D-Day landing meteorologist dies at 98

A British meteorologist who helped to predict weather forecasting ahead of the World War Two D-Day landings has died at the age of 98.

Lawrence Hogben was both an officer in the Royal Navy and qualified meteorologist.

During the planning of the D-Day landings, Lawrence was based at Southwick Park, Portsmouth, which was also Dwight Eisenhower’s base in the UK and main location for ‘Operation Neptune’ planning.

Dwight, who was at that time the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, wanted the D-Day landings to take place on 5th June 1944 when there was to be a full moon and a low tide in the English Channel.

The majority of the Allied commanders wanted the landings to be on a day with favourable weather conditions, such as calm winds and sea, little cloud cover and also at least a few days of calm weather after the invasion.

By May bad weather had dominated the English Channel and weather forecasters from all over the world were brought in to provide data and predictions to the planning commanders. Consensus was attempted, but Lawrence remembered how there were so many differing opinions and no one could agree.

The commanders put the responsibility back onto the meteorologists, saying that everything surrounding the D-Day landings was dependent on their weather predictions. So the meteorologists undertook prolonged debates, looking at and reviewing all of the data available to them. The group was made up of a US Army team who, prior to the war, were providing forecasts to film producers and directors in Hollywood, and a team of military-trained Royal Navy weather experts.

Lawrence recalled how the team decided that 5th June was just going to be too risky, and although they were all worried about pushing back on Eisenhower’s preference, the team put forward the recommendation to conduct the landings on 6th June, just a day later.

Allied commanders agreed to go ahead with the meteorologists’ recommendation and the D-Day landings were confirmed for 6th June 1944. A great deal of research and development in the months running up to the D-Day landings was conducted to improve weather prediction as far as possible. Many of these techniques are still used today by weather forecasters.

Lawrence was honored with the US Bronze Star by the US Army for his role in the planning, The Telegraph reports.

Lawrence was originally from New Zealand, but arrived to live in Britain in 1938, after being offered the Rhodes scholarship to attend New College at Oxford University.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE