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Thread: Met Men !

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    Default Met Men !

    Hi,

    Between 1939-1942 who gave the weather forecasts at squadron briefings. Was this done by civilians or the RAF.

    Currently, working on the raids directed against Essen in early 1942. There is numerous references in 3 Group about the 'duff' weather forecasts given by that 'Bloody Met man at Group HQ'. Who had the responsibility of informing the squadrons of forecast weather conditions on a particular raid and how was it filtered down via group to squadron level?

    TIA

    Steve
    No.218 (Gold Coast) Squadron Association Historian
    No.623 squadron Research

    ~~IN TIME ~~

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    Default Re: Met Men !

    More importantly how was the forecast derived over enemy territory, especially if the weather systems were coming from the east?

    I assume most Met information came from aircrew or were special flights already being carried out? I doubt any information came from sources in occupied countries or indeed Russia. Also if an aircrew were flown out prior to takeoff of the main force to report on the weather locally, by the time the main forced arrived at the target it could well have changed.

    Apologies it is not an answer but the question created a few more in my mind.

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    Default Re: Met Men !

    Hi Steve!! (get my own back)

    The story has several strands, so please bear with me.

    In part answer to the first part of your question is that the RAF was developing its own met service during the early months of its formation in 1918, but following WW1 the question of who would be responsible for the provision of meteorological information to the military was hotly debated; the Met Office, RAF, the Royal Navy and the Army all arguing that they were best placed to provide the service. In the event the responsibility for the meteorological requirements of all civilian and all military sectors was given to the civilian Met Office in 1919 - much to the disgust of the other services. In the event the Admiralty maintained a cadre met service and in 1937 was permitted to establish its own meteorological branch.

    Thus the civilian Met Office was responsible for meeting the RAF's requirements at the beginning of WW2 - although, like the military, it was undermanned and ill-equipped for the conflict, to say nothing of having practically no weather data as shipping ceased to transmit observations and increasingly small amounts from the Continent as European countries were over-run by German forces. Where forecasters were required in war zones (as in France in the first instance) Met Office forecasters were mobilised from the Reserve, as were meteorological support staff from the newly formed RAFVR (Met Branch), but the Met Office retained administrative control.

    Forecasts for flying operations were prepared by HQ Group Met Offices (GMO), based on advice issued by HQ Met Office, and sent by teleprinter to the operational airfields where civilian forecasters briefed aircrew. The trouble is that meteorologists rarely agree on developments (quiet Resmorah) and when operations involving squadrons from two or more Groups were involved forecasts could be considerably at odds, perhaps leading to one Group cancelling an operation whilst another Group allowed its aircraft to operate as planned.

    Surprisingly although there was a (civilian) Command Meteorological Office (CMO) at HQ Bomber Command it had no say in these matters, its role was simply to offer general advice for the C-in-C and Air Staff, but in December 1940 the Command Meteorological Officer was ordered to resolve these differences by means of a daily conference involving the CMO and GMOs, with the aim of obtaining an agreed forecast to be used for the next 24 hours. Within that agreement the GMOs could introduce small changes for their geographical areas, but not for the operation itself.

    The approach considerably improved the Bomber Command's operational capability - with the proviso all the forecasters were hindered by a lack of basic met information, but at least they were singing from the same hymn sheet. However, the forecasters were still civilians.

    The mobilisation of meteorologists for war zones continued, but on 1st April 1943 this was extended to those serving in the UK. On 31st March forecasters went home as civilians, returning to work the following morning as RAFVR (Met Branch) officers self-consciously wearing blue uniforms. In effect nothing had changed, they were still administered by the Met Office and were governed by Met Office regulations - but the RAF was happy!

    Should you be interested Steve I've written a history of the Met office at HQ Bomber Command under the title of The Duff Gen Merchants of Headquarters Bomber Command and Beyond.

    Brian
    Last edited by Lyffe; 14th April 2020 at 18:15.

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    Default Re: Met Men !

    The only very minor disagreement (and, basically, in response to Steve's first line question) was that not ALL UK Forecasters were uniformed on 1 Apr 43. There were a few very elderly and/or halt/lame forecasters while they were fit enough to do shifts in the various Met Offices were not fit enough to be uniformed. So it is possible, on one or two Stations, for the Forecasters to be a mixture of civilian/uniformed.
    The Met Office on the vast majority of Stations was run - as Lyffe has said - by the Met Office. It was, however, technically part of the Station (like Messes, SSQs, SHQ, Ops, ATC/Fire Sect, etc, etc) not part of the resident Sqns. So any mention of Met staff should be in the Station ORB. But, because the Station Met Offices were run by the Met Office HQ in Air Min Kingsway there are very few "Met" mentions in Station ORBs. Some time after WW2 a large number of the Met files of these uniformed Met persons were administratively destroyed (their RAF Service Records remain extant). Some considerable work has been (and is being) done to attempt to reconstruct the Met "ORBATs" during WW2. So if any of you come across - during your other researches - names/places/dates of any Met personnel/Units the Met Team would like to know!! It's a very, very, big jig-saw - and the picture on the box-lid is very blurred!!!
    HTH
    Peter Davies
    Meteorology is a science; good meteorology is an art!
    We might not know - but we might know who does!

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    Default Re: Met Men !

    It was not only from the east that data were absent, PNK, it was also the west. But the answer to your specific question is, surprisingly, the Germans themselves. Met data within occupied countries was routinely broadcast in code - a code which the Germans thought was unbreakable. Fortunately for the Met Office the code was quickly broken by a Met team at Bletchley Park and by April 1940 observations from German-occupied countries were being used by the Met Office. The code was changed periodically but because of imperfections in the way the new versions were introduced it did not take long for normal service to be resumed.

    I have a very informative paper written by one of the Bletchley Park met team which explains how it worked should you be interested. Just email me.

    The first Met Reconnaissance sortie over Germany was flown in Spitfire P9550 by P/O FCG Wilson on 7 November 1941, but it ended tragically when he crashed in the sea just off Eastbourne during the return flight. (http://www.rafcommands.com/forum/sho...t-Flight/page2 #16 and others). I think it was not until the following spring flights were resumed. That said there were routine met sorties over the North Sea from about April 1941.


    Brian
    Last edited by Lyffe; 14th April 2020 at 15:43. Reason: Added reference to P9550

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    Default Re: Met Men !

    And to those of you who venture into the Met Office on-line Daily Weather Reports (DWR) just remember that when looking at the UK charts during WW2 you will see the isobars change from a continuous line over UK to a dashed line when they approach enemy held territory over occupied Europe. These DWR charts were SECRET at the time. But to have shown that we could draw some continuous isobars over some enemy territory would have disclosed that we were reading his Met obs. This is the last thing Bletchley wanted!!
    So those of you trying to prove/disprove any theory or reports from what has meteorologically now been published must remember that there was a totally separate “war” going on in the INT (Bletchley) world. It goes on today!
    HTH
    Peter Davies
    Meteorology is a science; good meteorology is an art!
    We might not know - but we might know who does!

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    Default Re: Met Men !

    Gents,

    What can I say but thank you. More details than I could have hoped for. Much appreciated.

    Steve
    No.218 (Gold Coast) Squadron Association Historian
    No.623 squadron Research

    ~~IN TIME ~~

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    Default Re: Met Men !

    Well, that has certainly answered all my questions and more, thanks chaps.

    Yes the word DUFF seems to have been used often when talking about the weather although from my delving into ORBs it was more than often used to refer to the state of the weather rather than the forecast. I recall a squadron recording the daily attempts to carry out practice bombing on their range and although the weather scuppered many attempts when the weather was acceptable something else would crop up, like the range being booked by another squadron.

    It did surprise me that some words you hear in old films were actually used in records, like Duff, wizard prang/show or good/bad egg.

    All the best and stay safe,

    Peter Kirk

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    Default Re: Met Men !

    Peter,

    'Met' was always conscious of the shortcomings of forecasting, and was fully aware of the term Duff Gen Merchant The extract below comes from a poem 'Hiawatha's Forecast' composed by an Exning (HQ 3 Group) forecaster in either 1942 or 43. It should be read in the same metre as Longfellow's work The Song of Hiawatha on which it is based:

    Then the noble Hiawatha
    He the bold intrepid airman
    Came unto the great forecaster
    Learned in the ways of weather
    And he bowed upon the threshold
    Bowed he low and spoke in this wise.
    Oh thou man of weather wisdom
    Lord of barometric pressure
    And Cyclonic circulations
    Whom some call the duff gen merchant
    When the sun has reached its setting
    In the cavern of the west wind
    I and all my squadron with me
    Go we forth upon a journey
    To the city of the Nazi
    In the land of sausage eaters
    Twixt us and our Russian ally
    To the town they call Big City.
    Look I pray thee in the future
    Tell me are the winds propitious
    Gentle as the breath of spring time
    Will the route be cloudless starlit
    And our bases fit for landing
    Coloured green or even yellow.
    Look upon your charts Oh wise one
    And your answer surely give me.
    And the man of weather wisdom
    He they call the duff gen merchant
    Pondered deep and read the outlook

    It continues in this vein for four or five pages so I won't bore you with the rest, but it ends up with the operation being scrubbed by Bomb-Bomb (Harris at HQ Bomber Command) because fog is forecast so the crews have a party instead. I think you will recognise some of the wartime terms/names, but I hope it makes sense.

    Brian
    Last edited by Lyffe; 15th April 2020 at 12:54.

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    Default Re: Met Men !

    The Mobile Met Unit had a mock advertising flyer. It read (it was laid out in a way I can't reproduce here):-

    ROYAL AIR FORCE
    MOBILE METEOROLOGICAL UNIT
    Purveyors of Prognostications to The Crowned Heads of Europe
    Gold Medal at the Copenhagen Exhibition 1972
    Sheik Isa Award 1991


    REALITY EXPLAINED
    EVENTS FORETOLD

    Spells Cast
    Palms Read
    Dreams Interpreted
    Philosopher’s Stone Qualified
    Broomsticks and Cauldrons Serviced

    Many of our colleagues/allies on detachments all round the world have laughed at this - and taken copies (or stolen it) for their own Units back home! But I fear that the original author never got the recognition he deserved!!!
    HTH
    Peter Davies
    Meteorology is a science; good meteorology is an art!
    We might not know - but we might know who does!

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