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Dunstable Met Office forecast delayed D-Day invasion

Dunstable Met Office balloon

Dunstable Met Office balloon

Dunstable’s big moment during the Second World War came almost exactly 70 years ago, on the dawn of D-Day.

A massive armada was at sea, poised to launch thousands of troops on to the Normandy beaches.

But at Dunstable, weather forecasters at the Meteorological Office, housed in buildings off Drovers Way, predicted that a storm brewing in the English Channel would be so bad that it could wreck the invasion.

Their assessment persuaded the allied commander, General Eisenhower, to take a huge and risky decision. He ordered the planned attack to be delayed from June 5 to June 6, even though it increased the risk that the D-Day fleet might be spotted by the Germans.

The historic event will be commemorated next week, on Thursday June 5, at Dunstable’s Weatherfield Academy which has been built on part of the old Met Office site. A plaque will be unveiled and the children’s own weather collection data unit will be opened.

The weather forecasting station began operations at Dunstable, in February 1940, having being moved from Kingsway, London, to avoid the bombing.

The Met Office field and buildings, whose radio masts were heavily camouflaged, was surrounded by a high, chain-link fence topped with barbed wire and patrolled by military police.

Motorcycle despatch riders, armed with service revolvers, regularly ferried messages between Dunstable and the secret code-breaking station at Bletchley Park.

One of the riders died at Dunstable when he accidentally shot himself with his own weapon.

The Dunstable station closed in 1961 and houses have now been built on its field.

The Yesteryear photo shows a weather balloon being launched there, with houses in Drovers Way visible in the background.

> Yesteryear is compiled by John Buckledee, chairman of Dunstable and District Local History Society.

 

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