Shropshire History

Shropshire

Observer Corps Posts

Return

to Index

 

 

In 1925, following the formation of an RAF Air Defence Command, it was decided to create a Raid Reporting System to provide visual detection, identification, tracking and reporting of aircraft over Great Britain.  This was eventually to become known as the Royal Observer Corps. Initially, it only operated in South-East Britain where the threat was greatest but by 1936 it covered the whole country, including Shropshire. By the start of the Second World War, the only uniform issued to Observer Corps personnel were a steel helmet and armband bearing the stencilled letters “OC”. The ROC was issued with RAF style battledress uniforms in 1941 with midnight blue berets.

 

High quality Navy binoculars were issued and the observation posts were often nothing more than a wooden garden shed located next to a telegraph pole, which connected them to the local telephone exchange. These were eventually replaced by more substantial brick-built structures, protected by sandbags, in playing fields, hilltops or rooftops of public buildings and factories. The posts were manned continuously from 3rd September 1939 to 12th May 1945. The headquarters of each ROC Group operated from a control centre, responsible for 30-40 observation Posts, each of which would be about 8 miles from its neighbour. The ROC was stood down after the war but it was re-formed in 1947.

 

In 1951, a series of posts was built for the new organisation. These were substantial buildings that offered some level of protection from the elements or attack. Although some were built of brick, many were made of pre-cast concrete panelled structures known as “Orlit” posts, after Orlit Ltd the manufacturers.

 

These Orlit structures were split into two sections. The entrance door led into the smaller roofed section which was used as a shelter and store. A sliding door led to the open section, which housed the post instrument and chart on top of a wooden mounting. Two types of Orlit posts existed. The Orlit A was at ground level and the Orlit B was raised on four 6ft legs with a ladder for access.

Orlit A

 

Orlit B

 

In 1957, the United Kingdom Warning and Monitoring Organisation (UKWMO) was established under Home Office control to  provide civil and military authorities with essential information during a nuclear attack. The ROC would provide initial data on the position and magnitude of atomic weapons detonated during any such attack. This data would be used by the UKWMO, in conjunction with weather information provided by the Meteorological Office, to produce a forecast of radioactive  fallout. Fallout would be monitored as and where it occurred, with its actual location and strength mapped using data obtained from instruments at ROC posts.

 

In 1962, the ROC Groups were reorganised and the age of Observes was limited to between 16-65. To enable the ROC to operate in a nuclear environment, changes were made to control centres and posts in order to provide protection against the effects of blast and radiation. It was also necessary for control centres and observation posts to be occupied for a period of between 7-21 days following any nuclear event. Between 1958-1968, a countrywide building programme resulted in a network of 1,563 underground monitoring posts, approximately 8 miles apart, distributed throughout Britain at an estimated cost of almost £5,000 each. The posts were excavated to a depth of 25ft, being built of reinforced concrete and waterproofed with bitumen. The whole structure was then covered by a compacted soil mound. Entry was via a steel ladder in a vertical shaft leading to a single room, providing accommodation for three observers to live and work, with a separate toilet compartment holding a chemical closet. Air was circulated from grilled ventilators at both ends of the post and electricity was provided by a 12 volt battery, charged occasionally by an electric generator. Instruments detected the size of any nuclear burst, together with the location and levels of radiation. Conditions were cramped, cold and in some cases damp.

 

The ROC Control Centre for Shropshire was in Shrewsbury and was a bomb proof nuclear protected building, providing living and operational accommodation for up to 100 Observers and UKWMO warning teams. Included in the centre layout were male and female dormitories, kitchen, canteen, life support systems, decontamination facilities, communications centre and a split level central operations room with balcony positions. In 1977, the wartime-issue battledress uniforms were replaced with comfortable zip-fronted RAF jacket (christened “mothercare suits” due to the shapeless style), blue shirts, black ties, woollen jerseys, green overalls and blue nylon foul weather jackets and overtrousers. Following the 1990 defence spending review, the ROC post and control personnel were stood down on 30th September 1991. The 170 full-time ROC staff were transferred to other appointments within the Ministry of Defence and other UK Government departments.

 

Instruments used were :-

Atomic Weapons Detection Recognition and Estimation of Yield - a desk mounted automatic instrument, located at certain selected controls, which detected nuclear explosions and indicated the estimated size of the blast in megatons.

 

Bomb Power Indicator - a dial which would register the pressure wave from a nuclear explosion passing over the instrument.

 

Ground Zero Indicator - 4 horizontally mounted pinhole cameras within a metal drum. Each camera contained a sheet of photosensitive paper on which were printed horizontal and vertical calibration lines which recorded the fireball of a nuclear explosion.

 

Radiac Survey Meter which counted particles produced by radioactive decay.

 

Fixed Survey Metera geiger counter to measure radiation.

 

Dosimeter - pocket meters issued to individual observers for measuring their personal levels of radiation absorption.

 

Communication between posts and control was initially by telephone using surface lines. These were replaced in 1981 by underground, permanently wired landline connections that were hardened against the effects of Electromagnetic Pulse (a pulse that destroys transistors) from nuclear bursts. Posts were organised in clusters of 3-5, with a single post in each cluster designated as the Master Post. To guard against the possibility of a cluster being disconnected from the parent control, master posts were provided with radio equipment capable of communicating with the parent control and up to three adjacent controls using separate radio frequencies. Inter-group control was initially by telephone but this was replaced in 1971 by teleprinters and in 1985 by computerised message switch equipment.

 

The rank system was :-

 

Observer Lieutenant

Observer_Lieutenant

Commander 

Shrewsbury Group Control

Observer Officer

100px-Observer_Officer.svg

Deputy Commander  Shrewsbury Group Control

Chief Observer

ROC_C_obs_badge

Shrewsbury Group Control

Leading Observer

L_Obs_Badge

Commander of Observation Post with 2 Observers

Observer

 

 

Basic rank

 

 

link image

 

Heritage of the Corps

 

Royal Observer Corps 1925-1992

 

Royal Observer Corps History

 

 

 

 

 

The following information has been extracted from Nick Catford’s website on Nuclear Monitoring Posts.

 

No 16 (Shrewsbury) Group Control (SJ499126)

Holywell St, Shrewsbury

Opened: January 1962  

Closed: 1992

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/b/b6/Shrewsbury_Group_Control.jpg/220px-Shrewsbury_Group_Control.jpg

 

This controlled all of the observer posts in Shropshire and was a nuclear protected building, with entrance and roof mounted ventilator housings and protected by blast doors. Roof mounted aerials provided communications with master posts and adjacent groups. The Abbey Veterinary Centre now uses the front part of the blockhouse and windows have been installed. An office block called Observer House has been built at the rear.  The building has been split into two, with walls built across the main corridor beyond the officer’s room and the access from the control room to the BT equipment room has been blocked. The balcony has also been floored over. All the plant has been stripped out, as well as the original toilets. There is a cabinet in the vet’s waiting room containing ROC memorabilia including photographs, badges, ROC crest, radiation detectors, etc.

 

Bomere Heath (SJ48492006)

Opened: April 1965

Closed: September 1991

http://www.subbrit.org.uk/rsg/roc/uploads/988804153.000001_Pic1_bonmereheath.jpg

 

In a rectangular compound at the end of a line of telegraph poles on the south side of a crossroads. The compound has an area of hard standing for car parking. All surface features remain intact with the green paint flaking badly. A metal dome on the ventilation shaft and three guying points indicate this was a master posts. One of the guying points is on top of a large concrete block. The hatch is locked.

 

Boscobel (SJ83020891)

Opened: May 1966

Closed: October 1968

http://www.subbrit.org.uk/rsg/roc/uploads/988804153.001001_Pic1_boscobel1.jpg   http://www.subbrit.org.uk/rsg/roc/uploads/988804153.001001_Pic2_boscobel2.jpg

 

On the east side of farm track beside a One to One cellphone mast. The site is heavily overgrown. All surface features remain intact although all the louvres are missing, the hatch is missing and the top of the adjacent ventilation shaft is missing. Internally the post is clean and free of graffiti although flooded to a depth of three inches. Twin bunks and a single bed and the instrument shelf (broken top) remain. Only the folding supports for the table remain. The BPI mount is also still in place.

 

Bridgnorth (SO73469318)

Opened: May 1961

Closed: October 1968

http://www.subbrit.org.uk/rsg/roc/uploads/988804153.002001_Pic1_bridgenorth1.jpg   http://www.subbrit.org.uk/rsg/roc/uploads/988804153.002001_Pic2_bridgenorth2.jpg

 

On mound 50 yards east of A454. All surface features remain intact but in poor condition although much of the green paint remains. There is damage to both ventilation shafts and all the ventilation louvres are missing. The hatch detached and is to be found at the bottom of the shaft with the top of the shaft now covered with a sheet of steel. Internally the post is strewn with rubbish and flooded to a depth of four inches. The walls have been painted red and blue, presumably by local children. The only remaining furniture is two single beds with the BPI mount still in place. The two internal doors are missing.

 

Church Stretton (SO46489290)

Opened: April 1965

Closed: September 1991

http://www.subbrit.org.uk/rsg/roc/uploads/988804153.003001_Pic1_churchstretton1.jpg   http://www.subbrit.org.uk/rsg/roc/uploads/988804153.003001_Pic2_churchstretton2.jpg

 

In a square compound on top of Hazler Hill next to a Vodaphone mast and a TV repeater mast. All surface features remain intact with flaking of the light green paint. The louvres from the ventilation shaft are missing although one broken one is lying on the ground nearby. There is a step on two sides of the access shaft. The hatch is partly detached and will not close properly. Internally the post has been severely damaged by fire and little remains. The WB1401 carrier receiver and it's loudspeaker are still intact although heat damaged but the Tele-Talk is broken in half. The BPI mount is still in place and the detached table seems undamaged by the fire. The base of an Orlit A structure is visible between the post and the nearby trig. station

 

Clun (SO294810)

Opened: October 1959

Closed: October 1968

The most likely position is on the west side of a field boundary on the north side of B4368. Completely demolished with no traces.

 

Cockshutt (SJ43232885)

Opened: April 1965

Closed: October 1968

http://www.subbrit.org.uk/rsg/roc/uploads/988804153.005001_Pic1_cockshutt1.jpg   http://www.subbrit.org.uk/rsg/roc/uploads/988804153.005001_Pic2_cockshutt2.jpg

 

On a low mound within a large square compound 20 yards south of a minor road. All surface features remain intact with some green paint remaining. One louvre is still in place on the ventilation shaft. Slots have been cut in the top of the hatch for added ventilation and a framework for closing them welded on the top. The hatch is detached and open. Internally the cupboard remains in place with its top missing together with twin bunks and a single bed, a jerry can, card table, GPO wiring and one ventilation louvre.

 

Craven Arms (SO42018362)

Opened: June 1965

Closed: October 1968

http://www.subbrit.org.uk/rsg/roc/uploads/988804153.006001_Pic1_cravenarms1.jpg   http://www.subbrit.org.uk/rsg/roc/uploads/988804153.006001_Pic2_cravenarms2.jpg

 

Heavily overgrown amongst ferns on the west side of a minor road. All surface features remain intact and set very low in the ground. Much of the green paint remains but the louvres on the ventilation shaft are missing. The hatch is open. Internally the post is clean and dry with white painted walls and free of any vandalism. All that remains are the twin bunks and a single bed.

 

Ditton Priors (SO60608925)

Opened: May 1965

Closed: October 1968

http://www.subbrit.org.uk/rsg/roc/uploads/988804153.007001_Pic1_dittonpriors1.jpg   http://www.subbrit.org.uk/rsg/roc/uploads/988804153.007001_Pic2_dittonpriors2.jpg

 

In a large heavily overgrown and wooded compound on the east side of a public footpath 60 yards north of Vicarage Road and on the south side of a playing field. All surface features remain intact with some light green paint remaining. The louvres on the ventilation shaft are missing. At the first inspection the hatch was sealed by cementing two short scaffold poles into the ground and welding a third pole across the two. It was opened in October 2000 as the post was advertised for sale by auction. Internally it is clean and dry with twin bunks and a single bed, 3 mattresses, table, shelf, cupboard, large splint, GPO junction boxes and wiring. The timer still works. The post failed to reach its reserve price and has been taken off the market. It has been locked again with an interpretation board placed nearby.

 

Dorrington (SJ74370278)

Opened: March 1961

Closed: October 1968

http://www.subbrit.org.uk/rsg/roc/uploads/988804153.008001_Pic1_dorrington1.jpg   http://www.subbrit.org.uk/rsg/roc/uploads/988804153.008001_Pic2_dorrington2.jpg

 

In undergrowth in the north-west corner of a field on the south side of a minor road close to new farm building. Only the access shaft and adjacent ventilation shaft survive. There is some damage to the concrete and the louvres and hatch are missing. Internally the post is flooded to a depth of three feet and completely stripped above the water level.

 

Great Bolas (SJ63002105)

Opened: May 1965

Closed: September 1991

http://www.subbrit.org.uk/rsg/roc/uploads/988804153.009001_Pic1_greatbolas1.jpg   http://www.subbrit.org.uk/rsg/roc/uploads/988804153.009001_Pic2_greatbolas2.jpg

 

In a large rectangular compound on hilltop 100 yards south of Middle Lane and 150 yards east of A442. Three sides of the compound fencing, including the gate, survive, on the forth side all the fence posts are lying on the ground. All surface features remain intact with some flaking of the green paint. The Fixed Survey Meter pipe is surrounded by a large concrete block. The hatch is open. Internally much remains including the table and shelf (both with strengthened legs), cupboard, shelf above the monitoring room door, rack of shelves in the toilet recess, wooden box for the Fixed Survey Meter (with Fixed Survey Meter written on it), siren box, the bottom half of the twin bunks with three mattresses, large hinged map table fixed to the wall, WB1401 carrier receiver with WB1410 filter unit, Tele-talk, Fixed Survey Meter pipe blanking plate, BT wiring and connection boxes, BPI mount, fire blanket box. The post was revisited by former Observers Green, Lee, Baldwin, Jewkes and Brown in 1966, 1997 and 1998. They have left their name on a sheet of paper and on the wall.

 

Ludlow (SO50407436)

Opened: May 1961

Closed: September 1991

http://www.subbrit.org.uk/rsg/roc/uploads/988804153.010001_Pic1_ludlow.jpg

 

By a disused telegraph pole in the corner of a field west of the junction of Whitcliffe Road and Middle Wood Road. Some wooden fencing survives. All surface features remain intact. A metal dome and aerial bracket on the ventilation shaft, and three guying points in the grass indicate this was a master post. The hatch is locked.

 

Lydbury North (SO36018596)

Opened: May 1965

Closed: September 1991

http://www.subbrit.org.uk/rsg/roc/uploads/988804153.011001_Pic3_lydburynorth.jpg  http://www.subbrit.org.uk/rsg/roc/uploads/988804153.011001_Pic1_lydburynort2.jpg

 

In an overgrown rectangular compound beside a telegraph pole on the south side of B4385 just west of its junction with a minor road. All surface features remain intact with some flaking of the green paint. There is a double step up to the access shaft. There used to be an adjacent Orlit B structure but this was demolished in the 1980s.

 

Market Drayton (SJ66023462)

Opened: April 1965

Closed: September 1991

http://www.subbrit.org.uk/rsg/roc/uploads/988804153.012002_Pic1_marketdrayton1.jpg

 

In the north west corner of a rectangular compound on the south side of a minor road. All surface features remain intact with the green paint flaking badly. The louvres on the ventilation shaft have slipped down and the step is broken. A metal dome on the ventilation shaft indicates this was a master post. One disused telegraph pole stands nearby.

 

Minsterley (SJ37190538)

Opened: March 1965

Closed: September 1991

http://www.subbrit.org.uk/rsg/roc/uploads/988804153.013002_Pic1_minsterley.jpg

 

On a low mound in a large irregularly shaped compound on the east side of a public footpath and west of the B4387. All surface features remain intact with some flaking of the brown/green paint. The hatch is locked.

 

Much Wenlock (SJ614986)

Opened: May 1961

Closed: September 1991

http://www.subbrit.org.uk/rsg/roc/uploads/988804153.014002_Pic1_muchwenklock.jpg

 

On a low mound on the east side of B4378, behind hedge and opposite entrance to farm access track. All surface features remain intact with the green paint in good condition. The hatch is locked. No remaining surface buildings.

 

Nesscliffe (SJ38851869)

Opened: May 1965

Closed: September 1991

http://www.subbrit.org.uk/rsg/roc/uploads/988804153.015002_Pic1_nesscliff1.jpg   http://www.subbrit.org.uk/rsg/roc/uploads/988804153.015002_Pic2_nesscliff2.jpg

 

In the south east corner of a large square compound, 50 yards north of a minor road. There are concrete steps up the bank from the road and a gate in the hedge. One disused telegraph pole stands nearby. All surface features remain intact with some flaking of the green paint. The hatch is locked. In the north-east corner of the compound is a 10ft x 8ft wooden hut with an old stove in it. At one end of the hut there is a small asbestos built toilet and at the other end is the concrete base of an aircraft post.

 

Oakengates (SJ69351014)

Opened: August 1961

Closed: September 1991

http://www.subbrit.org.uk/rsg/roc/uploads/988804153.016002_Pic1_oakengates.jpg

 

On high point (public open space) beside footpath on Ketley Bank, 80 yards east of Bank Way. All trace of the post has gone although the site is obvious and a telegraph pole and line still stands in the trees 15 yards to the west. The base of an Orlit A structure is visible 10 yards to the west of the underground post site. The post was demolished by Wrekin Council in March 1992. The walls of the Orlit were used to make the steps up the bank.

 

Oswestry (SJ29672989)

Opened: November 1961

Closed: October 1968

http://www.subbrit.org.uk/rsg/roc/uploads/988804153.017002_Pic1_oswestry.jpg

 

In undergrowth on a public open hilltop beside footpath, 20 yards south of trig point. All surface features remain in place with some green paint remaining. The ventilation louvres are missing and there is some damage to the top of the ventilation shaft. The hatch is missing and the shaft has been filled with concrete.

 

Pattingham (SO81789705)

Opened: July 1963

Closed: September 1991

http://www.subbrit.org.uk/rsg/roc/uploads/988804153.018002_Pic3_pattinghampost1.jpg   http://www.subbrit.org.uk/rsg/roc/uploads/988804153.018002_Pic2_pattingham2.jpg

 

On a low mound in a rectangular compound on the south side of Rudge Road. The road is in a cutting at this point and steps lead up the bank to the compound. Two disused telegraph poles still stand along the road. All surface features remain in place although the green paint is flaking. The hatch is locked. A wooden post hut stands

within the compound, it is open and full of rubbish.

 

Prees (SJ560331)

Opened: April 1965

Closed: October 1968

Close to public footpath. Probably on the south side of Press Reservoir where there is an area of disturbed ground just west of a cell phone compound. Completely demolished with no traces.

 

Sambrook (SJ71432435)

Opened: May 1965

Closed: October 1968

http://www.subbrit.org.uk/rsg/roc/uploads/988804153.020002_Pic1_sambrook.jpg

 

On a low mound on the east side of a farm access track (an extension south of Danford Lane). At the edge of a field but hidden by a high hedge. All surface features remain intact with much of the original green paint intact. The ventilation louvres are missing and the holes have been bricked up. The hatch is locked using its original bar and a new padlock.

 

Stottesdon (SO683826)

Opened: September 1965

Closed: September 1991

http://www.subbrit.org.uk/rsg/roc/uploads/988804153.021002_Pic1_stottesdon1.jpg   http://www.subbrit.org.uk/rsg/roc/uploads/988804153.021002_Pic2_stottesdon2.jpg

 

In a large rectangular compound at the end of a line of telegraph poles. On the west side of a field boundary, equidistant from two minor roads and 100 yards from each of them. All surface features remain intact, the post has been recently painted light grey. The step is missing. There is a coax cable and plug protruding from the ventilation shaft (until 1998 the post was owned by a radio ham). It is now owned by a member of Subterranea Britannica who hopes to restore it. Remaining items include the table, shelf, cupboard, twin bunks with mattresses, battery box, enamelled bucket with lid, posters, visitors log, two chairs, BT junction boxes and wiring. Unusually the following items were also left when it was first sold: generator, Plessey Fixed Survey Metre and probe in a case, an old style Fixed Survey Meter with probe, personal dosimeter and charger. The post is securely locked.

 

Tenbury (SO58806929)

Opened: September 1962

Closed: October 1968

http://www.subbrit.org.uk/rsg/roc/uploads/988804153.022002_Pic1_tenbury.jpg

 

On the north side of an unnamed minor road, west of a field boundary. All surface features remain intact with some light green paint remaining. A broken slab of concrete nearby was probably the step. The hatch is locked with its original bar. There is a gate in the hedgerow alongside the road.

 

Upton Magna (SJ54931253)

Opened: April 1965

Closed: October 1991

http://www.subbrit.org.uk/rsg/roc/uploads/988804153.023002_Pic1_uptonmagna.jpg

 

On the south side of a minor road, beside footpath. All surface features remain intact with the green paint flaking badly. A metal dome on the ventilation shaft and three guying points, indicates this was a master post. There is an unusual extension fixed to the top of the Fixed Survey Meter pipe. It is a 1ft high tube with a metal plate angled at 45o to the top of the tube. The plate has a large circular hole in it with the Fixed Survey Meter pipe blanking plate resting in it.

 

Whitchurch (SJ55534206)

Opened: October 1960

Closed: October 1968

http://www.subbrit.org.uk/rsg/roc/uploads/988804153.024002_Pic1_whitchurch1.jpg   http://www.subbrit.org.uk/rsg/roc/uploads/988804153.024002_Pic2_whitchurch2.jpg

 

On hilltop 300 yards east of Black Park Road (along footpath over railway line). All surface features remain in place but in poor condition. The ventilation louvres have gone and the top of the ventilation shaft has been broken off. The ventilation shaft adjacent to the access shaft has gone above the bottom of the louvre holes. The hatch is missing and the ladder has been removed. Access was gained using an electron caving ladder. The shaft has some bent metal piping in it making access difficult. Internally the twin bunks and single bed remain although dismantled. The table and shelf are detached and the hatch lies on the floor. There is a battery box. The monitoring room is strewn with rubbish and rubble and fire damaged and the door is detached. Shropshire Fire & Rescue Services attended a fire at the post in the autumn of 2005 and recommended to the landowner that the shaft is infilled.