The Royal Observer Corps (ROC)
In 2014 the Royal Observer Corps Museum kindly donated to HGS some Royal Observer Corps Records, in the form of service cards and forms, to digitise and use for family history functions. They were given with the proviso that the records would be freely available to family history researchers. These records have now been digitised and indexed, by our Andover group volunteers, and are available to be consulted on this page and in our Research Centre.
History of the ROC
With its motto of ‘Forewarned is Forearmed’ and its role of ‘visual detection, identification and reporting of aircraft over Great Britain’, this civilian defence organisation staffed by volunteers began in WWI as the Metropolitan Observation Service and became operational in late 1918. Known colloquially as the ‘eyes in the sky’ the volunteers received no pay and initially no uniform.
Decommissioned after WWI, it was restarted as a trial organisation in the East of England in 1924, being renamed the Air Raid Reporting Service. Its range was extended to include parts of Essex and Hampshire and was fully established on 29 October 1925.
From its network of Observation Posts the Observer Corp worked throughout WWII identifying, tracking and reporting aircraft sightings thus becoming an invaluable part of the country’s wartime air defence system. Following its contribution in the Battle of Britain it was renamed by King George VI as the Royal Observer Corp in 1941 and became a uniformed civil defence organisation administered by RAF Fighter Command. Women also joined from 1941.
After WWII the changes to aircraft and improved performance of radar meant that the need for the ROC was reduced so in June 1955 they were given an additional role in defending against the effects of nuclear weapons. They continued to work throughout the Cold War years with an underground network of 1563 nuclear bomb proof buildings. Following further defence changes the ROC was officially stood down in 1995.