in anticipation of a concert by Miss Gracie Fields, but her failure to appear a few days before the departure from Morotai was considered sufficient excuse to dismantle the stage in the interests of the impending operations.

Japanese resistance in a pocket some three quarters of a mile from the strip rendered night work somewhat exhilarating, as there was always the prospect of a breakthrough. Work during the nocturnal hours was consequently carried out under the protection of air defence squadron guards outside the building and an AIF machine gun post in a gully 200 yards to the rear. On several occasions personnel were advised by the army to 'give it away' for the night, and on two of these evenings some Japanese personnel managed to pass through the cordons around the pocket but were eliminated next morning. Originally, the theodolite was left on the mounting some 50 yards from the building, but trigger happy guards considered it too Japanese looking in the moonlight, so it was removed at night for their peace of mind and the unit's fear for valuable equipment.

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

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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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