The Royal Observer Corps

Cuckfield ROC Post open days 2017 are now confirmed, information here:

http://thetimechamber.co.uk/beta/blog/cuckfield-roc-post-open-days-2017

The Royal Observer Corps (ROC) was first introduced in 1925 following the famous ‘Zeppellin Raids’ of the First World War and to help to identify incoming enemy aircraft. Originally the Corp was known as ‘The Observer Corp’ but was granted the Royal title after their services during the Second World War.

In the 1950’s the threat of nuclear attack from Soviet Russia rapidly increased with the escalation of the Cold War and the super weapons races.  This necessitated the monitoring of a nuclear burst and the subsequent fall-out in order to provide warning and support to the civilian population. This responsibility fell to the ROC and 1563 underground monitoring posts were constructed around the British Isles.

In 1955 the government announced that steps were being taken for the ROC to give warning, and to measure the effect, of a nuclear attack in event of a future war with the Soviets – this new duty was originally only secondary to the identification of incoming hostile aircraft.  The Royal Observer Corps was chosen as they already possessed the infrastructure and personnel to fulfill this role, and just needed training on extra monitoring equipment.

The posts where grouped in clusters of 3-4 with a main master post in each cluster. The master post had a VHF radio as well as the land-line based loud speaker telephone which ensured that communication was possible from all posts to the group HQ’s.  The regional headquarters were staffed by plotters and scientific officers who would predict the areas that were to be affected by nuclear fallout. This enabled the authorities to decide which services could remain in operation, and where to direct precious resources.  To give protection from the fall-out of a nuclear attack these monitoring rooms were constructed 15ft underground, usually at the location of a pre-existing WW2 Orlit post.  The underground room measured 15ft by 7ft and was manned by 2-3 staff on a two week rotation. They post were not manned 24/7 but rather there was an expectation that there would be a ‘transition to war’ phase marked by increased border and political hostilities – it would be at this point the posts would be manned. This was referred to as ‘Manning up the post’. During ‘peacetime’ the post crew would meet weekly for training and to conduct maintenance and operational equipment test. It was very much a social organisation, with big emphasis placed on summer camps, friendships and social activities. Its worth noting that the vast majority of the staff were unpaid volunteers with only senior staff and scientific officers at group HQ’s being salaried staff. Volunteers were able to claim expenses for travel and posts were issued ‘petty cash’ for maintenance etc.

Key Dates in the History of The Royal Observer Corp

  • 1925 – The Observer Corp is formed
  • January 1929 – The Air Ministry takes control of the Corps, an Air Commodore is appointed as Commandant and the motto ‘Forewarned is Forearmed’ is adopted
  • 24th August 1939 – The Corps is mobilised at the start of the Second World War
  • July – October 1940 – Battle of Britain
  • 9th April 1941 – King George VI grants the title ‘Royal’ for services during the ‘Battle of Britain’
  • September 1941 – Women are admitted to the Corps
  • June 1944 – The Seaborne Venture, in support of D-Day
  • May 1945 – Stand Down, end of Second World War
  • January 1947 – Corps re-forms
  • 11th April 1950 – King George VI becomes the first Air Commodore-in-Chief and the Royal Observer Corps medal is instituted
  • 2nd June 1953 – Queen Elizabeth II assumes the appointment if Air Commodore-in-Chief
  • 1955 – The nuclear reporting role is introduced
  • 24th June 1956 – Review of the Corps by HM Queen Elizabeth II. Presentation of the Royal Observer Corps banner.
  • 1968 -Re-organisation, reduction in establishment and closure of some posts
  • 1971 – Data transmission introduced and a close association formed with the Danish Home Guard
  • 1975 – Golden Jubilee of the Corps
  • 1981-5 – Installation of new, modern, communications networks begins
  • 27th June 1985 – Golden Anniversary Garden party
  • 25th July 1991 – Review of the Corps by HM Queen Elizabeth II accompanied by HRH the Duke of Edinburgh
  • 30th September 1991 – Stand down of the Corp

As of 1992 all of the remaining The Royal Observer Corp were stood down and the ROC posts were decommissioned and returned to the public sector, many being brought up by telecomms companies due to their elevated positions.

For information and photos of ROC Headquartersclick here.

No2 Group (Horsham), 50 Post, Cuckfield Gallery

TheTimeChamber is lucky enough to have been one half of the restoration team of an ROC Master post. A really nice one in the Sussex Countryside. 50 Post Cuckfield. We open it to the public for visits a number of times a year. Photos of the restored Post are below and in the side bar you can find before restoration photos as well as archive photos and documents relating to 50 post, Cuckfield and the ROC in general.

NOTE – Cuckfield ROC Post is kept stripped, empty and securely locked when not open and is watched over closely. It would be possible to open the bunker outside of the summer months for interested groups/parties. Please contact us if you would like a visit, or alternatively visit www.facebook.com/cuckfieldnuclearbunker for up-to-date open day, and other, information.

TheTimeChamber has visited over 300 posts around the country, however, not all of them are to be displayed on the website – a full list can be found on Subbrit, or ROCRemembered.com

The equipment pictured on these ROC pages are in TheTimeChamber’s personal collection unless stated otherwise.

References:

Dalton, M, 2011, Folly Books, The Royal Observer Corp Underground Monitoring Posts ISBN 9780956440556

Catford, N, 2010, Folly Books, Subterranean Britain: COLD WAR BUNKERS ISBN 9780956440525

Cockroft W, Thomas R, 2003, English Heritage, COLD WAR: Building for Nuclear Confrontation 1946 – 1989 ISBN 9781873592816

Wood, D, 1976, Macdonald and Jane’s, Attach Warning Red: The Royal Observer Corps and the defence of Britain 1925 – 1975 ISBN 9780356084114

Buckton H, 1994, Ashford, Buchanan and Enright, Forewarned is Forearmed: Official Tribute and History of the Royal Observer Corps ISBN 9781852532925

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Modified: 15th Mar 2017