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Meteorological Section (Home) Royal Engineers


Lyffe
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I believe that a Meteorological Section (Home) Royal Engineers, was formed on Salisbury Plain in either late 1917 or the beginning of 1918. Can anyone advise as to where it was based and what was its role (reserve for the Met Section RE in France perhaps)?

Brian

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Thank you Pete. I'm a new boy here but had found the link yesterday evening, in fact I added a fairly lengthy message pointing the original poster in the direction of met literature on the subject. There's also another thread on this forum started by BeppoSapone on 3 October 2003; although this refers to a 'new Meteorological Section RE' being on Salisbury Plain, neither give the exact location.

The Meteorological Section RE, aka 'Meteor', was formed in France in June 1915, based at GHQ under Lt Col E Gold (a meteorologist). A call was made for 'volunteers' to act as met observers and the first batch, from the Artists Rifles, was given instruction in observing by Capt C J P Cave during July 1915. Additional volunteers were trained when necessary.

Taken ill, Cave did not stay long in France and spent the next two years as meteorologist-in-charge at South Farnborough before becoming ill again. Following a lengthy spell in hospital he assumed charge of a new meteorological unit, 'Meteorological Section (Home) RE' early in 1918. I know (and BeppoSapone thread confirms) this was on Salisbury Plain, but what I'm after is 'Where on Salisbury Plain?'

Brian

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The following is probably more general than you'd prefer, but it is available for preview on Google books:

Battling the Elements: Weather and Terrain in the Conduct of War

By Harold A. Winters, Gerald E. Galloway, Jr., William J. Reynolds, David W. Rhyne

Published by JHU Press, 2001

ISBN 0801866480, 9780801866487

336 pages

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I doubt that this will interest a great many but having started this thread I'll finish it with the answer to the question I originally posed.

"The Meteorological Section R.E. (Home Station) (aka Meteorological Section (Home) R.E.), made up for one officer, one corporal and three pioneers, was proposed for the Overseas Artilleray School at Chapperton Down, Larkhill during the summer of 1917. The unit was required to provide winds and temperatures in the lower layers for the school.

Exactly when it formed is unclear, but it was in existence by early 1918 under the command of Captain C J P Cave."

My sources are the Minutes of the Meteorological Committee - Minute 648, June 1917, and Minute 698, May 1918.

Brian

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I was in the U.S. Army field artillery 30 years ago and met messages were sent to batteries training in the field several times daily, as they still are now. Data on met conditions and the muzzle velocity of the tubes are used to fine-tune firing data without the need for firing ranging rounds, or registrations as they are called in the U.S. The use of met data for the artillery was a Great War innovation.

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True Pete.

Initially known as the Meteorological Field Service when the first four men went to France in June 1915, essentially as met advisors for gas operations, its worth was quickly recognised and it became the Met Section R.E. on 28 September 1915.

I'm not sure exactly when it became involved with the artillery, but I should guess pretty soon after. The wind part of the equation was pretty easy to resolve using pilot balloons, but temperatures were another matter. I know a kite balloon was allocated for met use during the summer of 1916, and was used to obtain temperatures to between 4000 and 5000 ft. This was used for the remainder of the war, but a Meteorological Flight was formed at Berck (on the coast of NE France) in February 1918, and aircraft from this provided temperatures up to 14000 ft.

Cheers

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I believe that the forum member using the nickname Grumpy is a retired meteorologist. At about 10 or 20 posts you will have the option of sending personal messages to fellow members.

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Since my post about Chapperton Down I've traced a previously uncatalogued paper in the Met Office Library, written by the CO of the Met Section (Home) RE. That throws more light on the matter but I need to get my thoughts together before completing the story.

Brian

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Click here to read an article on weather in the Great War in the American Review of Reviews in 1918. I believe the source is a 1919 compendium of issues of the periodical of the same name published during the last six months of 1918.

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Since I started this thread I'd better finish it by answering the question I posed at the start - just in case someone finds the thread at a future date.

Having dug deeper in the Met Office Archives, and found some new files in the National Archives the history appears as follows:

A Meteorological Section R.E. was formed in France during September 1915. So far as the British military was concerned this was the first of its type and training was either given in-house or at South Farnborough. There was no corresponding 'Home' unit until July 1917 when a Meteorological Section RE (Home Station) was established at Butler's Cross on Salisbury Plain. Butler's Cross is simply a point on the map about 6 km south of the large village of Market Lavington. The staff consisted of one officer and one NCO plus three pioneers (presumably to make the tea). Its role was to provide wind and temperature data for the artillery schools on the Plain.

During the winter of 1917-18 a considerable increase was planned for the Meteorological Section RE in the UK, with a HQ at Stonehenge and another office at Shoeburyness. Together with Butler's Cross this became the Meteorological Section (Home) RE under the command of Captain C J P Cave. It had a total establishment of 76 men (7 Officers, 1 Staff Sgt, 1 Sgt, 6 Cpls, 3 Second Cpls and 58 trained men).

The offices at Butler's Cross (later known as West Lavington) and Shoeburyness provided meteorological support solely for artillery purposes, but Stonehenge assumed a greater role becoming the main forecast centre for military airfields on Salisbury Plain - and especially for No 1 School of Aerial Navigation & Bomb-Dropping at Stonehenge.

In addition to the aforementioned units another was later established at Filton (Bristol), manned by men from the HQ at Stonehenge, but nothing is known of its history.

Following the Armistice a considerable number of ORs were sent to Stonehenge for training in meteorology on the assumption they would accompany the North Russian Expeditionary Force. In the event none ever went; demobilisation started during January 1919 (Cave was demobilised on 19 Feb 1919) and the whole organisation was disbanded.

The met stations at Butler's Cross and Shoeburyness were subsequently manned by civilians, although the former was closed during 1920 and a new met office opened at Larkhill.

Brian

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