Home » Human Life » Eric Pemberton’s Postcards – The Thunderstorm Census Organisation

Eric Pemberton’s Postcards – The Thunderstorm Census Organisation


Eric Pemberton has sent a wide range of postcards which I have shared with readers over the last year or so.

Last week he sent a postcard that were quite unusual because it seemed to be related to recording Thunderstorms in East London.

It has been filled in by a P.G Frank who was stationed one mile east of Whitechapel Church in 1933.

weather 2

After a little piece of research it appears that the postcards were part of a remarkable project undertaken by a S  Morris Bower of Huddersfield.

Modern Weather forecasting relies on satellite photographs and cutting edge technology, however  before the digital revolution the weather forecasters relied on data often collected by ordinary people.

What was remarkable about Mr S Morris Bower was the scale of his project, he was always fascinated by thunderstorms and in 1924 decided to set up the Thunderstorm Census Organisation.

Showing a great deal of initiative he wrote to many newspapers and magazines asking for volunteers who would record thunderstorms in their area and send the data back to Mr Morris Bower in Huddersfield.


Mr Morris Bower and his wife with a weather station in their garden

Once the data was received both Mr Morris Bower and his wife collated the information and published the information in a annual report.

A newspaper report from the thirties gives us a little more information:

Annual Report On Disturbances

Mr S. Morris Bower, a young Huddersfield man, is known in the north of England as “the man who collects thunderstorms. “What he calls himself is “honorary director of the thunderstorm survey.”
Mr Bower has collected during the past few years so much data about thunderstorms from all over the British Isles that he is now able to publish an annual report.
He has organised a small army of voluntary observers to work for him. They include naval and military officers, M.Ps, country vicars, shepherds, and scientists.
There arc more than 1,000 of them scattered up and down the country in crowded cities, on isolated farms, and in lonely lighthouses.
Whenever there is a thunderstorm in their district they fill in special postcards supplied by Mr Bower, and post them to him.

It is suggested that the organisation once had 3000 volunteers who would send off their pre paid postcards.

The cost alone regardless of time and labour was considerable but he and his wife seemed to make it their life’s work.

Amazingly they carried on recording the data from 1924 to 1982 when he died.

His method for measuring distance was interesting, he asked people to measure the time from the lightening strike to the thunderclap and worked out that 5 seconds was the equivalent to one mile.

This was often taught to schoolchildren, how accurate it was is open to question.

One the back of the postcard there is a franked message which says ” The best investment is a telephone ” , but for this type of research that was not the answer because so few people had telephones especially in remote areas.


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