The Royal Observer Corps in Print

Book Reviews by Roy Coulter, 31 Group ROCA

I have attempted to summarise and recommend a number of books which feature the work of the Observer Corps and the Royal Observer Corps through the years. The list is not intended to be definitive and I would be most happy to receive corrections, additions or simply comments to

Other books which are worthy of consideration may be found at

Forewarned is Forearmed
Author: T.E Winslow
Publisher: William Hodge & Company Limited
Publication date: 1948
ISBN: none
Comments: The definitive guide to work and organisation of the Observer Corps in World Wars 1 and 2.

Attack Warning Red
Author: Derek Wood
Publisher: Macdonald & James
Publication date: 1976
ISBN: 0356 08411 6
Comments: The definitive work on the Observer Corps and the ROC until 1976. The book was both well researched written by a serving member. My copy is red and has the Elizabethan beacon lighter on the front and I remember that this was a limited edition for serving ROC members. A revised copy appeared in 1992 and was published by Carmichael and Sweet. It can be easily recognised by quite an odour given off by the printing ink!

Beneath the City Streets
Author: Peter Laurie
Publisher: Granada
Publication date: 1970 (revisions in 1972, 1979 and 1983)
ISBN: 0 586 050558 (1983 Granada edition)
Comments: An excellent book which was ground breaking and very sensitive at the time in that previously secret sites and communications were openly discussed for the first time. Probably, one of the first books to define the ROC role and some ROC locations.

The Battle of Britain
Author: Derek Wood
Publisher: Bracken Books
Publication date: 1980 and 1990
ISBN: 1 85170 444 2
Comments: Another excellent book by Derek Wood where the vital work by the Observer Corps to support the Royal Air Force is well documented.

War Plan UK
Author: Duncan Campbell
Publisher: Burnett Books and Paladin Books
Publication date: 1982 (revised in 1983)
ISBN: 0 586 08479 7
Comments: Both editions of these books were very comprehensive and achieved a lot of publicity at the time by publishing UK h-bomb targets! The ROC features strongly!

Forewarned is Forearmed
Author: Henry Buckton
Publisher: Ashford, Buchan & Enright
Publication date: 1993
ISBN: 1 85253 292 0
Comments: A lovely book which was well written by a member of the ROC to reflect our glorious history and his personal experiences.

Cold War Secret Nuclear Bunkers
Author: N J McCambley
Publisher: Pen & Sword
Publication date: 2002
ISBN: 0 85052 746 5
Comments: Twenty three pages devoted to the ROC with some nice drawings and photographs.

Cold War-Building for Nuclear Confrontation 1946-1989
Authors: Wayne D Cocroft and Roger J C Thomas. Edited by P S Barnwell
Publisher: English Heritage
Publication date: 2003
ISBN: 1 873592 69 8
Comments: An excellent cold war architecture reference book with lavish detailed illustrations. Twenty two pages on ‘Observation and Monitoring’.

Four Minute Warning-Britain’s cold war
Author: Bob Clarke
Publisher: Tempus
Year of publication: 2005
ISBN: 0 7524 3394 6
Comments: A very readable guide to all aspects of the Cold war with 23 pages on the Royal Observer Corps.

Most of the earlier books are out of print but copies can often be obtained through specialist booksellers, or on Ebay.

[20sep06 17:00]