History of the R.O.C

Forewarned is Forearmed – The Beacon System


The use of fire in the form of lighted beacons was effectively used during the reign of Edward II (1307 – 1327) It was however not until 1327 when a system of organised warning beacons on high points across the country was ordered by Edward IV.

The purpose of which was to warn ports and signify a call to arms for the “countrywide” location of militia in the event of invasion. “Beacons” were deemed to provide a far faster and effective warning “message” than a messenger struggling along difficult and dangerous roads and paths on horseback.

Locations of these “Beacons” were located on high ground so as to be able to be seen from great distance, with local Shires having the responsibility for maintenance and provision of materials to light the fires.

The Spanish Armada

King Philip II of Spain planned to invade and conquer England. On 28th May 1588 the Spanish Armada set sail from Lisbon, headed for the English Channel. It was not until 19th July 1588, when the Spanish Armada was seen sailing up the English Channel from a watch post located at the top of St Michael’s Mount near Penzance, Cornwall. From this moment the network of beacons gave extra time to organise retaliatory forces.

The beacon system along the South Coast was hailed as a success and formed the main focus of further beacons across the country during this period and as a basis for warning of further invasion during the subsequent was with France in 1792. It is from the operational success of this network of beacons that the badge of the Royal Observer Corps is derived; depicting a beacon lighter of Elizabethan times with the motto.

Forewarned is Forearmed

Forewarned is Forearmed Forewarned is Forearmed