THE GHOST OF THE TRURO OPERATIONS ROOM
By Lawrence Holmes
I have wanted to tell this story for some time, because it is true (unlike some ROC stories), and it happened to me seemingly many years ago in the Ops Room of the Nuclear Reporting Cell N15 in Truro, Cornwall.
The protected building had originally been built in 1963 as a full ROC Operations Room for No 11 Group ROC in Truro, to a very high standard of protection against nuclear weapons and fallout. Like all other Operations Rooms of the time it had a main operations room with balcony, plant room with generator, sleeping accommodation, kitchen and canteen, all very normal. In the 1968 reorganisation No 11 Group ROC was relegated to sub-group status, with a consequent reduction in posts and the number of people using the Ops Room. In a further reorganisation in March 1973 the Truro Ops Room was closed down and all the No 11 Group posts were transferred to No 10 Group Exeter, much to the dislike of many Cornish observers.
Truro Ops Room built 1963 and demolished in 2003. This is where the ghostly occurrence of 1983 took place.
I entered the building for the first time in 1969 as an observer then Duty Officer but when the building closed in 1973 I reverted to observer and transferred to a nearby post. This was an unusual but much liked procedure peculiar to the ROC. In 1975, two years after the final closure of 11 Group, the site and Ops Room was reactivated as the nuclear reporting cell designated N15. I resumed my acquaintance with the very homely building when I was appointed as the Officer in charge of this new NRC. However, now the circumstances were very different as only a team of 12 Observers used the building, and I was the main key holder. N15 was operationally still part of No 10 Group Exeter but the building was owned by ‘my customer’. Nearby RAF St Mawgan parented the Ops Room and carried out repairs when needed.
As well as attending Team meetings on each Wednesday evening, I would also enter the building on many other occasions to collect forms, prepare practical exercises or tidy up (that’s what I call leadership). At times I might be alone in the building for several hours, and for security reasons I always locked the heavy steel access door after entry.
Nothing unusual ever happened at my lonely occupations of the Ops Room until one Saturday in April, 1983, when I decided to go into the NRC to prepare a practical nuclear exercise for my team. As usual after entry I closed the heavy steel lever clips and locked the door after me leaving the keys in the lock. I went down the corridor to the main Ops Room on the right, collected some maps and pens from the Ops Room, and went into the canteen to prepare a training plot on one of the tables therein.
All was normal, I loved drawing and thinking about the construction of an exercise, I was deep in concentration - when I was startled to hear someone whistling ! The plant room fan was, of course, going full blast, and I was used to this constant high pitched humming. But this sound was definitely a human whistle - even tuneful. I stood bolt upright, and immediately thought ‘someone is in the Ops Room, down the corridor - I must have forgotten to lock the door !’
I shouted ‘Hello - anyone there ?’ Again I shouted - then there was that definite tuneful whistle again. I called out again – nothing ! I put down my pen, and left the canteen at this stage quite unconcerned, walked down the corridor, calling as I went. The Ops Room was empty - so was the corridor. No one was in the plant room, but the machinery was humming, not whistling. I checked the main door. It was securely shut and locked, and no one could have entered, for the large key was still in the lock ! By now I was in a cold sweat - diligently I looked into every room, but no-one was there, and there was no more whistling. It must have been fan squeal I told myself, and after checking the main door once again, I returned to the canteen and my nuclear plotting.
A nuclear plot like the one used in a training exercise. These were time consuming to make up but useful to instruct observers in the art of plotting.
Life was good for me and my ROC, I liked preparing nuclear exercises and I had never been frightened at being in the Ops Room on my own. I plotted one line, two lines, then a circle - and there it was again, that whistling, definitely human whistling, and it was louder, in the corridor, near the canteen. I started to tremble inwardly and went cold, I shouted ‘Who’s there…..hello….hello !’
I forced myself to move away from what I regarded as a protective table in the equally protective canteen and I moved slowly out into the corridor, convinced that there would be someone, or something, there. But the corridor was empty again. I checked the Ops Room again - empty. I stood there sweating - I didn’t believe in ghosts or the paranormal, but there was something there, some feeling, some presence. The hairs on the back of my head seemed to stand out horizontally, I was scared - this was ridiculous !
But I could not stop the trembling feeling I had. I took a deep breath, mind made up, I returned slowly into the canteen, and, with a second big breath, scooped up papers, plans and pens into my case, and that was it - down the corridor I sped, - lights off - Ops Room door locked - through the airlock - slam - slam - a quick twist, outside door unlocked and open - out into the bright sunlight ! I had made it, I was in a different world, I was safe !
I arrived home safely none the worse for my weird and unexplainable experience. I told no-one at home or on my cell team about the whistling then, nor for some years because I thought it might perturb them. I never heard it again, and eventually I went into the Ops Room on my own, at times for hours. On 31st December 1995 the nuclear reporting cells of the ROC were stood down and my beloved Ops Room was closed and I never entered it again.
The site and building lay dormant for several years then the MOD Estates sold the site for affordable housing in 2003 and the Ops Room building was demolished. I warned the contractors that the walls and roof were built of thick reinforced concrete but they did not believe me and consequently the demolition took six weeks rather than the planned three to be carried out. Now nineteen houses reside on the Ops Room site and the access road is called ‘Observer Close’.
These days I do tell people about my ghostly experience in the depths of an ROC Ops Room. One thing has given me food for thought, though. The date of the whistling was exactly ten years after the announcement of the traumatic closure of No 11 Group. Could it have been a Cornish squeal of complaint at the closure of their much loved Group ?
Every part of the fabric of the Ops Room was reduced to gravel by a grinding machine located on site and that gravel was used for hardcore for the housing access road. Oh ! I do hold one memento of those far gone days - a set of Ops Room keys which the ROC, my customer and RAF St Mawgan forgot to ask for when the place closed in 1995. And I never told them !
(First printed in 10 Group Newsletter in September 1994)
It really did happen to me and I have no explanations.
Has any other ROC member experienced a scary or ghost like experience at a post or Control? If so, please contact me with your story and if I get sufficient of them I will amalgamate them together in one ‘book’.
This idea was sown in me because recently I have been asked by the Cornwall Paranormal Organisation if they can do an investigation down Veryan Post. They want to see if they can detect any ghosts or other strange phenomena at the post !!!!! I will have to obtain National Trust permission for them to do this and they may refuse of course.