The Royal Observer Corps in 2008? – A perspective!
This paper looks at what the ROC might look like 17 years after stand-down
It is assumed that the 1991 Home Office/Royal Air Force management would be
similar and the division, number and location of Areas, Groups and Posts would
be similar to that at stand-down.
Four main areas are explored:
- The People.
- The Technology.
- Other impacts
No excuse is made for putting people first!
The ROC was all about people and these people were truly exceptional. Few other
organisations could boast of such closely-knit teams whose comradeship and
resilience ensured that the organisation responded to each challenge that
it faced-even though we often moaned and complained!
However, in 2008 things would have changed:
- We are all older! Natural wastage through normal retirement, death and
infirmity would have taken its toll.
- Anyone who was aged 48 at stand-down would now be 65 and would be retired
from the Corps.
- Seeing a ‘Seaborne’ Observer would a thing of a very distant past!
- There would inevitability be a greater diversity of people and legislation
would have promoted and supported this.
The ‘digital age’ would have had a tremendous impact on the organisation
and its people.
- Posts and Group Controls would inevitably be connected by Internet
Protocol (IP) as communications survival from nuclear war was the driver for
creating the internet in the early 1960’s. This would mean that posts would
have a capability for both voice and data and there would have been compelling
reasons not to export data in near real-time from the post instruments to be
processed on a number of computers at Group and Sector Controls.
- The mobile phone would be everywhere although continuity of service cannot
be depended during national emergencies.
Even though people would have to leave the post to make a call or receive a
text this would have provided an extra source of entertainment during long
exercises. The location and intentions of any visiting Officers would be well
- Many meetings could be facilitated by video-conference. In the early 1970s
when meetings were cancelled and curtailed due to the ‘fuel crisis’ this more
modern technique could be deployed.
- Post radio would probably be separate talk-groups on the resilient Airwave
TETRA (Terrestrial Trunked Radio) system which is now being increasingly used
by the Emergency Services. (A separate TETRA system is in place in Northern
- The Public Warning System would be radically different as Next Generation
Networks (NGN) would be imminent. Sirens would largely be replaced by Broadcast SMS
(mass text messages) and warnings through broadcast media.
- Routine communication like Group Routine Orders would be sent and
delivered as e-mails and information for members only would be available
on-line using secure servers and authentication techniques.
- Our Training Manual and Standard Operations Procedures might be on
lap-tops and standardised PowerPoint presentations could be available at post
level for instruction using a data projector. In today’s climate I would not
like to leave my ROC laptop on the train!!
- Posts might be powered by solar or wind power instead of the
This would be an area where there would be a major impact. Crown immunity
would probably have been removed from our activities and this would have had
a major impact at Group, and especially, Post level.
- Climbing up and down a 15 feet (5 metre) vertical ladder in to a post or
climbing on to a roof of a Group Control without a fall-arrest system and/or
edge protection would have been ‘outlawed’ under the Work at Height
Regulations! We would all be wearing fall-arrest harnesses when we needed to
go ‘above ground’.
- Posts have only a single access and egress would not satisfy current
regulations relating to fire safety legislation.
- Group Controls would have to have asbestos surveys and hold registers.
Asbestos may have to be ‘stripped out’ and this would mean a lengthy total
closure of the Group Control.
- Better welfare, including toilet, facilities would need to be developed
- At posts, the asbestos blanket would have to be disposed of responsibly.
- Visiting posts on one’s own would be very much discouraged (or prohibited)
as a result of the Lone Worker Protection legislation.
- The protection management of young people (perhaps as part of the Duke of
Edinburgh Scheme) would be a lot more difficult with the impact of
- Posts which were once in out of town in splendid isolation and rural
locations may have development close at hand and many Posts would have had to
- In all probability be greater European co-operation and standardisation of
Civil Protection/Home Defence (now called Resilience) measures.
- With the advent of cheap power tools, the security of Posts and Group
Controls would have to be strengthened considerably. Broadband in the posts
could be used for relaying of intruder alarms and video surveillance.
- With closures of Royal Air Force bases it would probably be a rare event
to attend a camp on an RAF Station. Venues like Universities (as previously
used in the 1980s might be the norm. (In any case 52 people to a ‘hut’ in bunk
beds with limited washing facilities such as those in the early 1970s would
probably not impress people who expect a single room with ‘en-suite’
Roy Coulter – 31 Group ROCA (
firstname.lastname@example.org ) welcomes
comment and alternatives.