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Gordon Hensman's Weatherview

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: June 06, 2014

  • The smoke, spray and fog of the Battle of Jutland made communication by flag and light almost impossible

  • Ships bound for Normandy's beaches on D-Day, each carrying its own barrage balloon

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The Black Country

Birthplace of the Industrial Revolution

Weather in Dudley for

21st to 31st May

SUMMARY

The mean temperature for the last third of May was exactly average. However, this disguised lower day temperatures than average and higher night temperatures – the two balanced each other exactly. It was a wet period with the total not far off the average rainfall for the whole of May.

TEMPERATURE

1. Mean maximum 15.3, 59.5F

2. Anomaly -0.8

3. Mean minimum 8.7, 47.5F

4. Anomaly +0.8

5. Average of max. & min. 12, 54F

6. Anomaly 0

7. Highest/date 20.6, 69F 21st

8. Lowest/date 6.8, 44F 21st

9. Lowest grass/date 4.4, 40F 26th

10. Mean 30 cm soil temperature 13.7, 56.5F

RAINFALL

11. Days with rain falling 9

12. Total fall 50.63mm

13. Wettest day 14.6mm 24th

14. Days with thunder 0

HUMIDITY

15. Mean relative humidity 9h 91%

AIR PRESSURE

16. Average at 9h 1015mb

17. Highest/date 1026mb 31st

18. Lowest/date 1004mb 22nd

WIND DIRECTIONS

19. N 3, NE 0, E 3, SE 1, S 2, SW 0, W 0, NW 2 , CALM 0

MAY IN THE PAST

30th 2003 Selkirk is a small town on the banks of Ettrick Water, which drains into the River Tweed, in Borders, Scotland. On this date a cloudburst caused a flash flood producing floods up to 2m, 6feet, and hail stones up to the height of first floor windows.

31st 1740 Eskdalemuir, a small town in the Southern Uplands of Scotland, famous in climatological circles, experienced an abnormally cold spell with the peat frozen too hard for peat-cutting.

1947 I have written about this dreadful winter in the Black Country on several occasions in the past, but it was succeeded by a magnificent summer, which began at the end of May, with a maximum temperature of 31.7, 89F, in Lincolnshire, and lasted into September.

1911 As with any outdoor event in these glorious islands, the most prestigious and famous sporting event can experience the most awful weather.

Derby Day, run on the Epsom Downs, started with distant thunder and the sight of massive towering black cumulo-nimbus clouds in the distance. The race had finished by 5pm when lightning flashing at thirty strokes a second became the centre of attention. The next fifty minutes saw 2.4 inches, 62mm, of rain falling together with walnut sized hailstones. Everyone sought shelter, and a number of people sheltering against a wall were struck by lightning, killing two of them. Eight more were struck sheltering in a marquee, while another man, leaning against metal railings along the side of the course, was struck and badly injured. A horse pulling a cart containing race-goers was struck and killed, along with one of the passengers. Three haystacks were set alight despite the rain. Altogether, seventeen people and four horses were killed across the whole of the south-east, as a result of one of the most violent tempests (to use the old term my grandfather used) to strike this country.

Some Other Derby Days

18th May 1820 – driving rain and strong winds blew away tents.

27th 1830 Thirteen false starts in heavy rain and hail.

15th 1839 Very bitter east wind, with snowstorms during the race.

20th 1863 Another cold spell which warrants," hot brandy and water, foot baths and flannels," according to Charles Dickens.

22nd 1867 Heavy wet snow fell, causing ten false starts.

1891 It was so wet that it was calculated that all the jockeys were a couple of pounds heavier by the finish!

1924 Torrential rain ensnared the new motorised buses and charabancs in a morass of mud.

1979 The Coronation Cup was cancelled after 30mm, 1.16 inches, of rain fell in ninety minutes.

JUNE – WILL IT BE A FLAMIN' MONTH?

Officially, June is the first of the three summer months, and we shall have to wait and see whether there will be the sort of sunny weather we dream of, or it will turn out to be a dismal wet month.

The Battle of Jutland, Skagerrakschlacht

Casualties: Killed – British 6,784, German 3,039

1st 1916 This was the only major naval battle of the First World War, and it took place in the North Sea off the coast of Jutland, Denmark.

It ended in a tactical victory for the Germans, but a strategic victory for the British Empire – the Grand Fleet included ships from the Royal Australian Navy and the Royal Canadian Navy.

The British fleet, commanded by Admiral Sir John Jellicoe, had a total of 151 vessels and the Germans, commanded by Vice-Admiral Reinhard Scheer, 99. We lost three Battlecruisers - Indefatigable, Queen Mary and Invincible; three Armoured Cruisers – Black Prince, Warrior and Defence; one Fleet Leader – Tipperary; seven Destroyers – Shark, Sparrowhawk, Turbulent, Ardent, Farley, Nomad and Nestor.

The Germans lost eleven vessels – Battlecruiser - Lutzow; Pre-dreadnought –Pommern; Light Cruisers – Frauenlob, Elberg, Rostock and Wiesbaden; Destroyers – (Heavy Torpedo Boats ) V48, S35, V27, V4, V29.

The Germans attempted to break the blockade of their ports by the Royal Navy, to enable them to continue trading, and to facilitate their submarine warfare against the British Merchant ships bringing food and vital supplies to Great Britain.

The Germans claimed victory against a superior fleet as a result of sinking more R.N. ships. However, the German fleet remained in port for the rest of the war.

One of the problems the Royal Navy experienced was that of communications. The Germans had adopted the wireless, whereas the British relied on the age-old hand flag and flash light signals. This was a critical factor, as in deteriorating weather and reducing visibility, signals could not be clearly detected. The immense amount of coal smoke from the 260 steam powered ships involved, and the smoke and fumes from the shells fired in a relatively small area, probably provided ideal conditions for fog formation. The churning up of the sea surface, bringing up colder water from below, also contributed to the fog.

1924 There was severe flooding in central England after two days of torrential rain.

2nd 1938 A deep depression crossing England on 1st-3rd produced a westerly gale in the English Channel, snow on Hevellyn, Lake District and snow down to low levels in Northern Scotland.

1975 This is the one a lot of folk remember, but often getting the wrong date. There were widespread falls of snow and sleet across England. On the Black Country Ridge snow fell on the 2nd and when melted amounted to 3.2mm. At Buxton, over 300m up in the Peak District of Derbyshire, 6 inches of snow covered the cricket ground, delaying the match between Derbyshire and Lancashire. The next day in bright sunshine the snow melted leaving the pitch sodden. When it had dried sufficiently the bowlers of Lancashire had it all their own way as the ball bounced unpredictably, and Derbyshire scored 42 and 87!

1953 Those old enough won't forget this in a hurry! The Queen's Coronation Day. The weather was dreadful with cold rain falling everywhere. Throngs of people crowded all the pavements on the route from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey, and bravely endured the cold and wet. The Queen of Tonga, Queen Salote, refused to have the cover of her carriage raised, and so got wet with the crowd. This thoughtful gesture immediately endeared her to those saturated spectators.

3rd 1957 Stand to Attention! Those readers who experienced National Service in one of the armed forces, as indeed I did (RAF) or were regular members of the Army, Navy or Royal Air Force, will understand the plight of the 35 guardsmen who fainted during the Trooping of the Colour for the Queen's official birthday. The sun shone from a cloudless sky and the temperature soared to 25, 77F, as the men stood to attention in their stifling ceremonial uniforms.

They had to do this for 90 minutes wearing 76kg, 26oz, of beaver wool crowned with a black bearskin. The official advice to prevent fainting was to wiggle their toes and not to stand on their heels. Silently counting was also a tip to remain upright. If someone looked as if they might be fainting, guardsmen on either side were supposed to prop him up!

Sergeant-Majors (don't we love them!) had the knack of popping barley sugars into the mouths of guardsmen whilst ostensibly adjusting their chin straps. Over tightening the bearskin straps that secure the head-dress to the head was fatal, as the head swelled in the heat, restricting the blood flow to the head.

Would you believe it! In those days, a guardsman who fainted and broke his jaw as a result, gained respect – proving that he was a soldier to the last!

Believe it, or believe it not, twenty guardsmen were charged with the disciplinary offence under Section 69 of the Army Act with 'falling out on parade'. As a result of questions in Parliament, the charges were dropped.

THE D-DAY LANDINGS WEATHER

4th The most important weather forecast ever was delivered on this date by Group Captain J. M. Stagg. This dour, conscientious Scottish meteorologist led a team of meteorologists from the Met. Office, the Naval Meteorological Service, and the U.S. Army Air Forces.

They had to deliver an accurate forecast for the long-planned D-Day Landings in Normandy. What followed is in my view, an object lesson in the importance of knowledge and experience of local weather, complimenting knowledge of the physics of the atmosphere.

As so often happens in early summer, a succession of depressions had and were making their way across the British Isles, followed by ridges of high pressure. This weather pattern will be instantly recognised by many readers – a couple or three days of fine weather followed by rain and high winds. Then the pattern repeats itself.

The Supreme Commander of Operation Overlord was, at the insistence of the Americans, General Eisenhower. He had already postponed the 5th June and the question was, could it take place on the 6th? It has to be remembered that all the invasion troops and their equipment were already in place, and they could not be expected to remain so indefinitely – for logistical and psychological reasons.

Stagg knew our climate and so when a naval vessel reported a rise in air pressure south of Iceland, he knew that a ridge of high pressure was developing which would cross the country in the next couple of days – providing just enough calm weather to allow the invasion to go ahead.

The Americans were dubious, thinking the weather would not take a turn for the better, however, Stagg knew that this was almost certainly the only chance for Overlord to land the forces and secure the beach-heads – and what is more it was very unlikely that the Germans had spotted the incoming ridge. In fact we now know that Rommel had returned to Germany to celebrate his wife's birthday – so sure was he that the Allies would not invade in bad weather!

Eisenhower and Montgomery accepted Stagg's forecast and the rest is history.

Post Script. How nice to see the increasing number of Black Country Flags flying around our wonderful region. Don't forget Black Country Day, 14th July.

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