The formation of the Royal Observer Corps (formerly Observer Corps) started in the South of England in 1925 and had spread Group by Group throughout mainland Britain by WWII and was to serve the Nation until 1996.
Its task was to track and report all aircraft flying over the UK and coastal shipping movements so that the Home Defences could be warned of and act upon any threat of attack.
There was an ROC Observation Post every 5 miles manned by volunteers (Observers) from the immediate neighbourhood. These Observers were recruited by the Police as Special Constables prior to WWII and by the Air Ministry thereafter.
These volunteers came from every walk of life and occupation and their ages ranged from 15 and on into their 70’s with each wartime Post having 20 – 30 members. Many veterans from WWI joined including a number of former senior Officers! In WWII, by and large, Observers were too young; too old; or unfit for service in the Armed Forces, or were in Reserved Occupations.
Each Post reported to an ROC Operations Centre which would have several Crews of Observers, from the surrounding area, totalling around 200 members. Centre Observers tended to be younger than Post Observers and there were many Woman Observers (from July 1941) mainly in Centres with a few on Posts.
ROC Observers served only in Britain except for 796 Observers who; sailed with the D-Day Invasion Fleet on Armed Merchant ships to ensure they did not fire at Allied aircraft.
Post War, the Post and Centre (later Control) Observers came from further afield, with many veterans of WWII and National Servicemen (Reservists) joining their ranks.
The ROC from the late 1950’s changed its aircraft observation role for one of reporting any nuclear attack and any subsequent radioactive fallout.
The Royal Observer Corps Museum Trust (ROCM) manages a small independent volunteer-run, entirely self-funding Museum that is Accredited by Arts Council England and it is run by the Charitable Trust, guided by a professional Museum Mentor.
The Museum was established in 1974 within the Headquarters of 14 Group Royal Observer Corps in Abbotts Road, Winchester, as a collection of historic items for viewing by visitors to the HQ. It was subsequently developed into a Museum open to the public (albeit by appointment) with support and grants from Hampshire County Museum Service.
The Stand-down of the ROC in 1992 led to the closure of the HQ building and the loss of the ROCM location, since when the ROCM has been without a permanent major display (having just a small one in Solent Sky, Southampton).
The ROCM meets its obligations in making its Collection and services available to the public through its Exhibitions Programme, mounting exhibitions of varying length in museums, galleries, heritage centres, libraries etc. and special events such as CARFEST SOUTH and Goodwood Revival reaching on average some 25,000 visitors.
The ROC Archive remains committed to achieving a permanent home for its display and is following up long-term and new leads in achieving this. Meanwhile it continues to meet all its other Accreditation responsibilities.
Publications featuring the ROC