The Royal Observer Corps Underground Monitoring Posts
by Mark Dalton
224 pages, 190mm x 250mm
ISBN: 978 0 9564405 5 6
Price: £22.95 post free to UK mainland addresses
Publication date: 7 October 2011
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The Royal Observers Corps was the volunteer organisation that watched the skies of Britain during the dark days of Second World War, reporting and tracking enemy aircraft and helping to win the Battle of Britain. What happened after the end of that conflict is less well known, with the Corps becoming the front line in a new kind of war; the Cold War.
In 1963 it was revealed that a powerful new radar system had become operational on Fylingdales Moor in North Yorkshire. This could detect the launch of Soviet ballistic missiles and allow a warning to be given to the population. The `golf ball' radomes at Flyingdales and the `Four Minute Warning' they provided are probably the most lasting icons of this nation's Cold War legacy.
While it was accepted that there was no defence against ballistic missiles, successive governments understood that many millions would still survive away from the impact zones if there was adequate warning and time to take shelter. The confirmation of such a strike and the extent and power of the weapons used were also key to both military and civilian organisations. Further lives could be saved if the ensuing radioactive fallout was tracked and warnings given.
To facilitate this, over 1500 blast and radiation protected, three man underground monitoring posts were built during the late 1950s and early 1960s. This huge building program resulted in posts being built approximately eight miles apart in a network stretching across the entire country.
Provided with simple, reliable and robust instruments, and reporting back through larger Group and Sector control bunkers, the posts could warn the public and provide accurate data about nuclear explosions and radioactive fallout. This allowed the government to build up an accurate post attack picture of the whole country.
This book recounts the detailed history of the underground posts, their equipment and the crews that operated them, from their inception in 1956 to their closure in 1991. It also chronicles the fate of the many posts that have survived until the present day, either abandoned to vandals and natural decay, or lovingly restored.
The volume contains approximately 500 colour and black and white archive photographs and plans accompanied by comprehensive captions and an authoritative text.
Topics covered include:
- The origins of the Royal Observer Corps;
- The ROC in the nuclear role;
- The monitoring post network;
- Manning the posts and life in the ROC;
- Restored posts;
- Abandoned posts.
The sections on equipment, abandoned posts and restored posts are extremely comprehensive and form the major part of the book.