I found the most apt definition of 'backroom boys' in the Macmillan Dictionary:
'People who do important work in a private or secret way.'
A massive success for the engineers You can see four remnants in Paul's photo of 115 concrete Phoenix caissons which had taken a couple of years to design and make. They were sunk between June 9th and June 15th to form the 1 mile long artificial harbour, Mulberry B, for landing troops and supplies until the French ports had been liberated. They had been towed across the Channel on the afternoon of D-Day after the soldiers, tanks, equipment and supplies had landed - without loss or damage from storms and rough seas.
Weather prediction Meteorology in those days was still in its infancy, as bad, or worse than, the biological sciences, including medicine, for amassing sometimes conflicting evidence from a variety of clunky methods.
I am long retired from a career in hospital Path Labs where we did blood tests 24/7, using in my early days equipment that was rudimentary by modern standards for deciding the patient's treatment e.g. emergency surgery. When making difficult decisions on treating the patient, the doctor depends on clearly communicated (careless transcription errors can cost lives) of competent measurements by reliable people - just as General Eisenhower's decision to make D-Day June 6th 1944 depended on the measurements of backroom people like Maureen Flavin.
Three members of my family were in the Normandy landings: my cousin-in-law on D-Day, my father on D+4, and my stepfather on D+6. They got back. In gratitude to Maureen Sweeney for her exemplary dedication to duty which must have saved many lives like theirs, I have added this brief account of her inspiring story.
'Backroom person' Maureen Sweeney
When 18-year-old Maureen Flavin, as she was then, got the job of postmistress at Blacksod, Co Mayo, on Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way she also became responsible for the 6-hourly readings of barometric pressure and temperature at the weather station. By June 1944, readings from various weather stations were giving conflicting readings but the Blacksod readings were accepted as the best guide to the weather in the Channel. At 1 am on June 3rd, her 21st birthday, she phoned her findings of a fall in pressure to the coastguard. It was transmitted to Group Captain Stagg, Chief Meteorologist, she was asked to confirm the findings and Eisenhower, without disclosing his reasons, decided not to risk invading on June 5th, restricting his choice to June 6th or 7th or delay for another fortnight. Maureen was asked to do hourly readings from then on. She says that she had no sooner got a reading made and sent than it was time to start on the next one [I can identify with that from Path Lab experience]. A June 4th reading showed a pressure rise indicative of better weather for June 6th, what would become D-Day. Maureen married Ted Sweeney, the lighthouse keeper, their son taking on the job after he retired.
Sources (in addition to the RTE ONE Programme):
Imperial War Museum, https://www.iwm.org.uk/history/how-d-day-was-delayed-by-a-weather-forecast; Aidan Lonergan, www.irishpost.com/news/maureen-sweeney-meet-96-year-old-irish-woman-saved-thousands-lives-d-day-167788; Peter Crawley, www.irishtimes.com/culture/tv-radio-web/maureen-flavin-the-mayo-weather-woman-who-made-d-day-work-1.3917362
It's almost two years since I published In Our Fathers' Footsteps (see under BOOKS). My latest book, One Dog and His Cop, about my cousin's police dog,was published 30 November this year (see under BOOKS).