From winning wars to false hopes of barbecue summers

The D-Day Allied Forces landing in Normandy on Tuesday, June 6, 1944, were delayed on the strength of an accurate UK Met Office forecast of inclement conditions for the previous day.
The D-Day Allied Forces landing in Normandy on Tuesday, June 6, 1944, were delayed on the strength of an accurate UK Met Office forecast of inclement conditions for the previous day.

Country Living with Francis Farragher

For those of us who take more than a passing interest in all-things weather, and that probably encompasses 95% of the Irish population, one of the ultra-reliable reference points has been the BBC forecasts.

Of course, in reality the source of the forecasts was not the BBC but the UK Met Office that tracks back to 1854, when it was established by the British Government to offer a service to mariners, who had no warning system in place as to the arrival of any storms.

A man by the name of Vice-Admiral Robert FitzRoy was the first head of the Met Office and their main job of work after a major sea tragedy in 1859 was to try and issue accurate gale warnings.

Back in October of that year, a passenger vehicle called the Royal Charter, sank off the coast of Anglesey during a violent storm, with the loss of 459 lives. Over the coming years, FitzRoy established 15 coastal stations and by 1861, the UK Met Office had started to supply newspapers with forecasts.

Through the latter half of the 1800s, the fledgling electric telegraph system started to find its feet – the mobile phone (or maybe that should be text messager) of its time – and this proved invaluable to the quick sharing of vital pieces of weather information.

Shortly after the end of World War 1, the Met Office was ‘taken in’ under the wing of the UK Ministry of Defence, with RAF airfields used as observation points across the UK to gather weather related data.

One of their biggest claims to fame in the historical annals related to their weather forecast in the days before the D-Day landings on Normandy on June 6, 1944.

The Met Office had advised the Allied Forces under Supreme Commander General Dwight Eisenhower to put back their landing operation from Monday, June 5 to the following day, because of adverse weather conditions.

Apparently, it was an inspired forecast as the conditions for landing would have been disastrous on the Monday, prompting General Eisenhower to pen a note of gratitude for the accurate weather forecast, that now hangs outside the door of the Met Office’s Operations Room in Exeter.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.