Observer Corps Expansion


Observer Corps Expansion


From the start of the 1930’s, the political situation in Europe deteriorated with the threat from the growth of German air power.

On 7th and 10th December 1934, a conference chaired by Air Commodore O.T Boyd, O.B.E, M.C, A.F.C was held.

The report published in 1935 highlighted the need for a considerable expansion of the Observer Corps (O.C), and that such developments should be progressed as soon as possible over a four year period with a final completion date for such measures being set at 1st March 1939.



The key outputs from the report recommended that there should be a greater geographic coverage of the network of observation posts. In addition effective communications should be developed between observation posts and O.C group centres and between O.C group centres and the two RAF fighting area headquarters covering the north and south of the country.

The emphasis was also placed on bringing control of the Observer Corps closer to the Royal Air Force and this incorporated the Corps into the RAF’s programme of expansion and development of an effective Air Raid Warning system.

On 3rd September 1939, Neville Chamberlain announced to the nation that the country was at war with Germany. To some, this was no surprise. This belief had directed operational developments within the Observer Corps through a number of exercises during 1938.


During the war, many aircraft were lost each year through flying into areas of high ground. “Granite” was to make use of red ground flares in the path of an aircraft that was deemed to be flying towards high ground in order to allow the aircraft to take evasive action.


Sketch depicting a Seaborne Observer at sea during 'Operation Overload' Sketch depicting a Seaborne Observer at sea during ‘Operation Overload’


On 12 May 1945, the ROC temporarily stood down. In recognition of the contribution made by ROC personnel in the allied victory, the air Ministry held a massed RAF rally and air display at RAF North Weald, in Essex, from 23/24th June 1945.

On the day of the dedication of the new ensign, approximately 2,000 observers present undertook the first ever uniformed ROC march-past. The parade then formed into a huge square and the ROC Ensign was presented by Lord Beatty. The Ensign was borne from the drumhead by Observer Lieutenant Pollock, VC. who is buried in Ayr cemetery.

Corps’ Structure during WW2 to Stand-Down

By the end of the war in 1945 there were some 40 observer corps centres covering England, Wales and Scotland, with approximately 1,560 observer posts. Approximately 18 months later from the stand-down the ROC would be re-activated to meet post-war threats. The ROC did not operate in Northern Ireland until 1954