Tocsin Bang

The Cold War Story of the Royal Observer Corps

“A wonderful record of a part of the Cold War virtually unknown to the general public.”
“…extremely interesting, great to remember the ROC.”
“…a comprehensive and important document on the history of the Corps.”

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The Royal Observer Corps, its network of underground bunkers and the valuable work of its thousands of trained Observers are the subject of a programme completed in Summer 2002.

Formed in 1925 as the Observer Corps, the role of the Corps was to give an early warning of the airborne attack of London. This network of aircraft observation posts was gradually expanded, and in World War II aided with aircraft tracking in the Battle of Britain, and saved many lives through their early warnings of attack. This work earned the Corps its Royal title from 1941.

Stood down at the end of the war, the Corps was reformed in 1947 when the risk of attack seemed to have increased again, this time from Russia. In some parts of the country their aircraft spotting and tracking role continued from then well into the 60s, but in 1955 the foremost task of the Royal Observer Corps was changed.

From 1955 until 1991, had the UK come under nuclear attack, the small 3-man “ROC Posts” were designed to monitor nuclear bursts and subsequent fall-out.

Reporting the data to the United Kingdom Warning & Monitoring Organisation, their valuable information would have helped construct a picture of the effects on the country and been used to assist the survivors.

In this programme we tell the story of the Corps through the eyes of the Observers:

  • What was involved with being a member of the Corps?
  • How did it feel to be part of a crew?
  • Did we ever come close to being involved in a nuclear attack?

Newhaven Fort ROC Control Newhaven Fort Crew ROC Orlit Post at Newhaven Fort

  • Newhaven Fort ROC Day 2000
    Newhaven Fort houses an excellent collection of ROC equipment and memorabilia that is maintained by a dedicated team of ex-Observers….
  • Our Hunt for ROC Posts
    Using OS Grid References taken from the Subterranea Britannica ROC Post Database, we were able to home in on the posts using a GPS receiver….
  • Filming at Cuckfield Post
    12th September 2000 Cuckfield Post has been closed since 1991, and we took Steve Ashdown, the Post’s Chief Observer at Standdown, back for the first time…..
  • Pear Tree House
    Pear Tree House – South East Group Emergency Centre
  • ROC Group HQ Oxford
    Now part of a student accommodation complex, Oxford Brookes University kindly let us browse round and film in what was the ROC Group HQ building for Oxford Group.
  • Shooting interviews in Lincolnshire
    Shooting “in the field”: We have tried to take Observers back to the places they served to tell their stories, and in this case Terry Wiseman is back at his post, at Market Rasen, Lincolnshire.
  • ROC Post Air Filtration
    Lewes Post in Sussex was one of the few to be fitted with an air filtration system. It is now on display as part of Newhaven Fort’s collection.
  • ROC Links
    There are many very interesting websites about the ROC and their work, some personal and some historical….
  • Tocsin Bang Credits
    Cyclops is very grateful for all the assistance we have received from a great many people and organisations.

Steve Ashdown at Cuckfield ROC Post The crew at Cuckfield ROC Post Nick Catford at Cuckfield ROC Post

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