The Royal Observer Corps was a uniformed civilian organisation that acted as the eyes & ears of the RAF during the Battle Of Britian. Tasked with spotting and reporting the movement of enemy aircraft, the ROC had reporting posts located in strategic locations around Great Britain.
Northern Ireland or "31 Group" as it was to be known, joined the rest of the UK when the Cold War began, the first group of Observers were put into operation at the start of 1954.
With the advent of larger more sophisticated nuclear weapons the ROC had to go underground, over 1,563 nuclear monitoring posts were built, 58 of those in Northern Ireland. These were located 20 feet below ground and the 3 person concrete bunker would have been home for nearly 3 weeks in the event of a nuclear war.
As well as the monitoring posts the ROC also operated out of a larger command bunker at Thiepval Barracks in Lisburn.
The threat of war was so great that a new organisation, the UKWMO (United Kingdom Warning & Monitoring Organisation) merged with the ROC to better report the effects of a nuclear explosion and the deadly threat of radioactive fallout.
The ROC operated in the UK until 1991, the advent of better Radar and the RAF handing over the Nuclear role to the Navy saw the British Goverment decide that there was no-longer a need for the ROC.
The underground posts were closed and left to be slowly reclaimed by nature, while the many Observers went back to their civilian life, safe in the knowledge that they had trained and prepared for a job they never really hoped they would have to do for real.
The UAS collection includes a section dedicated to the ROC & the Cold War in general. Original equipment has been sourced and many displays, including a mock underground post have been constructed to better explain the role of the ROC.
Former ROC members are on-hand to tell of their experiences and to demonstrate each piece of equipment.
If you are interested in Northern Ireland's role during the Cold War then you will not be disappointed. Visit us to find out more.
"Forewarned is Forearmed"
1954 - 1991